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Simon Slams Farm Mediation Law

Politics: He says the governor signed a UFW-backed bill in return for donations.


FRESNO — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Simon Jr. accused Gov. Gray Davis on Wednesday of signing legislation pushed by the United Farm Workers union in return for campaign money from organized labor.

Simon said Davis' approval of bills that mandate mediation of stalled farm labor talks reflects the Democratic incumbent's pattern of "selling policy to the highest bidder and crippling California's economy in the process."

On a campaign swing through the San Joaquin Valley, Simon said the new law would put California farmers at a competitive disadvantage compared with those in other states and abroad.

"Those union contributions were apparently money well spent, and the state of California and our farmers are going to have to pay the price as a result," Simon said.

His comments on the potential impact of the legislation echoed concerns raised by growers, but none appeared with him at his morning campaign stop here in the capital of California's agriculture industry.

But some growers did attend private Simon fund-raisers Wednesday--a breakfast in Fresno and a lunch in Modesto, according to his finance chairman, Frank Baxter. Simon went to both events.

Gabriel Sanchez, a spokesman for the Davis reelection campaign, denied that the governor signed the farm labor legislation because of campaign contributions.

"Maybe that's the way it worked for Simon when he was engaged in his own pay-to-play racket, giving thousands to Democratic elected officials throughout the nation ... to drum up business for his family's bond firm," he said.

Simon, whose family investment firm has shut down its municipal-bond underwriting business, has made campaign donations to Democrats Phil Angelides, the California state treasurer; his predecessor, Kathleen Brown; and H. Carl McCall, the New York state comptroller.

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