The race: Governor. Whose ad? Pete Wilson.
Sen. Pete Wilson, the Republican nominee for governor, launched Monday a new television commercial, in 30-second and 60-second versions, that contends Wilson "had no role" in the national savings and loan debacle. The ad accuses Democratic opponent Dianne Feinstein of hypocrisy in seeking to link Wilson to the scandal through contributions he received in his Senate race while Feinstein's husband, investment banker and adviser Richard C. Blum, participated in the takeover of an ailing savings and loan in Oregon.
Elements of the ad, with analysis by Times political writer Bill Stall:
Ad: The commercial opens with photos of the two candidates and an announcer saying that "newspapers are criticizing her tactics." The camera focuses on newspaper clippings while the voice continues: "The Los Angeles Times said Wilson had no role in the S&L; crisis. The Associated Press said the charges are 'reckless.' " The Times editorial said there was no evidence Wilson intervened on behalf of the thrifts, while the AP story said Wilson probably is a "victim of reckless guilt by association."
Analysis: The ad generally quotes the two newspaper accounts accurately.
Ad: "But there is one fact Feinstein isn't telling you." Showing a photo of the Jackson County Savings & Loan in Medford, Ore., the announcer continues: "She and her husband own this S&L;, which received an $87-million federal bailout--a sweetheart deal using your tax dollars."
Analysis: Blum, an investment banker and adviser, put together a group that took over the ailing Jackson County thrift with $8 million and qualified for $23.3 million in federal cash assistance and potential loan guarantees of $35.3 milllion. Wilson aides quote American Banker, a financial newspaper, as saying that the total potential cost of the takeover for the life of the agreement could be $86.7 million, but Blum said he had no idea how that figure was compiled. Richard C. Blum & Associates Inc. holds 24.9% of BK Capital Partners II, the firm that took control of the Oregon savings and loan. Blum says his interest in BK Capital Partners II amounts to less than 5%.
Ad: "So while Wilson had no role, Feinstein personally profits. That's called hypocrisy."
Analysis: Wilson claims he never intervened on behalf of a savings and loan, although the Feinstein campaign now argues he did, based on Wilson letters that ask federal regulators to respond to queries or requests from a number of California savings and loans. The San Jose Mercury News said Jackson County S&L; made a $594,000 profit in the year after the bailout and paid small dividends to stockholders. But Blum said he has made no money from the investment because the stock has declined in value, and if the firm was liquidated now, he would take a loss. Richard C. Blum Associates did receive a $325,000 consulting fee for arranging the takeover. Federal regulators say there was no wrongdoing involved. The charge of hypocrisy is open to interpretation, but the Wilson claim may be pertinent because Blum's money has helped finance the Feinstein campaign, loaning it about $3 million before the June 5 primary.