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Simon Takes On Davis Over Fund-Raising

Politics: Republican candidate says as a public official, incumbent should disclose details, and he'll do the same after he's elected.


Gubernatorial hopeful Bill Simon Jr. took aim Monday at Gov. Gray Davis' prodigious fund-raising, challenging the incumbent to disclose more details of how he collected roughly $45 million toward his reelection.

But even as the Republican nominee demanded to know how much time Davis spends raising money, he declined to set the same standard for his own campaign. He said he would release details of his fund-raising schedule only after he became governor.

"I'm not a public official yet, so I'm not working yet for the taxpayers and for Californians," Simon said.

"The distinction to me is this: Gov. Davis works for all Californians. He owes it to the people of California to spend a significant portion of his day doing what he was elected to do. I'm a private citizen at this present time."

Speaking to reporters at a sidewalk news conference in front of the state building in downtown Los Angeles, Simon released the draft of a letter to Davis questioning how the governor has managed his blistering fund-raising pace at the same time the state has faced an energy crisis, budgetary fallout from the recession and myriad other problems.

"In the face of all these challenges, the public deserves to know how you have had time to raise over $1 million per month," Simon wrote. "Yet, you refuse to release your fund-raising schedule so that the public can evaluate whether you spend adequate time actually governing the state you were elected to serve."

If he becomes governor, Simon said, he would support campaign finance legislation that "would require a governor to disclose the amount of time he has spent fund-raising."

But Simon would not commit to releasing his entire schedule as governor--something Davis and his predecessors have also balked at--and took no position on other campaign-finance proposals, including public financing of political campaigns, or legislation that would seek to curtail the amount of money wealthy individuals can pour into their own campaigns.

"What I'm prepared to discuss today is focusing on disclosure," Simon said, even as he refused to release his own fund-raising schedule.

In response, the Davis campaign suggested Simon was issuing the challenge to deflect attention from the tax issue that has dogged him the past week. Simon, a wealthy investment banker who personally financed most of his primary campaign, has declined to release his tax returns, saying the legally required finance disclosure report he issued in December offers "a very exhaustive and extensive look at pretty much everything to do with my finances."

A Davis spokesman made much the same argument Monday in dismissing Simon's challenge to release the governor's fund-raising schedule.

"The fact is all of the relevant information on all of the governor's fund-raising that people would be interested in--who gave money, how much they gave, when they gave it--is all publicly available to anyone who wants it," said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for Davis' campaign.

Even as Simon tried to slough off the tax return issue, there were new signs of division within the troubled state GOP.

On Sunday, the California Republican Assembly, a group of conservative activists, unanimously passed a resolution urging repeal of reforms imposed on the party by the Bush White House and the president's state lieutenants.

The changes, adopted last fall, are designed to professionalize the party's operations and provide greater financial accountability to the state's major donors. The move also enhanced the power of Bush's California allies, who hoped to nudge the California GOP in a more moderate direction.

In addition to the repeal vote, the resolution asserted that the leadership team installed by the White House has fallen well short of the party's fund-raising goals for the November election.


Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.

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