In a desperate attempt to divert attention from his $23.6 billion deficit, Gray Davis launched a false television ad against Bill Simon this week. The ad accuses Simon of mismanaging a savings and loan in the early 1990s at a cost to taxpayers of some $90 million dollars.
Now, squandering $90 million dollars in taxpayer funds is a good day for Gray Davis. But his charge against Simon isn’t even true. Davis manages to package into his 30-second television ad a great deal of deception.
“Bill Simon inherited a fortune, but how has he managed on his own?” says the ad. “When he directed a savings and loan, the thrift made bad loans, went belly-up, and was seized by the federal government. Simon’s mismanagement cost depositors millions — and the bailout for his mistakes cost taxpayers $90 million more. On top of it all, now Simon is suing the government — asking taxpayers to pay him back his investment. Bill Simon: If he can’t run an S&L, how can he run California?”
Lie number one is that Bill Simon directed the S&L. He didn’t. Western Federal Savings and Loan belonged to Simon’s father. Simon sat on the thrift’s board as a monitor for his father, but he didn’t “run” it.
Nor does Davis include another key piece of information: the federal government, not William Simon Sr., may have cost taxpayers some $90 million by rashly seizing the savings and loan before he could turn it around. The Sacramento Bee reports that the U.S. Supreme Court “ruled in a precedent-setting decision in 1996 that Congress had changed the rules regarding savings and loan associations in the middle of the game. In March, the U.S. Court of Claims ruled that there had been a specific breach of contract in the Western Federal case.”
“The Simons maintained that they could have made a success of the business were it not for the federal law change, and are among a group of creditors suing the federal government for breach of contract on those grounds,” reports the Bee.
Davis’s ad appears to be a stretch even by standards of modern political advertising. His grasping at straws reveals a deep vein of defensiveness: Unable to explain his own mismanagement — he inherited a swelling surplus and then proceeded to spend through it like a drunken sailor — he feels the need to fake up a record of mismanagement for his opponent.
“He’s out there every day accusing the governor of gross mismanagement,” Davis adviser Garry South pouted defensively to the Los Angeles Times. “We think it was high time that he had to answer for some of his own mismanagement in the private sector.”
The thin gruel served up in this week’s attack ad isn’t likely to appease angry Californians. They see a govenor who has wasted not millions, but billions. While the state’s budget cratered, Davis was busy stuffing his pockets with campaign money from companies like Oracle that benefited from unnecessary state business.
These companies were not giving Davis money because of his charming personality. They knew from the start that his administration was for sale. The coin-operated governor, as some now call him, could not have made this plainer had he installed a toll booth at the entrance to his office in the state capitol. The California Teachers Association — no friend to Simon — has publicly denounced Davis for his crass request of a million dollars during the middle of a “policy” meeting at the state capitol.
Cheap shots at his opponent will not conceal this corruption. The failure of a savings and loan that Simon didn’t even run is of little interest to Californians, who still haven’t heard an explanation for the failures of Davis’s state government.
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