MONTEREY — Joining a bipartisan push to investigate Enron--and echoing the man he wishes to replace--Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon Jr. said Thursday that he supports a full-scale probe into the company's role in the state's energy crisis.
"Over the past two days Gov. Davis has been speaking out on the Enron scandal and calling for a criminal investigation," said Simon, meeting with reporters at a water conference in Monterey.
"I share the governor's concern....If Enron did, as it appears, manipulate the market and engage in criminal activity, they should face the full weight of the law and receive a harsh penalty," he said.
Simon, whose family has made millions of dollars in the oil and gas industry, disputed Davis' allegations that he courted Enron's financial support while serving on the board of directors for Hanover Compressor, a Houston-based gas industry supplier.
"I've had no financial involvement with Enron," Simon said.
Davis in recent days has stepped up his attack on Enron, following the disclosure of Enron documents that show the company sought to manipulate power prices in California during the height of the power crisis.
Davis has joined other U.S. lawmakers in calling for a criminal investigation by U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft.
"I'm asking Bill Simon, who's a former business partner of Enron and who has been very, very slow to criticize them, to step forward so that we have a united front," Davis said Wednesday.
Simon said he would welcome Ashcroft's involvement.
"I am fine for whoever to get involved [and] who would assure a complete and thorough investigation," Simon said. "That is what people are owed--the truth."
He added: "I've always said we ought to conduct an investigation and let the facts speak for themselves."
While he agreed with Davis about the investigation, Simon got in a few digs at the governor. The Republican challenger continued to admonish Davis to give back campaign contributions received over the years.
"While the governor has spent a lot of time waving the smoking-gun evidence of price manipulation by Enron in the last few days, he hasn't found time to return his contributions from Enron," Simon said. "Gray Davis has taken over $120,000 from Enron, more than any member of the U.S. Congress or any politician in California," he said.
Simon also blasted Davis for the brewing scandal involving a $95-million software licensing contract between Oracle Corp. and the state.
State auditors say the no-bid contract--touted by Oracle and its business partner, Logicon, as a way to save the state more than $100 million over 10 years--could instead cost California $6 million to $41 million more than it would spend otherwise.
The contract was signed, the auditor concluded, in spite of surveys that showed little demand for Oracle products within California's bureaucracy.