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Retaliation Alleged on Opposition to Recall

Business group says Gov. Davis' foes have flooded members with e-mail and phone calls since vote.

June 14, 2003|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Californians seeking the ouster of Gov. Gray Davis barraged some of the state's biggest corporations this week with hundreds of e-mails to protest the companies' involvement in a group that opposes the recall campaign.

Hundreds of e-mails and phone calls have been sent to Bechtel, ChevronTexaco, Safeway and Southern California Edison, among others, to protest their association with the California Business Roundtable.

"I've gotten besieged with e-mails," said Doug Kline, spokesman for Sempra Energy in San Diego, who estimated he had received 100 electronic messages since Wednesday. "Most of them say something like we can't believe you've opposed the recall of Gray Davis. He's hurting small businesses."

The Roundtable has been one of the few business groups to take a position on efforts to replace Davis, a Democrat. Its members -- who are the chief executives of approximately 60 large corporations -- voted unanimously in a June 3 board meeting to oppose the recall campaign.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 18, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 72 words Type of Material: Correction
Sempra Energy -- An article in Saturday's California section about an e-mail barrage protesting the California Business Roundtable's vote to oppose a recall of Gov. Gray Davis quoted a spokesman for round table member Sempra Energy but failed to explain that the company had not taken a position. About a third of the round table's 60 members attended a meeting and voted unanimously to oppose the recall. Sempra officials did not attend.

Recall proponents have until Sept. 2 to gather nearly 900,000 signatures to qualify a recall for the ballot.

In a memo to members Friday, Roundtable President Bill Hauck called the barrage unanticipated retaliation that has included "potential boycotts, mass e-mails, barrages of telephone calls and potential targeting of members in future paid media" advertisements.

In a telephone conference call Friday, Hauck said, members chose to stick with their original position on the recall campaign.

"It's important to emphasize that the statement was not an endorsement of any individual politician," said Hauck, a former staffer to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and an appointee of Davis to the California State University Board of Trustees. "The statement was to the effect that this was not a good process for California to be going through at this point, given the budget and all the problems public officials need to deal with."

Hauck blamed the retaliation on the Recall Gray Davis Committee, one of three committees gathering money and signatures to support a recall election. The Recall Gray Davis group is headed by former Republican Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian.

"They have a Web site and they are ginning up through the Web site efforts to have folks that are for the recall barrage specific members of the Roundtable with e-mails and phone calls," Hauck said.

In an e-mail to supporters this week, Kaloogian's group attacked the Roundtable vote as a betrayal of business, and urged recall supporters to donate money to pay for advertisements.

Kaloogian said his committee has raised at least $450,000 since recall efforts began in February and will air radio ads throughout the state beginning next week.

"We've simply been letting people know what action" the Roundtable took, Kaloogian said. "The people of California responded appropriately."

He argued that the Roundtable's official position does not represent the opinions of all of the CEOs who belong.

"They stated that there was unanimous opposition to the recall," Kaloogian said. "That provides political cover to the governor. And it's not true."

Hauck said that roughly a third of the group's 60 members attended the June board meeting in Los Angeles at which a position on the recall campaign was unanimously adopted. He said such attendance is typical for a board meeting. The group, which does not give political donations, weighs in on policy issues that affect the economy and business climate, such as the quality of schools and transportation and water infrastructure.

Carroll Wills, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against the Recall Committee, characterized the e-mail effort as "a desperate sort of intimidation."

"The Business Roundtable is to be commended for its courage in standing up to this type of intimidation," Wills said. "There is nothing about the recall effort that would have prompted them to become involved except their strong view that this is not what California needs right now."

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