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Shawn Steel

Shawn Steel is the immediate past president of the California Republican Party, activist, commentator, conservative stalwart and recall proponent. Mr. Steel is an attorney practicing in Palos Verdes, California.

Governor Croupier

Bustamante: putting a casino pit boss in the Governorship
[Shawn Steel] 9/12/03

I hope I'm not the only Californian dismayed at cascade of cash the casino Indian tribes are pumping into Cruz Bustamante's recall candidacy. As it stands, California's single most powerful special interest group has furnished 60% of Bustamante's campaign funds. If Bustamante wins the replacement election, we will not only have a new governor - the casino tribes will have installed their own pit boss in the governor's mansion.

Does any reasonable person think a Governor Bustamante will be able to "take on" - as the Lieutenant Governor is fond of saying -- the powerful casino tribes who put him there? The casino tribes never lose in the Legislature - now they will add the governor's office to their list of politically sacred sites in Sacramento.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a friend of Indian gaming. Native Americans suffered long enough, and I have nothing but admiration for tribes that have leveraged gaming to lift their society out of poverty and neglect.

At the same, do we really want a governor so mightily beholden to a single interest group, particularly one interested in not only protecting reservation gaming, but expanding it onto urban neighborhoods and claiming unwarranted influence over the property rights of those in the vicinity of tribal lands?

Bustamante, after all, is not exactly a rock of political courage. His reputation in Sacramento is of a politician who loves to posture and pose, but is terribly indecisive when it comes to making tough political decisions -- not the kind of person to lead the state out of an unprecedented crisis.

Unfortunately for Californians, vacillation isn't the only flaw in the man who could be our next governor.

Science may not know it is possible to travel back in time, but Cruz Bustamante - judging from his recent policy pronouncements - is sure trying to take California back to the 1970s. Government regulation of gasoline prices -- wasn't that totally discredited more than 20 years ago? Or does Cruz harbor fond memories of shortages and gas lines?

It is increasingly apparent that Bustamante's political thinking is firmly rooted in the 1970's, when you could still find intelligent people who actually thought high taxes, heavy regulation and government direction of the economy was the key to economic growth and opportunity. He still has a hard time separating from his MEChA affiliation. At a time when businesses our leaving the state, our lieutenant governor thinks it is a good idea to force any business with more than 20 employees to provide health insurance for their employees. As he admitted in Wednesday's debate, he thinks it is fine for government to force employers to serve as welfare state auxiliaries.

Which brings me back to my original point. Bustamante makes no bones that massive financial support from the tribes and the unions are, in his words, "leveling the playing field" for him. Let us make no mistake, then, that a Governor Bustamante would serve shop steward-in-chief for the unions, just as he would function as the tribes pit boss in state government. The lieutenant governor is already telegraphing his intentions during Wednesday's debate. Characterizing the tribes' millions in campaign contributions as their way of showing "respect", he stated he would respond to trine attempts to expand gambling to reciprocating that "respect...and try to work out arrangements." The ravenous demands by public employee unions for continued helpings of taxpayer dollars would be met with similar "respect" from a Governor Bustamante.

Gray Davis will be recalled. Not even a guest shot on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy could make Davis likeable and appealing. The grave danger to California's future is the distinct possibility he may be replaced by a man who is even more beholden to special interests, will tilt state government even further leftward, and who - judging by his flouting of campaign finance laws - shares Davis' weakness for sacrificing ethics and principle to expediency and political advantage.

This is what got California into the mess it is in. I only hope the Republican candidates agree to put their own ambitions aside. This is a two person race. We know that one of the two is Cruz. The other candidate needs to gather the majority of the Anti Davis/Bustamante coalition. That coalescing needs to take place real quick. Or we will see the Davis/Bustamante hegemony extended until 2010. By that time there will little left to gamble for.

copyright 2003 Shawn Steel

Shawn Steel is a co-founder of the Davis recall campaign and immediate
past chairman of the California Republican Party.



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