As Simon Campaign Hits Skids, Candidate Keeps His Wallet Shut
By Howard Fine
Why isn’t gubernatorial candidate and multimillionaire Bill Simon putting more of his own money into his campaign?
Simon’s troubled organization recently laid off 30 staff members, cuts that campaign chairman John Herrington said were aimed at making the operation “leaner and meaner” in preparation for the fall. It’s also a way to free up dollars for television ads during the final frantic weeks before November.
But Simon presumably is wealthy enough to take out his own checkbook in pursuit of incumbent Gov. Gray Davis. That has political insiders speculating on his decision to rely on other people’s money and leading to inevitable quips about how the businessman is not wanting to risk his own fortune on such a quixotic effort.
One of Simon’s stated reasons for not pouring huge sums of cash into his candidacy is that he doesn’t want to be the next Al Checchi or Michael Huffington, two multimillionaires who largely self-financed their statewide campaigns but were soundly defeated.
But with his campaign already on the ropes, Simon could hardly do worse damage by putting in fresh dollars as he takes on the huge political machine of Davis.
“If he could easily afford to put money in, this would be a very good time to do it,” said Allan Hoffenblum, an L.A.-based GOP political consultant.
Simon has been notoriously stingy in spending his own money. During the primary, he only loaned the campaign money, with the expectation it will be paid back.
Of course, there’s the question of whether Simon actually has the cash on hand to give to the campaign. His financial records, while extensive, are also opaque; few have an idea of Simon’s true net worth, let alone his liquid assets.
“We really don’t know if he has the money to put in even if he wanted to,” Hoffenblum said.
The ergonomics wars have returned to Sacramento.
Back in the early 1990s, labor and Democratic legislators pushed for extensive regulation of workplaces to prevent repetitive stress injuries. Any business that experienced a single repetitive stress claim would have been required to reconfigure its workplace to reduce the risk of further claims.
But labor and its Democratic allies were stymied by the Republican administration of then-Gov. Pete Wilson. A watered down version was enacted in 1997 that applied only to companies where two or more repetitive stress injuries occur in one year.
Labor then shifted its focus to the national front, trying to get mandatory ergonomics standards for all workplaces. But in a victory for employers, the Bush Administration this past April issued voluntary guidelines for businesses.
Now, labor is back pushing to have its original proposal enacted. On Aug. 15, the California Federation of Labor petitioned the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration (Cal-OSHA) Standards Board to consider enacting a new ergonomics standard in the next several months. Simultaneously, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, is carrying AB 2845, which would require Cal-OSHA to set new standards.
Predictably, a coalition of business groups, led by the California Chamber of Commerce, is opposing this latest effort.
“Employers need flexibility to deal with ergonomics issues, since even the scientists disagree on how best to control repetitive motion injuries,” said chamber lobbyist Julianne Broyles.
But labor leaders countered that tougher rules are needed.
In coming weeks, each side will make its case to the Cal-OSHA Standards Board.
Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or by e-mail at