SACRAMENTO — Rep. Daniel E. Lungren promised Democrats at his first confirmation hearing Monday that if he becomes state treasurer he will faithfully carry out the Legislature's policy, even if it conflicts with his own conservative philosophy.
Once the Legislature passes a bill setting policy and it is signed by the governor, the treasurer's duties become "somewhat ministerial," Lungren said, trying to reassure a special Assembly committee created to consider his nomination by Gov. George Deukmejian.
But this pledge to divorce his own conservative ideology from the selling of state bonds and investment of taxpayer money did not satisfy Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who aggressively questioned the Long Beach Republican on his commitment to affirmative action for financial institutions owned by women and blacks.
'Open Door Policy'
Lungren told the black assemblywoman, "My idea is to have an open-door policy . . . to allow people to participate in the process if qualified, if they have the capability, if they have the capitalization necessary." He also agreed to "review the process by which the treasurer exercises his influence . . . in light of real opportunity for women and minority-owned firms."
This promise did not appear to be good enough for Waters, however. Nor was there much of any demonstration of Democratic support on the special committee as it began to consider whether Lungren should replace the late Democrat Jesse M. Unruh as treasurer.
Assemblyman Thomas M. Hannigan (D-Fairfield), the committee's chairman who is considered to be fair by the Deukmejian Administration, complimented Lungren on his ability to remain cool under fire. But later in assessing the nominee's performance, Hannigan said that although Lungren "was forthright, in some areas he wasn't prepared to respond to specifics and that was disappointing."
Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, a liberal Santa Clara Democrat who chairs the influential Ways and Means Committee, agreed that Lungren had shown by his answers to be "clearly bright enough" to hold the treasurer's job. But he questioned whether Lungren's lack of background as a financial manager or as a member of any congressional budget committee might leave him less than qualified for the day-to-day work.
Lungren compared his first day on the witness stand to a heavyweight prizefight. "During the first round everybody just feels one another out," Lungren said. "I feel like I am ready to go a second round."
Lungren spent about five hours testifying before the 19-member committee, controlled 10 to 9 by Democrats. The exchanges were blunt and tense, with Lungren at several points mildly complaining that Democrats had not shown him "the courtesy" of giving him an advance copy of the list of congressional votes they were asking him about. Therefore he did not have an opportunity to prepare his answers, he said.
A huge new portrait of a grinning Unruh hung on the wall above the chairman's head, directly in front of Lungren. "I genuinely admire many of his accomplishments," Lungren said of the veteran politician.
The panel plans to wind up its hearings Friday and vote in about two weeks. The Senate Rules Committee is not expected to begin hearings until next month.
This is the first time the Legislature has had an opportunity to approve or deny a governor's nomination of a statewide officeholder. And there are two interpretations of what the Legislature must do to reject the confirmation.
Under a ruling by Democratic Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp, the confirmation can be denied if at least one house votes to reject Lungren before March 1. That is the view shared by Democratic legislative leaders. But Deukmejian's interpretation of a 1976 state constitutional amendment now being used for the first time is that Lungren can take office unless both houses deny his confirmation.
As Lungren testified before the committee, more than a dozen groups representing blacks, Latinos, Asians, labor unions and environmentalists held a press conference in another room of the Capitol to protest his nomination.
The groups, some of which called for Deukmejian to rescind the nomination, charged that Lungren's congressional voting record has shown a "total disregard" for problems that affect the poor and minority groups.
Specifically mentioned were Lungren's opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1984, clean water legislation and to paying reparations to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II.
Art Carter of the Amalgamated Transit Union said the governor should have picked someone closer to the philosophy of Unruh. "We don't quarrel with the political reality that the governor is likely to appoint a Republican," Carter said. "That is his right. We do quarrel with the appointment of a right-wing ideologue."