Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, encouraged by private polls he says show him gaining ground in the U.S. Senate race, stepped up his attacks Monday on Sen. Pete Wilson as “the senator for the most powerful corporations.”
During a visit to the dolphin tank at the Steinhart Aquarium, McCarthy also criticized the Republican senator for backing the tuna industry’s use of small explosives to drive dolphins out of fishing nets. Critics of the practice say it can deafen the mammals, destroy their ability to navigate and ultimately lead to their deaths.
“Pete Wilson has supported legislation in the Senate to allow dynamiting of dolphins,” McCarthy charged in a burst of campaign exaggeration.
With only a week to go until Election Day, McCarthy sought to sharpen his differences with Wilson on environmental issues--such as protection of the dolphins--and on the fundamental question of what constituencies each candidate would represent in Washington.
PAC Money Cited
First on a San Francisco radio talk show and later at the aquarium, McCarthy cited a story in The Times Monday reporting that Wilson has received far more money from corporate political action committees than has McCarthy. In contrast, McCarthy got more money from labor unions, but not nearly enough to match Wilson’s donations from business groups.
“What comes out of that Los Angeles Times article rather stunningly is that Pete Wilson has used his position in the Senate, particularly his position on a couple of Senate committees, to do extraordinary fund-raising among industry groups,” McCarthy said on radio station KGO. “What you see are enormous contributions from the chemical industry, the oil industry and other industries.”
Throughout the day, McCarthy portrayed himself as the candidate who would represent average, working Californians who have no lobbyists in Washington.
“I don’t want to be the guy who is sent to the United States Senate to service the people with the biggest lobbying operations in Washington, D.C.,” he told reporters assembled at the aquarium.
Wilson in Lead
McCarthy is hoping that his theme will be enough to overcome the strong lead Wilson has maintained in the polls throughout the campaign. Last week, The Times Poll showed McCarthy trailing by 17 points, with 30% of the voters undecided.
But McCarthy said three polls used by the campaign to track changes in public opinion showed him within four to seven points of the incumbent.
The Democratic candidate attributed the apparent shift primarily to the television advertising campaign he has launched in recent weeks.
McCarthy is pinning much of his hopes for victory on a Democratic get-out-the-vote drive that aims to mobilize 700,000 middle-of-the-road Democrats and Democrats who do not always vote.
Despite his optimism, however, McCarthy encountered some difficulties on Monday.
McCarthy seemed somewhat unclear on the nature of the dolphin legislation, which was signed into law by President Reagan.
Small Explosives Allowed
According to Bob Hudson, a spokesman for the Wilson campaign, the bill allows the use of small explosives only to scare dolphins away from the tuna nets. By 1990, the bill would ban the use of any explosives unless the secretary of commerce declares them to be harmless, he said.
“For McCarthy to say Congress has approved dynamiting porpoises is an absolute lie,” Hudson charged.
McCarthy told reporters that the explosives, including dynamite, are used to kill the fish and that dolphins swimming with them also are killed and injured. “The specific issue was the authority to use dynamite underwater,” he said. “They detonate underwater when they spot tuna fish.”
Material distributed by the McCarthy campaign, however, said explosives known as “seal bombs” were used by some tuna fishermen to keep the air-breathing dolphins from getting entangled in their nets and drowning.
Environmentalists contend that the use of seal bombs leads to the deaths of many dolphins. In all, they estimate that more than 20,000 dolphins are killed by the tuna fleet each year, either from the explosives or from drowning in the nets.