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Bustamante, Davis Depend on Many of the Same Donors

August 21, 2003|Dan Morain and Jenifer Warren | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — In his 10-year Capitol career, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has relied on many of the same sources to finance his campaigns as Gov. Gray Davis, tapping organized labor, gambling interests and clients of his lobbyist-campaign consultant.

Bustamante's fund-raising pales compared to Davis' and to that of most statewide officeholders. But he is beginning to raise more significant amounts of money as polls show that he has a solid chance of replacing Davis if the governor is recalled on Oct. 7.

Since he broke ranks with other Democrats and entered the race two weeks ago, Bustamante has raised $89,750, a fraction of the $10 million to $15 million he has set as his goal. Although Bustamante says he opposes the recall, he is competing with Davis for contributions from the same donors.

A review of his past fund-raising shows that, like many other officeholders, Bustamante has taken actions that benefited some of his donors, from pushing legislation for them during his days as an assemblyman to lending his official presence to their events while lieutenant governor. He also has shown a willingness to act against the interests of donors he once helped.

Bustamante has raised $5.7 million since first taking office as lieutenant governor in 1999.

"He is a 'Mini-Me' of Davis," said Jamie Court, executive director of the nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica. "It is the same interest groups, only in different proportions."

Campaign finance reports show that organized labor, Davis' largest source of money and traditionally the largest donor to Democrats, provided $2.3 million of that sum.

Included in labor's donations was more than $1 million from public employee unions, with the California Teachers Assn. contributing $293,000 and the union representing prison officers giving $104,000.

In Bustamante's second run for lieutenant governor, in 2002, organized labor became his most generous donor. Since announcing his candidacy for governor, Bustamante has received endorsements, and promises of money, from unions representing carpenters, California Highway Patrol officers and roughly half of state employees.

"We like him, we think he'll make a good governor ... and we've been known to make substantial contributions," said Daniel Curtin, director of the California Conference of Carpenters.

Executives at the California State Employees Assn. said a final decision on how much to spend on Bustamante's candidacy would be made by Friday. Union President Perry Kenny said his organization would at least meet the $21,200 maximum it could give directly to Bustamante. Kenny said the union is also considering spending money on his behalf.

"It's a delicate thing," Kenny said. "We don't want to offend the governor. He's our friend. But we also want to hedge our bets and we've always had a good relationship with [Bustamante]."

Aside from labor, Bustamante has relied heavily on contributions from gambling interests, primarily Indian tribes that own casinos. They have contributed $1.1 million to Bustamante since 1999.

Donors who identify themselves as lawyers, including trial attorneys who represent plaintiffs primarily in personal-injury lawsuits, accounted for another $475,000. Donors representing the health-care, development, telecommunications, oil and agriculture industries combined to give about $1.2 million.

In an interview Wednesday, Bustamante addressed fund-raising in generalities. His campaign did not respond to requests for an interview on specific donations.

Bustamante said that if he were governor he might, for instance, forgo fund-raising during the month at the end of legislative sessions when governors traditionally sign and veto hundreds of bills, many of which affect moneyed interests.

"Even if there isn't an actual conflict, there appears to be," Bustamante said, "and I think appearances oftentimes are as important as reality."

During his tenure in the Assembly, from 1993 through 1998, Bustamante, like many lawmakers, took actions that helped his donors.

He was, for example, one of 42 Assembly members listed as coauthors of the 1996 legislation that shaped deregulation of California's electricity industry.

In 1996, Bustamante accepted $35,000 from utilities in the state, including Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric. In 1998, as he campaigned to become lieutenant governor, Bustamante accepted $10,125 from Houston energy firm Enron, campaign finance reports show.

After the energy crisis hit California hard in 2001, Bustamante began accepting significantly less money from energy interests. He also filed a lawsuit against major energy companies. The lawyers he selected to represent him in the suit are among his donors, having given him $12,500.

"He is playing both sides of the street," said Gary Ackerman, executive director of the Western Power Forum, which represents buyers and sellers of electricity.

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