Gov. George Deukmejian, declaring that "once in a while you have a real bad apple," said Wednesday that he has seen nothing in the scandal that has erupted around Orange County businessman W. Patrick Moriarty to convince him of any need for political reform.
Deukmejian also professed to be unconcerned about the amounts of money now spent in California political campaigns and said that any effort to tamper with the existing system in an effort to curb spending probably would run into constitutional problems.
"The Supreme Court just recently came out and said you cannot limit PACs from giving as much money as they want to campaigns," the governor said. "So I just really don't see how you can place some kind of limitation there without running afoul of some of these court decisions."
(The U.S. Supreme Court held last week that limits on independent expenditures by political action committees are unconstitutional but in the past has upheld the constitutionality of limits on contributions from any source to individual candidates.)
Deukmejian discussed the Moriarty scandal at some length during a Capitol press conference but said he would not return, even for appearance sake, $17,000 in contributions to his 1982 gubernatorial campaign that he received from two Moriarty associates in an alleged Moriarty-conceived laundering scheme.
Moriarty pleaded guilty March 12 to a variety of felony counts, including making illegal campaign contributions, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a broadening investigation of charges that legislators and other politicians took bribes from him in the form of money and other favors.
"If the (campaign contributions) came from Mr. Moriarty and he has now pled guilty to certain violations," the governor said, "I don't see why we ought to reward somebody who has broken the law by giving him his money back."
He said the most he would do is file amended campaign reports with the secretary of state to reflect Moriarty as the true source of the money, "if we do find these funds came from a source other than the individuals who gave them to us."
He also said if investigating agencies "have knowledge that some of these funds did come from him, I think they ought to let us know about it."
Deukmejian has not been accused of any impropriety in connection with the case and has said previously that he had no knowledge that money given to his campaign might have been laundered, in violation of state law.
Former Moriarty associates have told investigators and The Times that Moriarty secretly funneled more than $153,000 in campaign contributions to dozens of California political figures at a time when he was actively lobbying for legislation to abolish local bans on the sale of so-called "safe-and-sane" fireworks, such as those manufactured by a Moriarty fireworks firm.
However, the governor said Wednesday that if Moriarty was "trying to somehow influence me in terms of the contributions that were made . . . obviously he failed to do so."
He said, for instance, that he signed into law a bill opposed by Moriarty that gave cities and counties the right to ban the fireworks sales and vetoed a bill favored by Moriarty to expand the types of games that could be played in poker parlors and card clubs, such as a club in the City of Commerce in which Moriarty held a major interest.
"I personally, to the best of my knowledge, have never met Mr. Moriarty," Deukmejian said. "I don't know him."
The governor said the $17,000 in Moriarty-related contributions to his campaign represented only a fraction of the $8 million he raised from "literally many hundreds of contributors."
He added, "Unfortunately, it's just like so many other laws. You have most people who are fully complying with the law, and once in a while, you have a real bad apple."
None of the reform proposals he has seen, the governor said, provide a "sound solution" to the problem.
"If there are individuals who want to or will try to get around those and violate the law, they apparently will still do it," he said.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) confirmed in an interview that he has asked the attorney general's office and the Fair Political Practices Commission for any "raw information they can share" on laundered Moriarty contributions, so that he and his legislative colleagues will know whether they should file amended campaign reports.
"To modify those reports without some definitive statement is to swear under oath that you possibly knew the money did not come from the original source," the Speaker said in an interview. "None of us knew any of that money was funny . . . . "
He decribed his request to the two agencies as "very informal" and said he was aware that neither the attorney general's office nor the Fair Political Practices Commission was involved in the Moriarty investigation but assumed that "whenever an investigation is going on, information is shared."
At least three lawmakers who were recipients of the allegedly laundered Moriarty money already have filed amended reports, and one assemblyman has returned $1,000 received from a Moriarty associate. However, Brown, who got $23,000 from Moriarty associates, said he did not want to embarrass "anybody else in my house" by taking such unilateral action.