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Issa Says Dilemma Might Make Him Vote No on Recall

September 23, 2003|From Times Staff Reports

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who bankrolled the petition drive to put the recall on the ballot, said Monday night that he will urge voters to reject that recall if it appears a split Republican vote will assure victory for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

"As someone who some people call the godfather of the recall, nobody should be more determined to remove Gray Davis from office," Issa said.

But, he said, "When you vote, if there are still two major Republicans on the ballot, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock, then I advise you to vote no on the recall."

Issa, who underwrote the recall drive with $1.7 million, also was a candidate to replace Davis but dropped out after Schwarzenegger decided to run.

Group Accuses Davis of Bill-Signing Deal

A consumer watchdog group charged Monday that $175,000 in contributions by Mercury General Corp. to Gov. Gray Davis' anti-recall effort were in exchange for the governor's signature last month on a car insurance bill the company wanted.

Officials of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights sent a letter to U.S. Atty. McGregor W. Scott of Sacramento asking for an investigation of what it alleged was an illegal agreement between Davis and Mercury, an insurance company and strong supporter of Davis. The letter noted that since Aug. 2, when Davis signed the bill, Mercury has made substantial donations to the governor, including $175,000 in the past 10 days.

"It is our belief that these contributions are a direct response to, and a result of, an advance agreement between Gov. Davis and Mercury General," said the letter by Jamie Court and Douglas Heller. The bill, similar to one Davis vetoed last year on grounds that it violated reforms enacted in 1988's Proposition 103, authorizes insurance companies to give discounts to motorists who have continuously insured themselves with one or more companies. Opponents of the measure said the newly signed law also authorizes motorists without insurance to be charged more -- in effect, they say, subsidizing the discounts.

Court and Heller said these prices unfairly discriminate against low-income drivers and violate a key feature of Proposition 103, which prohibits insurance companies from calculating rates based on a driver's history of no coverage.

But Steve Maviglio, Davis' press secretary, called the allegations preposterous."

George Joseph, CEO of Mercury, said his company had been "a player for 38 years in California," and had given Davis at least $220,000 from 1999 through September 2002.

He defended the $175,000 donations after Davis signed the bill. He noted that last year Mercury had given Davis $20,000 before the bill reached the governor, who vetoed it.

Leno Offers Equal Time ... Sort of

It was done in the name of equal time, but an en-masse appearance Monday on the "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" left more than a few candidates for governor grumbling about lack of exposure.

About 90 candidates crammed into the gallery of the show's Burbank studio after Leno invited all 135 to attend.

During his opening monologue, Leno told the audience that FCC requirements for political equal time demanded that he give all candidates a chance to appear on the show after Republican contender and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy as Leno's guest.

"Welcome to California, now a division of Ringling Brothers' and NBC's newest reality show, 'Last Candidate Standing,' " Leno joked. "Only in California would we have more candidates than registered voters."

After that introduction, candidates were given 10 seconds to tell viewers why they should be elected, but not 10 seconds each.

The candidates were all given the same 10 seconds and had to shout their reasons in unison -- a deafening and unintelligible chorus of appeals.

After the taping, some candidates said the appearance was much less than expected.

"Look, it's entertaining for the public, but the candidates were belittled more than anything else," said Frank Macaluso Jr., a Visalia radiologist.

Even more irked was William Tsangeres. The Los Feliz businessman was escorted out of the building by security guards after he yelled, "Equal time! Equal Time!" through a rubber "Terminator 2" mask.

College Visit a Double Opportunity

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante came to City College of San Francisco's Mission District campus Monday, with presidential hopeful Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) at his side, to stress his support for college funding.

The two used their appearance to bolster one another's campaigns.

Calling the recall "outrageous and unusual," Lieberman said Bustamante's entry into the race was a courageous attempt to stave off a Republican takeover of state government.

The joint appearance came on an otherwise quiet day for the gubernatorial front-runners.

Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger stayed out of the spotlight to prepare for Wednesday's debate.

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