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THE RECALL CAMPAIGN

Poll Results, Bustamante Hinder Davis' Ability to Raise Money

The governor may not reach the $15-million goal he believes is needed to defeat recall.

August 14, 2003|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Even as he pulled in a hefty $1 million during the first 12 days of August, Gov. Gray Davis' low standing in the polls and competition from Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante are hampering his fund-raising ability, say Democratic insiders, lobbyists and donors.

By any standard, Davis, who raised more than $70 million during his first term, remains a champion fund-raiser. But unless his funding pace quickens, Davis will not hit the $15-million goal that he and his aides have set as the sum he needs to beat back the recall.

Davis publicly portrays himself as tending to his duties as governor as the recall campaign swirls around him. But, engaged in the battle of his career, the Democratic incumbent also is dialing donors directly, his aides said -- especially his large, longtime supporters. At least 18 contributors have donated $100,000 or more this year to Davis or to committees set up to defeat the recall.

Still, some major business and labor donors, having given heavily last year, say they are feeling tapped out this year. Others believe that Davis is likely to be ousted and that contributing to him would be throwing good money after bad. Still others say they are focused on national politics and the presidential race.

Former Rep. Douglas Bosco, who is helping to organize a fund-raiser for the governor a week from today in San Francisco, said his task would be far easier if Davis' standing were back at 60% in the polls, as it was during his first two years in office. Nevertheless, Bosco expects to raise $150,000 by next week. The event will bring in much more.

"The people we are calling are still giving; they aren't giving as much," said San Francisco attorney Bosco. "People are tapped out. We just got finished with a big election. People are tired of giving money."

In 2002, Davis raised an average of $2.5 million a month. If he continued at that pace, he would raise $5 million, far short of his $15-million goal.

Davis and his aides are planning major fund-raising events rather than the smaller functions that he favored during his first term. They also hope for fund-raising help from national political figures, including former President Bill Clinton, Davis supporters say.

Individuals and organizations or companies doing business with the state still need Davis -- and they can make campaign donations. Lawmakers will return to Sacramento to finish work on scores of bills, and the governor will decide whether to sign or veto those measures in September and October, when the recall campaign is at its height.

"He is going to be getting a flood of money from every special interest that has a bill on his desk," said Jamie Court, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica. "This is going to be prime time fund-raising season."

Labor has been Davis' closest ally. The California Labor Federation, the main umbrella group for organized labor in California, has vowed to raise and spend $2.5 million to defeat the recall effort and is counting on its member unions to match that amount.

However, some unions are hesitant to commit large sums, at least until they study more polls and more fully assess Davis' chances of keeping his job.

The Teamsters gave $50,000 three weeks ago to a committee set up to fight a Davis recall. That is a quarter of the $200,000 that the union spent last year to help him win reelection.

"We're recovering from 2002 and anticipating 2004," said Chuck Mack, chairman of the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council. "We obviously need resources nationally. We have a lot at stake."

Some of Davis' biggest labor donors have been unions that represent state workers.

This year, he is enmeshed in contract talks with state employees, seeking to persuade them to forgo raises for at least a year as a way to ease California's budget crunch.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., which represents state prison guards, gave Davis $1.4 million during his first term. It has given him no money this year.

The California State Employees Assn., which represents 92,000 state workers, gave Davis $370,000 last year -- and none this year

"I could imagine the board'' supporting Bustamante, said Jim Hard, a top officer with the California State Employees Assn. "The difficulty with Gray Davis is that he is the governor and we've had to deal with Gray Davis and have not been satisfied. There is frustration with Gray Davis that doesn't exist with any other person running for governor."

Businesses also have been hesitant to contribute. A representative of a major California company, which has given to Davis in the past, said the firm initially planned to donate to him. But that plan was put on hold after Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bustamante entered the race.

"There is a feeling that he is a goner and you're wasting [the money]," the executive said, requesting anonymity.

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