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Fund-Raising Struggle Leaves Simon With $5 Million on Hand

Campaign: Despite $16.4million gathered in the first half of 2002, the GOP candidate is far behind Davis, who has a $31.6-million war chest.


Relying heavily on help from the Simon family and President Bush, Republican Bill Simon Jr. on Friday reported raising $16.4 million toward his bid for California governor in the first half of this year. He had $5 million in the bank as of June 30.

Both figures paled beside the amounts reported by incumbent Democrat Gray Davis, and the showing increased concern within GOP circles about the financial strength of Simon's effort.

Davis has raised more than $50 million since taking office in January 1999, and he reported $31.6 million in the bank as of June 30, the close of the most recent reporting period. By contrast, Simon has collected $22.1 million since announcing his candidacy.

In a statement issued with his campaign report, Simon sought to turn Davis' money advantage against the governor. "For the past four years, Gray Davis has built a campaign war chest by putting his reelection campaign ahead of the needs of Californians," Simon said. "His campaign account is full, but the state's treasury is empty."

Still, the figures offered a stark outline of the challenge Simon faces unseating an incumbent governor--even one as personally unpopular as Davis. It has been 60 years since a California governor has been denied a second term.

"It's a decent showing, but it's not overwhelming," Republican strategist Ken Khachigian said of Simon's fund-raising performance. "It's got to be improved."

Even before the latest figures were released, GOP insiders were fretting about the financial wherewithal of Simon's campaign. Those worries increased earlier this week with the public glimpse at his tax returns, which suggested that Simon is not nearly as wealthy as many had supposed. That, in turn, raised doubts about whether Simon will invest the tens of millions of dollars that strategists hinted at when he entered the governor's race as a longshot last fall.

The Simon team released a summary Friday of contributions to its campaign during the latest reporting period, Feb. 17 to June 30. The campaign collected $11.8 million in that time. Simon made $2.7 million in new loans to his campaign, bringing his total investment in his candidacy to $5 million. Since winning the primary, however, he has made no more contributions.

Simon faces a quandary: If he taps his personal fortune again, he may discourage other donors. If he does not--and fails to significantly improve his fund-raising--he risks effectively ceding the television airwaves to Davis, who has been advertising nonstop for the last seven weeks.

To date, Bush has been Simon's biggest asset outside of his own family. The president raised almost $5 million for the GOP nominee during a fund-raising swing in April and plans to return for more events in August.

Simon's brother and five sisters have contributed hundreds of thousands more to the campaign, making the family's money crucial to the candidacy's continued viability. The family-owned investment banking firm, William E. Simon & Sons, has also given $50,000 in recent months, according to a Times analysis of large contributions reported to the California secretary of state's office.

The analysis shows that the New Majority PAC--a group of moderate Orange County Republicans that backed former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan in the primary--has given $200,000 to Simon since March 5, to become his second-largest donor.

Stockton-based developer A.G. Spanos has given $151,405 since Jan. 1. Joseph Coors of the Coors brewing family provided $123,000, and Simon's sister, Aimee S. Bloom, was the campaign's fifth-largest donor at $105,000.

In addition, 10 contributors have donated $100,000 to Simon in the first half of the year. They include Univision Chairman Jerry Perenchio, who has also given substantially to Davis; H.F. Boeckmann III, a Galpin Motors executive and son of San Fernando Valley secession leader Bert Boeckmann; Los Angeles business executives Frank E. Baxter and B. Wayne Hughes; Los Angeles investor David H. Murdock; the Republican National Committee; and the Lincoln Club of Orange County.

Davis released his report earlier this month, showing that he had raised about $14 million during the first six months of the year. Without collecting another cent, the governor now has more than enough money to finance $1.5 million worth of weekly TV advertising for the rest of the campaign, the amount that political professionals say is necessary to catch the attention of notoriously disengaged California voters.

Meantime, on a separate matter, Simon and his staff reiterated that the candidate's tax returns would remain under wraps for the rest of the campaign, declining a request for a follow-up review. Simon let reporters peruse the materials for a limited time Monday.




Simon Fund-raising Report

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