Tags: Davis | Non-stop | Money | Machine

Davis Is a Non-stop Money Machine

Monday, 20 May 2002 12:00 AM

"Gov. Gray Davis is a moneymaking dynamo – pulling in campaign donations at a rate of $1,800 an hour, 24 hours a day for the past five years," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Despite "A multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, threats of statewide energy blackouts, the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorism – no crisis was so severe that Davis stopped the fundraising efforts that have brought him an average $44,100 a day to keep his office," wrote Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Carla Marinucci.

According to the Chronicle, Davis has raised an astonishing $78.7 million, with donations ranging up to $500,000 a check since he first ran for governor in June 1997. That includes the $46.5 million for his re-election campaign, the Chronicle reports the records show. So avid has been Davis' pursuit of cold hard cash that the media are beginning to take notice, with several major newspapers raising questions about where all that money is coming from, and why.

"Dark clouds have formed over the re-election campaign of Gov. Gray Davis," noted Laura Kurtzman. Writing in Monday's San Jose Mercury, Kurtzman observed that Davis' fund-raising tactics, "long a subject of insider gossip, have suddenly come under microscopic scrutiny."

Wrote Jim Boren in Monday's Fresno Bee: "We've become so accustomed to Gov. Gray Davis' questionable fund-raising tactics that nothing he does seems surprising. He can ask for $1 million from the California Teachers Association just before taking a position on a controversial union-backed bill and we just roll our eyes."

Davis, Boren wrote, has so numbed Californian's senses that there is no longer any outrage even "when hearing of the political favors that follow the millions in campaign contributions. We rationalize that it's always been that way in Sacramento and Davis has just taken it to a new level."

Boren pulled no punches. "The current system stinks and public policy in California is suffering because of it. There's a state budget crisis and too many failing public schools because the special interests would rather protect the status quo than fix the problems."

And the accusation is that they protect the status quo by coughing up big campaign contributions.

Jim Knox, of California Common Cause, uses the term "pay-to-play" to describe Davis's frantic fund-raising. "With this governor, you know you're not going to get everything you want," he told the Chronicle. "But if you want anything, you know you have to ante up."

According to the Chronicle and other sources, the Davis money vacuuming system has collected funds from groups coming to Sacramento with their hands out and bulging wallets in their pockets.

"This mixing of policy discussions and campaign contributions is a clear and direct example of the strong-arm, pay-to-play policy discussions that are more apparent in the Davis administration everyday," Simon told the Post.

A Democrat insider told the Chronicle that Davis "is an attentive guest at fund-raisers, working the room and making notes on a pad he keeps in the breast pocket of his jacket."

"He spends plenty of time, going around to each person at the event: 'How's it going? Anything I can do for you?' And he makes notes to himself in his notebook on what they say," said the insider, who asked not to be named. Donors who have concerns about pending state matters, he said, get calls from the governor's staff, usually the next day.

"Word gets around – if you need something finished, you've got to show up" with a check at the big-ticket events, the source told the Chronicle.

Yet Davis claims that donations play no role in his governmental decision-making.

Since his earliest days in politics, raising great gobs of money has been the strongest part of his political game, people who know him say. They describe the 59-year-old Democrat governor as tireless, enthusiastic and absolutely dedicated in his pursuit of campaign cash.

Davis relishes raising money, according to his campaign manager Garry South. He "spends a lot of personal time as a candidate doing the things a candidate has to do to successfully raise money," South told the Chronicle.

"I mean, we're talking some days that would range from eight hours to 12 hours in the office on the phone trying to raise money," South testified, "... asking for money or attending events, fundraising events."

The Chronicle notes that few candidates anywhere, aside from presidential nominees and a couple of self-financed multimillionaires, have ever tapped into so much money.

But Davis keeps at it. "It's never enough," one longtime party loyalist said of Davis' fund-raising efforts, the Chronicle reported. "It's a bottomless pit."

A computer analysis of more than 19,000 donations done by the Chronicle revealed:

Wrote Boren: "The expectations of the special interests in Sacramento have gotten to the point that they're now complaining of not getting their money's worth from the politicians they support. The clear implication is that they purchased legislative outcomes with those contributions.

"Just last week, Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Association, told the Sacramento Bee that his union expects a return on its investment, which has been at least $1.3 million to the governor and millions more to state legislators."

Davis, Boren writes, "has left the Golden State quite a legacy."

But there's no money in the inheritance he's leaving the state – just a lot of red ink and tax increases.

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Gov. Gray Davis is a moneymaking dynamo - pulling in campaign donations at a rate of $1,800 an hour, 24 hours a day for the past five years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Despite A multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, threats of statewide energy blackouts,...
Monday, 20 May 2002 12:00 AM
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