Bustamante moves millions into Proposition 54 account

Monday, September 8, 2003

FRESNO, Calif. -- The leading Democrat and Republican vying to replace Gov. Gray Davis are both taking aim at another issue on the Oct. 7 recall ballot: Proposition 54, which seeks to limit what racial data the government can collect.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is transferring $3.8 million in questioned contributions from Indian tribes and unions to a committee to fight the measure, his campaign consultant said Sunday. And Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, under fire for some of his position on immigrant issues, said Saturday for the first time that he also opposes the measure.

"There is no way we can match that," Proposition 54's backer, Ward Connerly, said in Sunday's Los Angeles Times. The University of California regent acknowledged the measure would likely be defeated.

Opponents say the initiative would undermine civil rights enforcement because it would stop the collection of statistics that could show a pattern of discrimination in anything from schooling to law enforcement. Connerly has said statistics can't prove discrimination, and that it's time to stop being so race conscious.

Schwarzenegger, speaking to Spanish language station KUVS-TV in Sacramento, said he believes it is necessary to collect racial data for use in such fields as health and education.

"If you take that out, it will be disastrous," he said.

Bustamante campaign consultant Richie Ross said the lieutenant governor is following his conscience by putting the union and Indian contributions into the fight against Proposition 54.

Bustamante, the only well-known Democrat among the 135 replacement candidates, has been criticized for accepting millions of dollars from unions and from tribes with lucrative casinos by taking advantage of a loophole in the state's campaign financing rules.

He skirted the $21,200 individual contribution approved by voters in 2000 by accepting the multimillion dollar donations to his 2002 campaign committee for lieutenant governor.

Because that committee was created before the state's new campaign finance law took effect, it is not subject to the contribution caps imposed on newer campaign accounts. The money was then transferred into his recall committee account.

Though the action may be legal, critics say it's wrong.

Lawsuit filed

Republican state Sen. Ross Johnson filed a lawsuit asking a judge to forbid the lieutenant governor from collecting donations that exceed the limit.

Even state Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres said it "doesn't pass the smell test." It's a legal loophole, Torres said, but "do I think he should've used it? Probably not."

Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe defended Bustamante's decision Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, saying "It is legal, and it is disclosed."

Bustamante had previously defended his acceptance of the money, saying it "levels the playing field" with his wealthy opponents. He has yet to run a campaign television ad because, Ross said, he doesn't have enough money, while other candidates have already aired several.

But Ross said Sunday that Bustamante wants to avoid a political fight that has nothing to do with the issues voters care about.

"It's not the lawsuit. Our attorneys are very sure about our position on that," he said.

The lieutenant governor was set to announce the plan Sunday at a campaign rally in Fresno. He was then scheduled to accept the endorsement of the Tribal Council of the Santa Rosa Rancheria at a Lemoore casino.

Davis, meanwhile, was expected to ride in the East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day Parade on Sunday, the same parade that Schwarzenegger's campaign says organizers asked the Republican actor not to attend.

Schwarzenegger spokes-man Todd Harris on Sunday demanded an apology from the governor for a comment Davis made about the actor.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Davis remarked to a voter at a union rally Saturday, "You shouldn't be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state," apparently in reference to Schwarzenegger's Austrian accent.

"Gray Davis ought to apologize to Arnold Schwarzenegger and to every other immigrant who comes to California in pursuit of the American dream. This is wedge-issue politics at its worst and the people of California deserve better," Harris said.

Davis spokesman Peter Ragone said he was with the governor at the rally Saturday and didn't hear him make the comment.

"I would say the real question here is whether or not Arnold Schwarzenegger's sorry for his support of Prop. 187, and is he sorry for his personal attacks," Ragone said.

on Cruz Bustamante's appearance, and if you want to talk about wedge-issue politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger's surrounded himself with the kings of wedge-issue politics," Ragone said.

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