Davis Awash in Cash as Funds for Recall Campaign Dry Up

Times Staff Writers

With polls suggesting that voters are having second thoughts about recalling Gov. Gray Davis, the main committee established to promote the recall is struggling for money to wage a campaign, its chief consultant said Thursday.

At the same time, Davis is raising large sums. On Monday, former President Clinton joined Davis for a fund-raiser at billionaire Ron Burkle’s Beverly Hills estate, Green Acres. It netted as much as $600,000, Davis aides said.

Initially, Davis’ campaign sought to charge $50,000 a ticket. In the end, donors who gave less -- $10,000, $25,000 -- were admitted to the afternoon reception. Roughly 50 people attended, including actor Warren Beatty; radio magnate Norm Pattiz, whom Davis recently reappointed to the UC Board of Regents; and labor leaders Art Pulaski and Miguel Contreras.

Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad told The Times that Davis had personally invited him, and the billionaire had contributed $100,000 to the governor’s anti-recall effort.

On Thursday evening, more than 100 people attended a $1,000-a-head Hollywood fund-raiser for Davis at the Century Plaza Hotel. Guests included Beatty and his wife, Annette Bening, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Willis and other celebrities.


Davis has raised nearly $8.5 million this year for his campaign against the recall, and reported having received more than $500,000 since Wednesday. The money, including Broad’s contribution, went to Davis’ anti-recall committee, Californians Against the Costly Recall.

Other gifts included $250,000 from the California State Council of Service Employees. Strong backers of Davis during his campaign for governor, the union has previously given $400,000 to defeat the recall.

A branch of the computer firm ACS Inc., which provides technology services for local governments, including Orange County, contributed $50,000. The California Assn. of Highway Patrolmen gave $25,000, doubling the union’s anti-recall contributions to $50,000.

Although polls show that the Democratic incumbent remains unpopular, a recent Times poll found likely voters were almost evenly split on whether to oust him, with the recall leading 50% to 47%. By contrast, Rescue California, the main campaign established to tout the recall effort, reports having raised $115,000 in the first 18 days of September. The cost of television ads statewide is roughly $2 million a week.

Rescue California consultant Dave Gilliard said he has taped television spots that might “remind” voters why they should recall Davis but has no money to air them. The ads, Gilliard said, are critical of Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the one prominent Democrat running to replace Davis if he is recalled.

“Nobody is going to run a ‘Yes on Recall,’ ‘No on Bustamante’ campaign other than Rescue California, and right now we are not getting the resources to do that,” Gilliard said.

Rescue California has raised $2.6 million since its creation in May. Nearly all of that money was spent gathering signatures to place the recall on the ballot. Gilliard said early in the campaign that he hoped to raise $15 million or more.

The organization, funded primarily by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), had $12,000 in the bank when it filed its most recent statement of cash on hand with the secretary of state three weeks ago. The committee and others involved in the recall campaign must file a new report next week detailing spending and available cash.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster in Sacramento heard arguments in a lawsuit by Republican state Sen. Ross Johnson of Irvine alleging that Bustamante is violating state campaign finance restrictions by using six- and seven-figure donations to fund his gubernatorial campaign.

Bustamante accepted more than $4 million in donations in an old campaign bank account not covered by the new restrictions. Johnson’s suit charges that Bustamante violated the law when he shifted the money to a new campaign account set up to oppose Proposition 54, an initiative to limit government’s ability to collect racial and ethnic data.

In television ads opposing Proposition 54, Bustamante is featured at a campaign rally denouncing the initiative, which will appear on the recall ballot.

The anti-Proposition 54 campaign is not bound by state limits; nor are Rescue California and other funds established to support or oppose the recall effort.

Davis, as the target of the recall campaign, also is not subject to the limits, which bar candidates for governor from accepting single donations of more than $21,200. Davis has received several donations of $100,000 or more.

Times staff writer Sue Fox contributed to this report.