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Davis Takes a Break From Bills to Rustle Up a Little Money

Politics: While seeking to cast himself as being hard at work on legislation, governor attends $200,000 fund-raiser.


SACRAMENTO — Who was that rustling in the bushes the other night?

Evidently, it was Gov. Gray Davis, taking a somewhat circuitous route to a fund-raiser.

Apparently he was in the bushes for his image. Davis is portraying himself this week as hard at work studying the hundreds of bills he must sign or veto by Saturday at midnight.

He has photographers take pictures of him surrounded by bill files. His press aides are working overtime putting out announcements about his actions. Raising money is not part of the image he wants to project.

But even as he mulls over piles of bills, he spends at least part of his time raising money, away from public view. So he ran into a bit of a surprise Wednesday night when he took a break from signing bills to attend a $200,000-plus fund-raiser.

As he arrived at the home of Sacramento developer Sotiris Kolokotronis, a reporter and a television cameraman were on the sidewalk outside the residence in the leafy upscale neighborhood.

The cameraman, working for Capital Television News Service, was taping as several guests arrived--through the front door--including Davis' wife, Sharon.

The governor arrived late, about 8 p.m. The cameraman said he heard the sound of bushes rustling. Although there was not enough light to capture the scene on videotape, he said, Davis' security guards appeared to be shielding the governor from view in a neighbor's backyard, where a gate led to the Kolokotronis property.

Davis campaign spokesman Gabriel Sanchez brushed aside the notion that Davis was trying to avoid a camera. The security detail "determines where the governor parks, where he stops," Sanchez said.

Once inside, according to people who attended, Davis spoke, as he often does, about his need to raise campaign money. Davis, who defeated multimillionaires Al Checchi and Jane Harman in his 1998 primary, pointed out that he may need to fend off a challenge against some other wealthy candidate in 2002.

The 40 or so guests dining on a meal of swordfish included members of the Maloof family, who own the Sacramento Kings basketball team, and King center Vlade Divac. Kolokotronis and the Kings have no particular issues before Davis. But several other donors did.

Representatives of the California Optometric Assn. spent $25,000 to attend. Also there was a lobbyist for the California Medical Assn., which represents physicians and donated $5,000.

Davis signed legislation earlier this week pushed by optometrists--and opposed by the medical association--that allows optometrists, who are not medical doctors, to expand their practice by treating some types of eye disease.

Attorney Howard Dickstein, who represents some Indian tribes, also attended. Davis vetoed legislation pushed by one of Dickstein's clients, the Pala Band of Mission Indians. The bill would have blocked construction of a dump near Gregory Mountain, which the Palas and several other tribes in the vicinity view as sacred, and which is near to proposed and operating tribal casinos.

The amount that Davis raised Wednesday won't be known until next January, when he files his next campaign finance statement. However, the month during which the governor signs and vetoes legislation is prime fund-raising time. Last year, he raised more than $1 million during the month after the Legislature adjourned and he was signing and vetoing legislation.

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