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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS : Prison Guards Set Record With Gift to Wilson


SACRAMENTO — California's prison guards, in what apparently is the largest single contribution ever reported to a candidate for governor, donated $425,000 on Oct. 4 to Gov. Pete Wilson, whose support for longer prison sentences will mean the hiring of thousands more guards in the years to come.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. now has given the Republican governor a total of $525,000 toward his reelection campaign against Democrat Kathleen Brown.

The amount is more than three times what California Highway Patrol officers gave in 1990 to Democrat Dianne Feinstein, when a $150,000 contribution prompted Wilson to castigate her for taking money from state employees whose salaries she would have a role in setting.

A spokesman for Brown condemned Wilson on Friday as a hypocrite and accused the governor of essentially trading campaign support for favors to the guards' union.

The Wilson Administration has increased salaries for guards 10% since Wilson took office in 1991, after the union spent nearly $1 million in an independent advertising campaign to help elect him. Most other state employees got smaller raises.

"This shady arrangement ends the mystery about why prison guards with six weeks of training earn more than school teachers," said Steven Glazer, a senior adviser to Brown.

Dan Schnur, Wilson's campaign press secretary, said the guards were contributing to Wilson because they think he is the candidate most likely to keep Californians safe from crime.

Although private corporations and interest groups have contributed more to ballot initiatives, the donation from the guards apparently is the largest given to a gubernatorial candidate in modern times, according to the secretary of state's office and California Common Cause, which tracks campaign contributions.

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