Simon hammers Davis fund-raising

By Erica Werner The Associated Press
Wednesday October 09, 2002

LOS ANGELES— A group allied with Republican Bill Simon released two photos Tuesday purporting to show then-Lt. Gov. Gray Davis illegally accepting a campaign contribution, but the veracity of the photos was quickly questioned. 

The California Organization of Police and Sheriffs claimed the photos show Davis taking a check in his Capitol office, in violation of state law. 

But the man pictured holding a check at Davis’ side denied he ever set foot in Davis’ office and an Associated Press inspection found no resemblance between the existing lieutenant governor’s office — which has not moved or been significantly altered — and the room shown in the photos. 

Davis aides also strongly denied the charge. 

“This is a bogus charge, this is a trumped-up charge and this is not the lieutenant governor’s office,” said top Davis strategist Garry South. “There’s nothing in this office that was in the lieutenant governor’s office. Not the artwork, not the doors, not even the carpet. Bogus,” he said. 

South said Davis was not even in Sacramento when the photos were purportedly taken but at an event with then-Vice President Al Gore in Pacoima — a claim born out by a newspaper report from the time. 

Simon made the original accusation of illegal fund-raising by Davis on Monday, causing a stir after the gubernatorial candidates met for their first debate when he told a crowded press conference he had evidence. 

The evidence turned out to be a letter from COPS, one of his main backers, to the state’s political watchdog group, and the photos released Tuesday. 

At a campaign stop in North Hollywood on Tuesday afternoon, Simon at first stood by his claim. 

“Gray Davis and his staff are not dumb. They knew they were accepting a campaign check in a government office that was against the law,” he said in prepared remarks. 

Under questioning by reporters he backed down. 

“We’ll let the (Fair Political Practices Commission) decide. They make the findings. I’m not the tribunal here,” he said. 

The nearly identical photos are date-stamped Jan. 31, 1998, when Davis was running for his first term as governor. They show Davis in an office standing next to Al Angele, then executive director of COPS. Angele and Davis are both holding a corner of a $10,000 check COPS donated to Davis. 

Monty Holden, current executive director of COPS, which broke bitterly with Davis to back Simon, told reporters Tuesday that the office Angele and Davis are in is the lieutenant governor’s office at the Capitol. 

California law makes it a crime to deliver or receive a contribution in state office buildings. The statute of limitations is four years for criminal prosecutions and five years for fines by the Fair Political Practices Commission. 

“We believe Gov. Gray Davis has broken the law,” Holden said. 

Angele denied that the photos, which he said he hadn’t seen, were taken in Davis’ Capitol office. 

“I don’t have to see it to tell you it was not the lieutenant governor’s office. I’ve never been in the lieutenant governor’s office,” said Angele, now a Davis appointee to the state Board of Prison Terms.