Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on March 30, 2002

California Gov. Gray Davis has done it again. No, he hasn't claimed to save another "friggin paper" from destruction -- he appears to have gotten that out of his system. In February, Davis made a decision to not renew the contracts of several private prisons currently housing low-security prisoners. The prisons had received high marks in recent state audits, and have been key in helping reduce overcrowded conditions at California prisons.

So, what has he done again? Well, though it may not be a quid pro quo, it certainly looks like one. According to the Los Angeles Times:

Gov. Gray Davis received an additional $251,000 from California's prison guards union earlier this month, only weeks after the governor granted the officers a pay hike of as much as $1 billion and fulfilled their wish by proposing to close five private prisons.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Assn.'s donation, dated March 13, is the largest single check Davis has received since taking office in 1999, though three other donors have given lump sums of $250,000.

With the latest check, the union has contributed $306,000 directly to the Democratic governor, plus $356,000 through the union's "Governor's Cup" golf fund-raisers at Pebble Beach.

To Davis, this may not seem like a lot of money, but that amount of cash would be enough to buy a lot of people's loyalty. Besides, the whole situation just stinks.

Union President Don Novey said that despite the donation, the guards haven't decided whether to endorse Davis or Simon in this year's campaign. He would not specify why the union made the latest donation, except to say there was no connection between the money and the governor's recent actions.

"That had nothing to do with it, but I guess it would be good cannon fodder," Novey said, adding that though Davis often inquires about donations, the union's executive board made the decision about the amount and timing.

Two things: First, this looks dirty enough that GOP candidate Bill Simon should use it. Californians, of whatever stripe, don't like it when their elected officials are beholden to special interest groups; Second, it appears as though Davis may spend more time with his hand out than trying to fix the electricity mess in California. Davis "often inquires about donations?" That's something no politician ever wants said about them.

Does all of this mean that Simon has a chance come November? Well, it's still unlikely that he can win, but Davis is doing a lot to give him hope. If Simon can run a solid campaign and really make an issue of Davis' handling of the state's electricity crisis, he's got an outside chance.

Davis' recent faux pas give Simon hope, but it will take much more for a Republican to win this very Democratic-leaning state.


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