SACRAMENTO — Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) called Thursday for a thorough investigation into the qualifications of state treasurer-designate Daniel E. Lungren and said it is too soon to predict whether the Legislature will confirm the Republican congressman.
"It's far too early to discuss any view about his confirmation," the Speaker said. "The evidence isn't in. I don't know of anything that would stop him from being confirmed--but whoever's the nominee would enjoy that status. It's like you're innocent until proven guilty."
Brown's comments followed a closed-door meeting of the Assembly's Democratic members called to discuss the confirmation of Lungren, a conservative Republican from Long Beach.
Two weeks ago, Gov. George Deukmejian nominated the 41-year-old Lungren--his home town congressman--to succeed Treasurer Jesse M. Unruh, who died Aug. 4. Lungren is expected to face a tough confirmation fight when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 4.
Brown noted earlier in the day that at least five House Democrats from California have called him with favorable reaction to Lungren. "No one has said anything negative about Mr. Lungren to date. They're telling me he's a good guy." But he cautioned that there "could be a serious problem for Mr. Lungren" because of his unsuccessful opposition to the payment of reparations to Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II.
In particular, he pointed to criticism from the Asian-American community, including the Japanese-American Citizens League, about Lungren's stance on reparations. Lungren favored apologizing officially to former internees and establishing a $50-million education fund to continue research into their internment but not making any direct payments to those who were interned.
In preparation for the confirmation fight, legislative staffers are examining Lungren's views on a variety of issues. They are poring over documents on his nine-year record in Congress, sounding out his colleagues and chatting informally with the nominee.
Assembly Majority Leader Thomas Hannigan (D-Fairfield), who will chair the Assembly's 19-member select committee on the nomination, said the Legislature has until March 1 to decide Lungren's fate.
His committee will hold a closed meeting in San Francisco today to discuss the confirmation. The meeting's primary purpose, Hannigan said, is to brief GOP members on what the committee's procedure will be.
The committee will begin holding public hearings on the confirmation in January, Brown and Hannigan said.
Hannigan said that among the first items the committee would discuss in public is the exact nature of the treasurer's job. Under Unruh, the treasurer's authority grew. The treasurer now sits on more than 40 state boards and commissions.
Chief among the treasurer's responsibilities is overseeing state bond sales averaging $5.6 billion a year. With his clout over bond sales, Unruh attracted large campaign contributions from investment houses and other financial firms.
The Senate Rules Committee, which has primary responsibility for the Lungren nomination in the upper house, is not scheduled to meet on the matter until February. But Senate staff members are preparing a mailer to send out to individuals and organizations to solicit views on Lungren.
One Senate staffer, who asked not to be identified, said "everybody's doing research on this."