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Jones Calls for Federal Probe of Davis' Fund-Raising

Politics: Secretary of state says he suspects that the governor 'has crossed the line ... into criminal activity.' Davis camp denies links to policy.

September 26, 2002|VIRGINIA ELLIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Secretary of State Bill Jones urged the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday to investigate Gov. Gray Davis' fund-raising, likening it to the activities of a former state senator convicted of racketeering because he sold access to his office.

Jones, a Republican whose daughter works in the campaign of Davis challenger Bill Simon Jr., cited newspaper stories reporting the proximity of contributions to official action as evidence of possible illegal activity.

"I believe that recent evidence strongly suggests that Gov. Davis has crossed the line from simply poor judgment into criminal activity," Jones said.

Democratic campaign officials scoffed at the accusation, insisting that Jones' attack on Davis was an attempt to ingratiate himself to the Republican Party in the hope of finding employment when his term expires in January. Jones was defeated by Simon in the gubernatorial primary election.

"The governor does not connect contributions to policy decisions," Davis campaign spokesman Roger Salazar said. "He only bases his policy decisions on what is in the best interest of the people of the state of California. If he receives contributions, he puts them out there for everybody to see and they can judge them for themselves."

Jones announced his appeal to the Justice Department on the steps of the new federal building in downtown Sacramento as uninvited Democrats paraded behind him carrying placards lettered in red with the words "Simon fraud." It was a reference to a Los Angeles Superior Court jury's decision to order William E. Simon & Sons to pay $78 million in damages for fraud and other misconduct. A Superior Court judge later ruled that the Simon family did not commit fraud and overturned the verdict.

The accusations from Jones, a longtime advocate for campaign finance reform, come as Davis is facing increasing criticism for his fund-raising activities. Since taking office nearly four years ago he has collected more than $62 million in campaign contributions.

"I am not indicting fund-raising," Jones said. "I'm indicting a process that apparently links fund-raising with policy."

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