IT has been dubbed “Calexit” but a split between two groups seeking independence for California appears to be widening after one of them sent out an email trying to raise money to fund its campaign for a referendum.

And the leader of the official California National Party (CNP) says he hopes the cash drive by Yes California “falls flat”.

CNP general secretary Jed Wheeler told The National that Yes California was damaging his party’s chances of achieving independence.

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He said: “The CNP is a totally separate organisation and has absolutely nothing to do with Yes California.

“As far as I am concerned they are actively damaging our chances of winning independence with their idiotic antics and I hope their fundraising drive falls flat.”

The Yes California email said it expected the state to give it the green light in a couple of weeks to begin circulating petitions to qualify for a Calexit vote in 2018.

It warned that supporters had their work cut out to collect more than half a million valid signatures from registered state voters.

Louis Marinelli is president of the group and claims to still retain his membership of the CNP, but Wheeler previously told The National that he had been “voted out in July and officially removed from the party due to his increasingly erratic behaviour”.

The CNP had also criticised him for opening an “embassy” in Russia with support from Vladimir Putin.

“Contrary to their opinion and regardless of their suspension of my due process rights I am a member of that party,” said Marinelli.

“They believe that they have the power to somehow unregister a voter from the party. They believe that they somehow have the authority to suspend due process and hold hearings about me and make claims about me without my presence to defend myself.

“That group of people do not represent a political party and do not represent any part of the independence movement that Yes California runs and operates.

“That group of people are an unsanctioned group that claims to be for independence but instead is actually just a tool of the American media because their job has been simply to parrot everything the American media has thrown at us to try to discredit Yes California independence campaign.”

Marinelli went on to claim that they had raised all the money they need – “thousands and thousands of dollars” – to print the petition forms.

“No, I don’t believe our actions have hurt the campaign or specifically my actions.”

Wheeler said that many CNP members had “deep reservations” about the language of the Yes California ballot initiative.

“We’re leaving it up to our chapters whether to help gather signatures for it or not,” he said. “Some will, many are opting not to. Our major focus right now is driving voter registrations so we can qualify as a party and that effort starts today.

“At some point we will probably sponsor our own ballot initiative that calls for a negotiated mutually recognised separation, instead of unilaterally declaring independence and then appealing to the UN – where the US holds a veto.”

He added that this would not require winning a vote just to have a second vote in the way Yes California’s initiative does.

“Frankly, at this point only 22 per cent of Californians support independence so any referendum is premature. We have a lot of work to do to prove this is a legitimate movement and win support first. A failed referendum would delegitimise the movement and set us back by years.

“There is no quick easy path to independence and Louis and Yes California are lying to their followers. The CNP plan is a lot more work but has the advantage of being able to actually succeed.”