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Campbell Leaving Senate--and Criticism--Behind

October 29, 1989|CLAUDIA LUTHER and RALPH FRAMMOLINO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SACRAMENTO — With sweat running down his neck and his jaw working a wad of gum, Sen. William Campbell stormed the committee room during the closing days of the legislative session, chasing down his colleagues and pleading for their support.

Officially, Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights) was scouring the crucial Assembly Ways and Means Committee for the one last vote he needed to resurrect his most controversial measure of the year--a $1.4-million tax break for a Contra Costa County millionaire who was donating his classic car collection to UC Berkeley.

Unofficially, however, the stakes were much higher for the senator, who represents Whittier, La Mirada, La Habra Heights and portions of Orange County. Campbell, 54, "Hacienda Fats" to his friends, was buttonholing his colleagues for votes with the argument that his reputation was on the line.

"He convinced me . . . based on the appeal to his honor," said Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who gave Campbell the vote he needed after she publicly railed against the bill, which was criticized as a tax break for a rich man. "The press was calling him a crook. The vindication for him was not to run away from it but to keep on going."

It's been a tough time lately for Bill Campbell's honor. Whether that played a role in his decision Thursday to quit the Legislature in January to become president of the California Manufacturers Assn. is not clear. But some political insiders said that Campbell, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1966 and became a senator in 1976, was tired of being under attack for the last two or three years.

Campbell has been criticized for carrying special interest legislation and making tens of thousands of dollars for himself, his family and his staff through speaking engagements and special functions sponsored and promoted by his office. Those activities have been scrutinized by the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state attorney general's office and the federal Small Business Administration (SBA).

The focus of some of this scrutiny has been Jerome M. Haleva, Campbell's longtime top aide, close friend, landlord, legislative tactician, political fund-raiser and alter ego. An intense, mustachioed behind-the-scenes operative, Haleva, 43, is among the highest paid Sacramento staffers and virtually the dean of legislative aides, almost a 41st member of the 40-member Senate. Once Campbell leaves the Legislature, Haleva is expected to leave the Senate staff and take up lobbying himself.

Together and apart, Campbell and Haleva have made the kind of headlines that have given the senator's reputation a drubbing. These include:

* Campbell's sponsorship of the bill tailored to give a large tax break to one person--Kenneth Behring, multimillionaire owner of the Seattle Seahawks and a Contra Costa developer. Despite intense publicity and public criticism from his colleagues, Campbell and UC officials scraped up barely enough votes to slip the measure through in the waning hours of the legislative session. It was signed into law by Gov. George Deukmejian on Oct. 2.

Campbell said he worked on behalf of Behring because it was "good government" to secure such a valuable donation for the UC system. He emphasized that Behring has never given him a political contribution.

* Reports about how Campbell's wife, Margene, Haleva and a former top aide, Karen L. Smith, have made $452,500 from annual nonprofit conferences for women first organized seven years ago on government time by Campbell's staff. As of this year, Campbell no longer is associated with the conference, which at its height attracted 14,000 women. The attorney general's office is investigating payments made to his wife for her job as a consultant to the 1987 conference.

* Several instances in which Campbell or Haleva have failed to disclose gifts or outside income. In one case, Haleva failed to report $15,000 he received as director of the women's conference in 1986. And this year, both men failed to disclose a gift of free limousine service supplied by a New Orleans businessman and contributor who asked Campbell for a favor.

* Accepting $46,900 last year for speaking engagements. Campbell, quick-witted and glib, consistently has been among the highest paid speakers in the Legislature. While defending his income from speeches, which more than doubles his annual $40,816 Senate salary, Campbell said recently he understood uneasiness about the practice. Reformers have attacked honorariums as a bold way for special interests to circumvent contribution laws and put money directly in legislators' pockets. Last summer, Campbell voted with his colleagues to put a measure on the ballot to ban honorariums.

* Intervention last year by Haleva on state contracts for two campaign contributors. One of the contributors, Frank Eugene Raper, had earlier lent Haleva $20,000 at below-market interest rates to purchase a home. Raper is a close friend of Campbell and managed one of his campaigns.

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