The Sacramento County Republican Party's voter registration drive was credited with helping Republicans gain a slight advantage this spring in what will be a hotly contested race for the 7th Congressional District come fall.
But the victory for the party, which is fighting to re-elect GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in the eastern Sacramento County seat, was clouded by concerns that thousands of potentially fraudulent registration cards were filed as part of the effort.
Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, who is challenging Lungren in November, has called for an investigation into the drive, writing in a letter to the secretary of state that reports showed "3,000 voter registration cards contained false or illegally changed information to inflate the amount of registered Republican voters."
Lungren is defending the effort, telling The Bee last week that he believed there were sufficient safeguards in place to prevent fraud.
"The overall registration effort made by the party was very successful. I am unaware of any single registration that was paid for by that program that had any problems," Lungren said, adding that it is possible that the voters filling out the forms made mistakes.
Bera's campaign has continued to raise questions about Lungren's involvement, pointing to a form submitted to county election officials that listed it as a "Lungren Voter Drive."
Lungren acknowledged he was involved, though he said he had to distance himself from the operation because of campaign finance laws.
At least two of his donors gave money to the county GOP's federal campaign committee last fall, but Lungren declined to specify whether he solicited any contributions to help with voter registration.
"The law is so complicated that we're allowed to do certain things for certain days and then as you get closer to the election we're not allowed to. I can raise funds under certain circumstances and certain times and I can't raise it in others," he said. "Sometimes I can tell people there's a registration drive going on and if they want to send money they can; other times I can't even say that. So whatever the constraints were, we worked within them."
Lungren's consultant, Rob Stutzman, had previously told The Bee that Lungren's campaign was supportive of the party's efforts but that it was "nothing that the campaign organized or sponsored."
Sacramento County election officials forwarded information about the registration effort to the secretary of state last month after finding irregularities with the voter registration cards submitted by circulators working for Momentum Political Services, a firm hired by the Sacramento County Republican Party.
Representatives for the secretary of state and the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office, which would have the power to prosecute, declined to comment on any complaints or investigations into the matter, citing confidentiality policies. The secretary of state's elections fraud division said in a letter responding to Bera's complaint that they are evaluating the materials the campaign sent.
Lungren said he supports an investigation if evidence shows one is merited.
"Look, if there's any foul play, they ought to look at it, on any side," he said.