Political Hay

Regulated Treasure

Gray Davis uses state boards the way Bill Clinton did White House coffees.

By 8.14.02

No California governor has ever raised money as brazenly as Gray Davis. The Golden State's government belongs not to the California people, but to Davis's re-election committee.

The latest proof of Davis's use of state government as a collection basket for his campaign treasury comes from the Sacramento Bee. "State panels a trove for Davis," it reports.

The Bee found that more than a dozen members of state boards and commissions have "sponsored or organized campaign fundraisers" for Davis. Some of these state appointees "raise money from businesses and individuals they regulate."

Clint Eastwood, whom Davis appointed to the state Parks and Recreation Commission in November 2001, recently hosted the ninth annual Gray Davis Golf Classic, reports the Bee. "For $40,000, a party of four could buy a private dinner with Davis, according to the event invitation."

The Bee notes that after Davis appointed Central Valley rancher John Harris to the California Horse Racing Board in 2000, Harris, who used to raise money for Republicans, began rattling the can for Davis amongst Republican businessmen. Harris told the Bee that the fundraisers raised about $50,000 from farmers and ranchers.

Like Harris, William Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association, also used to raise money for Republicans. But now he is feeding coins into Davis's treasury. Davis appointed him to the Industrial Welfare Commission in 1999. In April, according to the Bee, Dombrowski rounded up "officials from such corporations as Longs Drugs, Target, Safeway and Sears" for a 90-minute lunch on April 11 which "netted Davis $100,000." The business leaders said the $10,000 lunch "was worth the price because they had the governor's ear."

The Bee reports that "the retailers who showed up April 11 and wrote checks to Davis are affected by Industrial Welfare Commission rulings on such issues as the minimum wage, overtime and how long an employee can work each day before getting a meal break."

Poor Arun Baheti. Remember him? Davis bounced Baheti, his top technology aide, for accepting a $25,000 check to the Davis campaign from Oracle after following orders to push a stupid and unnecessary software deal with Oracle. Baheti had to go, Davis solemnly said, because state officials should not raise campaign funds. (Baheti got his state job after fundraising for Davis's 1998 campaign).

Too bad Baheti wasn't a member of a state board, then he could say that his meeting with the Oracle official at a Sacramento bar fell under his right to democratic participation. This is Davis campaign manager Garry South's defense of state board members fundraising for Davis. "You can't exclude those people from participating," he said to the Bee.

Steve Maviglio, the governor's press secretary, says state employees also enjoy a legal right to make political contributions to Davis. "There's this thing called civil liberties," he said to the Bee. "We can't stop them, but everyone knows our policy is that we don't want state employees to participate."

Right. Even as the state budget tanked, Davis created thousands of new inessential state jobs, a move which amounted to the creation of a jobs program for potential Davis voters.

The only discernible principle of the Davis administration is self-interest. In their relentless Simon-can't-win coverage, the press gleefully report that many Republican businessmen aren't donating to Simon. No mystery there: If they give to Simon and Davis wins, their access to state government vanishes.

Eastwood's ninth annual Gray Davis Golf Classic no doubt attracted its share of country club Republicans.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.