By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
But the Republicans are out of power.
Later, still seated at the dais, South delivered an in-public upbraiding of Mercury News political writer Dion Nissenbaum, complaining about his focus on fund-raising stories and about the paper’s focus on Oracle. Nissenbaum promised that the paper‘s executive editor would call.
Things were no less tense later at a Capitol watering-hole launch of a hot new Republican consulting firm, the modestly titled ”Command Focus“ (a saying of the late Lee Atwater), which brings together Simon senior strategist Jeff Flint, former Pete Wilson and John McCain spokesman Dan Schnur, state Republican adviser Rob Stutzman, and Simon researcher Mark Bogetich. Things got off to a flying start with a physical altercation at the bar’s entrance between Schnur and senior Democratic adviser Bob Mulholland, which ended with ex-paratrooper Mulholland -- who used to delight in pointing out Schnur‘s drunken-driving convictions while serving as spokesman for a law-and-order governor -- deciding not to take on a bar full of Republicans. Inside, the Weekly drew an amusing response.
”I used to hate your work. Well, sometimes I still do, but some of it I love, when you go after Davis,“ enthused former Pete Wilson chief of staff Bob White, who now works with after-school-programs initiative sponsor and prospective future gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger. Others, recalling the results of the past few months’ questioning of Simon, focused on the ”hate“ part of White‘s comment, while still others loved the grilling of Garry South.
Simon strategist Flint seemed as amused by it all as the Weekly. We talked about the extreme challenge of getting answers from Simon beyond the superficial script devised by Flint, campaign chief Sal Russo and others, and about his frustration with the course of the Oracle scandal.
Flint acknowledged that it is unlikely that a governor who has raised $45 million would force through a $100 million contract in exchange for a $25,000 contribution, which is all that Davis has received. So what, then? Flint speculated that there was a deal between Davis and Oracle chieftain Larry Ellison, California’s richest individual, for support in a future campaign.
But that‘s just speculation. And evidence has swiftly piled up showing that Oracle worked the system from many angles to get its contract, hardly relying on any arrangement with Davis, real or illusory.
Meanwhile, back at the Simon frat house, the usual anger at this writer was welling up. Based on the new evidence of Oracle’s broad-spectrum manipulation of the system to get its no-bid, sole-source contract, I was again trying to get the campaign to do what Simon himself refused to do during his appearance last month at Oracle. Namely, to level any criticism at Oracle for the company‘s role in the Oracle scandal and, failing that, to explain why Simon continues to have no criticism of Oracle. I did this in an e-mail, outlining my continuing questions about Simon’s refusal to criticize Oracle. There was no reply. I passed my questions on to the Davis people for comment and, as a further prompt to the Simon camp, informed them of just that. The teakettle hit full boil.
Simon flack Jamie Fisfis wrote that it had ”come to my attention“ that I had shared correspondence with the Davis campaign and that I was no longer invited to Simon events. I reminded him that it had not ”come to his attention,“ I had brought it to his attention, and that the correspondence consisted of my unanswered questions for his unresponsive campaign. Oops. Flint explained that Fisfis is merely the ”bad cop,“ while he is the ”good cop.“ Actually, the only cops in the process are journalists, and I of course continue to be invited to Simon events.
But this points up the underlying Republican frustration with the Oracle scandal. They don‘t want to criticize a big corporation for manipulating the political process, so they quite illogically place all the blame on Davis. Who they can never actually pin the rap on, and who the available evidence indicates is only one player.
But Davis is badly wounded by all this, as well, as evidenced by the wrath of Garry South. Even though he will almost certainly not be demonstrated to be the mastermind of the Oracle deal -- and remember, his practices make that virtually impossible in any event -- the press attention occasioned to his fund-raising on account of the Oracle revelations casts a negative light at a time when he was beginning to pull away from his rival, who a hundred days after winning the nomination is still not prepared enough to properly answer questions about complex policy issues, or even to offer an agricultural policy at his own agricultural summit.
In this, Davis is much like his former ally Gary Condit, whose karma finally caught up with him. Condit probably didn’t kill Chandra Levy, but had the misfortune to be caught screwing around with a woman who famously vanished. The rock turned over by the Chandra inquiry could not have been more fateful. While Davis‘ answers are better than Condit’s, and most of the public may in the end view modern-day political fund-raising as an essentially seamy exercise not quite analogous to murder, the focus has been most unflattering. And so both campaigns are angry and frustrated. With a mere 20 weeks to go.