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Davis Rapidly Fills Variety of State Positions

Rate of appointments, some involving donors, has shot up. Aides deny any link to the recall.

October 05, 2003|Dan Morain and Evan Halper | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Faced with the possibility that he could lose his office, Gov. Gray Davis has rushed to fill vacancies that have languished for months and even years, giving seats on boards and commissions to large campaign donors and positioning members of his inner circle for prestigious judgeships.

In recent months Davis has made 359 selections for posts ranging from positions on the UC Board of Regents and the California Parks and Recreation Commission to those on less visible boards dealing with police officer training and workplace regulation.

Judicial nominations have also shot up. In the last 10 weeks, Davis has made more than twice as many appointments as he made earlier in the year. More are expected in coming days: The administration has sent additional names to the State Bar of California for review, including those of Jeremiah Hallisey, a San Francisco lawyer who has raised millions for Davis, and Burt Pines, the governor's judicial appointments secretary.

Appointees to judgeships and such posts as UC Regents and the California Public Utilities Commission serve set terms. Others serve at the governor's pleasure and could be replaced by a new chief executive.

Davis has raised more than $13.4 million since June, when he began battling in earnest to keep his job. A Times analysis shows that donors connected to more than $2.3 million in campaign contributions have been rewarded with appointments or reappointments in that time. The figure represents both direct donations from individual appointees and donations from their businesses or unions.

The appointee-donors include high-ranking members of several unions, among them the California State Council of Service Employees, which represents workers in government and private enterprise. It reports having given $1 million to the anti-recall campaign.

Others are such longtime Davis backers as Norman Pattiz, chairman of the radio network Westwood One. Pattiz gave Davis $100,000 in August and was reappointed to the University of California Board of Regents in September. Pattiz contributed $135,000 to Davis during the governor's first term.

Davis reappointed Malibu investor William Chadwick to the California Science Center board in June. Chadwick has donated $15,000 to Davis this year and gave him $52,000 in his first term.

Until the recall campaign began, Davis was filling vacancies at a rate of 54 a month. Since then he has averaged 89 a month. The decision to fill many of them now means that if Davis fails to retain his office, his successor will have fewer appointments of his own to make and will have to live with boards and commissions not of his choosing.

"If Gov. Davis is recalled from office, then there should be sweeping changes. His successor should have the right to put his own stamp on these boards and commissions," said Sean Walsh, spokesman for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the leading candidate to replace Davis.

Administration officials denied that the governor had purposely sped up his appointments. They said that Davis had filled vacancies in batches throughout his tenure and that the timing of the latest batch was merely a coincidence. Nor, they said, are the positions repayment for donors to the incumbent's campaigns.

"It should come as no surprise to anybody that Californians who are involved in government are appointed to boards and commissions," said Press Secretary Steve Maviglio. "They're the folks who are active in Sacramento and have knowledge."

The donors also said the money had nothing to do with their appointments.

"If it does, it is marginal," said Phil Tagami, an Oakland real estate investor named to the Parks and Recreation Commission in September. "There are a lot of people who are contributors who never got the appointment they wanted."

Tagami gave Davis two checks of $1,000 each in August and September. He and members of a political action committee that he helped to establish contributed $100,000 to the governor during his first term.

In several instances, Davis appointed donors to boards and commissions within days of their contributions. The governor announced the appointment of Ashok Bhatt, 46, a Fremont investor, to the California Water Commission on Sept. 8, and reported having received $1,000 from Bhatt on Sept. 23.

Bhatt, who gave Davis $5,500 during the governor's first term, said in an interview that he is a party stalwart who has known Davis for 20 years and applied for a state post two years ago.

"I'm a loyal friend of Democrats," said Bhatt, who is running for a state Assembly seat. "I was expecting some day they would appoint me if there was the right position. I wanted to pay back the state."

Judicial candidate Hallisey generated at least $500,000 to defeat the recall at an Aug. 21 fund-raiser in San Francisco.

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