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Jones Blames Davis for State Lottery 'Scam'

Politics: The GOP candidate claims a pattern of lapses. Aide to governor denies it.


Gubernatorial candidate Bill Jones on Thursday blamed Gov. Gray Davis for the state lottery's practice of selling tickets after the big prizes had been won, saying the "scam" reflected a pattern of unethical conduct.

"Once again, this administration has attempted to place itself above the law," Jones said at a campaign stop in Burbank.

The Republican candidate was referring to the state Lottery Commission's recent admission that it sold Scratchers tickets after the grand prizes were gone. But he expanded on the theme to renew earlier attacks on the Democratic incumbent.

Jones, California secretary of state, hammered Davis for "strong-arm fund-raising tactics" and alleged conflicts of interest among his energy advisors.

"The legal and the ethical standards Californians have a right to expect from the executive branch have been virtually nonexistent in this current Davis administration," he said.

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the Davis reelection campaign, called the charges "ridiculous."

"This is just another attempt by a fledgling campaign to get their candidate's name in the paper," Salazar said. "He's latching onto news stories in a desperate attempt to keep himself relevant."

Jones has been struggling to raise enough money for statewide television ads to promote his candidacy in the March 5 primary. His opponents, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and financier Bill Simon Jr., are multimillionaires who can tap their own fortunes for the campaign.

But by seizing on the Lottery mishap at stops in Burbank and Sacramento on Thursday, Jones drew coverage by more than a dozen TV and radio stations.

In Burbank, his backdrop was the Rancho Market, a Verdugo Drive grocery store with Desert Gold, Cash Roll and other Scratchers games at the cash register.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the action taken by the governor and his Lottery Commission is nothing short of a fraud--fraud being perpetrated on a massive scale," Jones said.

The California Lottery's chief executive, Joan Wilson, has apologized for selling game tickets after the big prizes were gone, a circumstance that occurred in 11 of the 137 games played since 1996. She has promised a $1-million "second chance" drawing for any ticket buyers.

Jones laid the blame for the ticket mess squarely on the governor, saying the sales were not the mistake of "some bureaucrat located in a back office."

Lottery spokesman Vincent Montane denied that Davis knew tickets were being sold after the big prizes were gone. He said most of the games took place under the governor's predecessor, Republican Pete Wilson. The Davis administration discovered the practice and stopped it, he said.

Still, Jones called on the state's four lottery commissioners to resign. Montane said they would not.

Jones also criticized the state's plan to require players in the "second-chance" game next month to pay for the tickets. Montane conceded that Jones "has a point" and said the state was considering whether to distribute the $1 million in tickets at no charge.

The secretary of state compared the lottery controversy to earlier questions about the Davis administration's ethics. He noted that it had fired five energy consultants last year for alleged conflicts of interests. They were involved in state electricity purchases from generators whose stock they owned.

"How many times can you plead ignorance--from the administration's standpoint--before people say, 'There's more to this. There's a lack of credibility, there's a lack of integrity in the governor's office,' " Jones said.

Salazar of the Davis campaign said Jones "has no ideas of his own to offer, so he laces his campaign with these types of attacks.

"Whenever any of these types of situations have come up, the governor has moved to correct them," he said.

In his 1998 campaign for governor, Davis also faced attacks on his ethical conduct, from alleged fund-raising conflicts to claims that he put cronies on the state payroll. Nonetheless, he beat his GOP opponent, Dan Lungren, by more than 1 million votes.

At the Burbank stop, Jones also turned on Riordan, the front-runner in the GOP primary. He questioned Riordan's Republican credentials, saying he "seems to want to be on both sides of every issue."

He recalled the Rampart police corruption scandal that erupted when Riordan was mayor, criticized him for opposing a breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and said the city overcharged the rest of the state for electricity last year at the height of the blackout threats.

Riordan burst into laughter when asked to respond to the attack.

"What's his point?" he asked after a campaign event in Hollywood. "It's just too many things. But I mean, he's having fun with it. And I'm proud of my record as mayor."

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