Davis' PR woes magnified by 'curious' webcast role

SACRAMENTO, CA: Gov. Gray Davis' (D-CA) troubles were compounded last week when his participation in a media interview came under scrutiny.

SACRAMENTO, CA: Gov. Gray Davis' (D-CA) troubles were compounded last week when his participation in a media interview came under scrutiny.

Last week, The San Jose Mercury News ran an article that questioned Davis' involvement in the Orange County Next Generation Internet & Technology World Wide Webcast in January.

Davis is already under pressure over campaign contributions from hi-tech companies like Oracle, along with the awarding of state computer contracts.

Three Davis staffers have resigned in the past few months as a result.

Kanakaris Wireless, a company that donated $10,000 to Davis' 2002 reelection campaign, set up the webcast in conjunction with other local hi-tech companies.

The company runs entertainment websites, including a TV station that broadcasts films.

The article suggested that Davis' involvement in this event was "curious, and that Kanakaris is an "obscure, money-losing business run by an aggressive self-promoter. It went on to report that Kanakaris had been under SEC investigation and paid $25,000 to settle charges of stock fraud in 1999.

The governor's press office denied that his role in the webcast was connected to the campaign contribution. "This was billed to us as a media event, not a company event, said Steve Maviglio, Davis' press secretary.

Davis' press office provided Kanakaris with quotes from the governor to use in press releases prior to the webcast.

"The way it was portrayed to me was he was making a media announcement to draw attention to this, Maviglio said. "We continue to look for events that promote California to a wide audience. This was a natural for that."

The press office was criticized for not conducting a background check into the media outlet. "It would never occur to me to do a criminal background check on a member of the media, Maviglio said.

Fabiani & Lehane's Chris Lehane, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton, said government officials should check out media companies before agreeing to be interviewed.

"It's just smart politics, he said. "The governor is in a situation where there are a lot of questions swirling around. The bar is particularly high, and you have to be careful about the places you go."

Roger Salazar, press secretary for Davis' reelection campaign, said the ongoing controversy over campaign contributions is a result of successful fundraising efforts. "It's an easy story to write, he said. "Out of the thousands of contributors, you are going to find a handful whose businesses coincide with some of the things the state is doing."

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