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Donors Have Stake in Governor's Decisions

Philip Anschutz is among those who have benefited. Davis denies there is any link.

October 06, 2003|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Some of the biggest contributors to Gov. Gray Davis' efforts to beat back the recall effort are businesses and Indian tribes that have a stake in gubernatorial decisions on legislation, compacts and land acquisitions.

Despite opposition from the state Department of Consumer Affairs, Davis signed legislation sponsored by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, who heads a telecommunications, real estate and entertainment group that has a major ownership interest in Los Angeles' Staples Center.

The bill, AB 1458, is designed to bring more boxing matches to California arenas, like Staples. It would limit public access to details about ticket sales and require the California Athletic Commission, which regulates boxing, to help promote the sport.

Anschutz and the various entities he controls donated $95,000 to Davis in his first term and in July gave $50,000 to one of the governor's political committees.

According to a Senate analysis of the bill, the Department of Consumer Affairs argued that "the role of the commission is to regulate the sport of boxing and to protect the public, not to encourage or attract professional boxing contests in California."

Anschutz representatives declined to discuss the issue, but a spokesman for Davis said there was no link between his actions as governor, particularly the signing of the legislation, and political donations he might receive from various interests.

"Unions, business, manufacturers all contribute to political campaigns. But the governor doesn't connect donations with whether he signs bills or not; he does what is best for the people of California," said spokesman Steve Maviglio.

Davis has also:

* Approved a compact allowing the La Posta Band of Indians in San Diego County to open a casino. The tribe gave him $50,000. Sacramento attorney Robert Rosette, who represented La Posta, said tribal members had voted to make the donation because the administration had shown them "respect as a sovereign government" during negotiations.

* Signed legislation authorizing the state's final $140-million acquisition of the Ballona Wetlands near Marina del Rey. The owners, Playa Capital, donated $20,000 to the governor in August and $40,000 in his first term.

* Agreed to spend $135 million toward the purchase of Ahmanson Ranch from Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings and loan. Washington Mutual has not donated to Davis during the recall campaign, but gave $26,500 during his first term.

* Signed a bill authorizing insurance companies to give discounts to motorists who have continuously insured themselves with the company. Since Davis signed it, Mercury General Corp., the measure's main backer, has donated $175,000 to his campaign.

Foes of the measure contend that it would discriminate against low-income drivers. After vetoing a similar measure last year, Davis signed the modified version Aug. 2.

Maviglio and Mercury Chief Executive George Joseph have said there is no link between the donations and the legislation.

After Mercury made the contribution, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights sent a letter to the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento, urging an investigation into any possible connection between Davis' decision to sign the bill and his acceptance of the donation.

Douglas Heller, an official with the group, said it has received no response.

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