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Governor Shakedown

Gray Davis’s use of California state government as a fundraising machine appears comically crass. He will even hit people up for campaign donations inside the Capitol building.

Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Association, told the Los Angeles Times that at a meeting inside Davis’s private Capitol office the governor turned to him and said, “I need $1 million from you guys.'”

The request, tossed casually into a policy discussion, staggered Johnson and silenced Davis’s aides. An “awkward silence” ensued, then “the discussion returned to policy matters and the meeting ended without resolution of the question of campaign money,” the Times reports.

Davis, says Johnson, tried to shake the CTA down again two weeks later. At a Compton Unified School District office, Davis buttonholed Johnson and said, “I need $1 million from CTA.”

Davis, after the unsuccessful shakedown, made clear his opposition to CTA-endorsed legislation that would make textbook/classroom management issues subject to collective bargaining. In an April speech before the CTA, Johnson said, “He opposes this crucial piece of legislation at the same time he hounds CTA for a million-dollar contribution to his campaign for reelection.”

Davis isn’t above shaking down students either. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis asked young Democrats at U.C. Berkeley “for cash.” Mike Montgomery, a fund-raiser for Davis, informed the ideological pups that this “is a great opportunity to interact with the governor for a mere $100.”

Devoted Democrats are beginning to feel a little sick with Davis’s Boss Tweed antics. Warren Alford, regional director for the Sierra Club, told the Chronicle that Davis’s grabbing at student’s wallets is “stunning.”

“The idea that we have to pay homage to the pharaoh,” added Paul Turner of the Greenlining Institute in San Francisco, “is like somebody standing at (Davis’s) door and saying, ‘What gifts do you bring the governor, that you have an audience with him?'”

The California horse racing industry, according to the San Jose Mercury News, understands Davis well.

“Two years ago Davis vetoed a bill that would have allowed Internet betting on horse races, arguing that it would constitute a major expansion of gambling in California,” it reported. But last year he signed a bill permitting Internet betting on horse races. The law said that “bettors who establish special advance deposit accounts are free to bet the nags by phone or computer.” What had changed?

The horse racing industry hired a Gray Davis fundraiser as its lobbyist on the bill.

Reports the Mercury News:

“I think he (the Davis fundraiser) was helpful,” said John Van de Kamp, former attorney general and now president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, which backed the bill. “I have no idea if he spoke to the governor or not. The important thing is we were able to get our side of the story to the governor’s people.”

New apparent quid pro quos seem to pop up every day. It was reported last week that the management consulting firm Accenture, like Oracle, also appears to have reaped state business in part from an enormous donation to Davis’ reelection campaign.

Davis fears that his image as an abuser of state government for political gain is solidifying in the public mind. So he is busy walking hapless aides up the plank and calling for a review of no-bid contracts, a pervasive practice during his first term.

If Davis can fire an aide for taking a donation at a Sacramento bar, surely Californians can fire him for soliciting a donation at their Capitol.

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