Coup De Gray Davis

Before any more California voters sign a petition for an election to oust the governor of the nation's most populous state and the world's fifth-biggest economy, they might want to first follow the money.

For starters, the cost of collecting the required 897,158 signatures for a recall vote is being funded partly by a millionaire US congressman, Darrell Issa, who, coincidentally, wants to replace Gov. Gray Davis in a post-recall election, possibly this fall.

But then the main charge against Mr. Davis is that he lied about the size of the state's deficit before his reelection last year (he denies it). The governor, however, did set a state record in campaign fund-raising, and he was the leader of the state when all the special interests that fund political campaigns reaped huge spending increases in the glorious economy of the late '90s.

The Davis excesses in spending have now landed California with a deficit of over $38 billion, and still the special-interest lobbies in Sacramento have helped keep the legislature deadlocked over passing a budget that would remedy the problem.

So, in effect, the wealthy are running a grass-roots movement to oust a puppet of wealthy special interests.

There's nothing new about well-heeled interests funding ballot initiatives. But in this recall effort, California voters need to ask if they are the ones responsible for choosing leaders who make themselves beholden to monied special interests in their campaign collections and then drive state spending into the red.

Neither government nor ballot initiatives should be controlled by those with big money. Representative democracy must not be sold to the highest bidder, and recalls should not be driven by dollars.

As disgusted as Californians may be with Davis, they need to turn that disgust into an effort to elect leaders who won't take campaign money and then overspend taxpayers' money.

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