Saying he is "frustrated" by personal attacks leveled by his Democratic rival, GOP controller candidate William Campbell went on the offensive against Assemblyman Gray Davis Wednesday. He accused his opponent of taking campaign money from questionable sources and "working closely" with a "mob-connected" union official.
At a sparsely attended Los Angeles press conference, Campbell, a state senator from Hacienda Heights, released a "background paper" recounting some of the "unsavory highlights" of Davis' public career, including his role in a 1979 scandal in which Davis and then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. used public funds to set up computerized lists of campaign donors and potential donors.
"Once Gray Davis discovers that he lives in a glass house, perhaps he will stop throwing stones," Campbell said.
An aide to Davis responded by reviving accusations that Campbell had made illegal loans in 1981 and 1982 to a company headed by Campbell's campaign treasurer.
"This is just a smoke screen to hide his record of being the man the special interests love most," said Noel Gould, campaign spokesman for the Los Angeles Democrat.
With Davis leading in most statewide polls, Campbell's attack appears intended to blunt Davis' television campaign, which portrays the veteran senator as a big spender and political wheeler-dealer who seldom shows up to vote.
Of equal concern to Campbell strategists is a "briefing book" quietly distributed to the media by the Davis camp that recounts Campbell's authorship of a controversial fireworks bill on behalf of former fireworks magnate W. Patrick Moriarty, who has since been convicted on political corruption charges. It also lists other "special interest" bills carried by Campbell and accuses him of granting favors to toxic polluters.
On Wednesday, Campbell labeled those charges "irrelevant," contending that Davis was raising them merely to "hide his own philosophical shortcomings."
The charges and countercharges by each camp stem from their belief that integrity will loom large in voters' minds as they choose California's chief financial overseer. Nearly a third of voters were undecided in recent polls.
All of the charges raised Wednesday were taken from newspaper articles written over the years about each candidate.
Among allegations raised by Campbell were recent disclosures that Davis had received campaign contributions from Eugene LaPietra, a candidate for the West Hollywood City Council who was convicted on federal pornography charges. LaPietra served as Davis' finance chairman but was dismissed after the disclosures.
Campbell also recounted Brown's controversial appointment of Davis to the California Horseracing Board in 1979 as part of a plan to aid striking track workers. During that time, Sidney Korshak, a union official who had been listed by then-Atty. Gen. Evelle Younger as "mob connected," played a major role in the bargaining. Campbell charged that Korshak worked closely with Davis "to achieve the desired goal."
Of the "computergate" allegation, Campbell charged that Davis helped cover up for Brown after disclosures that the former governor's campaign aides used state computers to keep track of political contributors. On Davis' orders, cards containing the names of political contributors were sent back to the Brown campaign office, where they were destroyed before investigation of the matter was completed.
The only allegation to which Davis directly responded was Campbell's claim that he had exploited children in his television commercials. Those ads praise Davis for placing photos of missing youths on milk cartons. Campbell charged that the campaign proves that Davis' ethics "are missing."
In reply, Davis said he is "very proud" of his efforts on behalf of missing children and blasted Campbell for failing to vote on his most recent missing children legislation.