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California and the West

Fund-Raising Spree for Davis: $8.4 Million in Last 6 Months

August 02, 2000|CARL INGRAM and VIRGINIA ELLIS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SACRAMENTO-Gov. Gray Davis, who collected a record $13 million in campaign donations in 1999, has accelerated his drive and raised $8.4 million during the first six months of this year, campaign contribution reports show.

The Democratic chief executive has stockpiled $21.3 million for his expected reelection campaign in 2002, the documents show.

At his current pace, Davis would finish the year with an unprecedented $16.8 million in contributions, a fortified treasury intended to intimidate would-be Republican challengers.

"We see Gray Davis out there fund-raising at record-breaking levels," said Craig Holman, campaign finance director at the Center for Governmental Studies, a private think tank in Los Angeles. "He's literally doing a better fund-raising job than Al Gore, and Gore is running for president."

Garry South, the governor's chief campaign strategist, declined to say whether Davis will raise another $8.4 million during the remainder of the year, noting that the governor has made "significant commitments" to raise funds for other Democrats, including Gore.

But he said Davis will be ready to meet any Republican opponent, predicting that GOP leaders will recruit a wealthy, self-financed foe.

"They'll go out and find some megalomaniac with megabucks who they can convince to run [because] they don't have any other logical candidate to step up to the plate," South said.

"If somebody wants to come after us, it's a free country. They can run if they choose, but we are going to be prepared," he said.

Davis, whose nonstop solicitations from January through June reaped more than $1 million a month, led a frenzy among several Democratic statewide officeholders for campaign funds, according to required disclosure statements filed with the state.

Among the most generous contributors to Davis and others were American Indian tribes, whose programs for expanded casino-style gambling were supported by the governor. In all, 10 tribes gave $1 million to candidates during the six-month period, including $131,023 to the governor.

The insurance industry, another big giver, chipped in nearly $700,000 to Davis.

The governor's biggest individual donors were billionaire Jerry Perenchio, chairman of the Spanish-language television network Univision, and David Shimmon, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Perenchio gave Davis $250,000 and Shimmon gave $200,000.

Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, another Democrat, raised $925,715 during the reporting period, ending with $2.4 million in the bank, according to the reports.

Among Lockyer's major contributors were gambling interests, including card clubs, racetracks and Indian casinos who come under his enforcement jurisdiction. They gave him $141,998, including $67,748 from Indian tribes.

The reports also showed that first-term state Treasurer Phil Angelides collected $835,062 during the period and had $440,000 in the bank. Controller Kathleen Connell, who cannot seek reelection in 2002 due to term limits, received $516,648 and reported $1.4 million in her treasury.

In his 1998 primary campaign, Davis was opposed by two self-financed millionaires, Al Checchi and Jane Harman. Although heavily outspent, Davis beat them.

"Once you go through that, it is an experience that sticks with you for a long time," South said.

Holman said South's argument was phony, meant to mask the real motivator for the frantic fund-raising: the fear that voter-approved limits on contributions will soon be reinstated by the courts.

"That's what he's been singing to help justify unlimited, unabashed fund-raising," Holman said of South. "Even the experienced politicians realize that millionaires fare very poorly in California elections."

Approved by the voters in 1996, Proposition 208 established limits on campaign contributions, created blackout periods on fund-raising and prohibited candidates from transferring money to each other.

Judge Lawrence Karlton struck down Proposition 208 two years ago as unconstitutionally restrictive, but was ordered by an appellate court to rehear the case.

Karlton did so last month but said he will delay a ruling until after the November election.

At that time, voters will decide on a campaign finance plan written by the Legislature that would impose new limits on contributions. Those would not be as restrictive as those of Proposition 208.

If approved, the legislative program would abolish Proposition 208 and make the court case moot.

"The California political elite are very concerned about Proposition 208 being reinstated," said Holman. "They know there are no limits right now and they are out there doing what they can to raise money."

Other big-name Davis contributors included Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican, who gave $12,500; and filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who each gave $8,333.

Lockyer received $500 from criminal defense lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. and Treasurer Angelides received $10,000 from Hollywood super agent Michael Ovitz.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Davis Contributions

Campaign contributions of more than $50,000 to Gov. Gray Davis for the first six months of this year:

*

Contributor: Amount

Jerry Perenchio: $250,000

David J. Shimmon: $200,000

Eli Broad: $100,000

Fireman's Fund: $100,000

Pacific Telesis Group: $100,000

Saban Entertainment: $100,000

Yucaipa Cos. LLC: $100,000

Chevron Corp.: $90,000

California Ski Industry Assn.: $75,000

Carl H. Lindner: $75,000

Political Action for Classified

Employees of CSEA: $75,000

Zenith Insurance Co.: $75,000

Cargo PAC California Trucking Assn.: $60,000

Source: California secretary of state's office

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