As letters implicating Gray Davis in graft were released on Monday, Davis was busy campaigning with Bill Clinton -- an appropriate echo to the letters' charges. Davis called the impeached former president, accused felon, and disbarred lawyer the "best president in his lifetime." Clinton, for his part, declared California a progressive utopia under Davis.
"Gray Davis has broken new ground every single year, and California is leading America toward an environmentally responsible future," Clinton said in Inglewood. "There's not a state in the country that has done more progressive things when it comes to education, when it comes to health care, when it comes to balancing the needs of working families, when it comes to the rights of working people and women and minorities and gays than the state of California."
Meanwhile, Garry South, Davis's lowlife political adviser, tried to bat down charges from Mark Nathanson that Davis sought to benefit from the California Coastal Commission's corruption. A member of the Willie Brown machine in the 1980s, Nathanson used the commission to extort money from permit applicants. He says that Davis, as an assemblyman and state controller, was a partner in some of his schemes. "The governor is not going to have an argument with a convicted felon and admitted perjurer," says Garry South.
Boy, what contempt for perjurers. Doesn't South know that his boss is campaigning with one?
Davis campaign spokesman Roger Salazar dismisses the allegations as "baseless charges that the FBI, the U.S. attorney and a district court judge found not to be credible." But as Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee notes, Nathanson's charges were evaluated by Clinton officials.
"Federal prosecutors declined to pursue the leads, citing Nathan's record of untruthfulness. But, in fact, he had no incentive to lie and every incentive -- a shorter sentence -- to tell the truth," writes Walters. "Prosecutors' reluctance could have been political since by the time the letters were written in 1993 and 1994, the Democratic Clinton administration had taken over the U.S. Justice Department and the California anti-corruption crusade was kaput."
Many in the press seem willing to give Davis slack on this one, even though his record of using state government as a fundraising tool is well known to them. The Los Angeles Times placed the story on A17 and cast it in a pro-Davis light, "Simon Resurrects Felon's Allegations Against Davis."
What Nathanson describes in the letters hardly sounds off-the-wall: "Nathanson had occasional meetings with Davis at Nate-n-Al's restaurant, where Davis would make and go over lists of people that Nathanson had assisted with governmental approvals -- both at the Coastal Commission and elsewhere -- saying that he (Davis) 'needed to call' those individuals for campaign contributions," a Nathanson attorney wrote in one letter. "As Nathanson understood it, in calling these people, Davis was going to suggest a link between he [sic] and the approvals Nathanson had helped to secure in order to solicit contributions from the individuals on the lists."
How is it that Davis, an acharismatic, visionless pol, could raise such mammoth donations without engaging in schemes like this? Have people given him tens of millions over the years because of the power of his personality or the strength of his principles? No, they are giving him money because they know that he will use state government to their benefit.
Davis's gaudy praise for Clinton on Monday was probably heartfelt. Davis has learned well at the master's feet: just redefine habitual corruption as good government, condition people to yawn at daily quid pro quos, and transfer one's own sleaze to one's opponents.
Davis has the audacity to threaten lawsuits against television stations should Simon turn Nathanson's allegations into a campaign ad -- this even as Davis runs blatantly false ads against Simon. (Even after a judge overturned fraud charges against Simon's firm -- and the judge said it was the Simons who had been victimized -- Davis continued to blanket the state with ads about the verdict.)
Bill Simon, with less than a week to go in the race, has nothing to lose by excavating the Nathanson scandal. Californians have a right to know if their governor is a Clintonian crook. With 56% of Californians viewing Davis unfavorably, according to the most recent Los Angeles Times poll, there is still a chance for a last-minute Simon surge.