alien & sedition.
Monday, July 09, 2007
  The Advisors: Bill Simon, Jr. (Giuliani Policy Director)

The premise behind this series is simple: if, during the 2000 presidential campaign, more of us had thought more about the significance of George W. Bush's choice of policy advisors -- from Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz to Marvin Olasky and Myron Magnet -- not only would we have heard a lot less about how there was "no difference" between the two major candidates, but we would have also had a pretty good idea just what kind of president Bush would be.

When Rudy Giuliani named William Simon, Jr. to head his policy team, he was undoubtedly guided by strategic calculations, not by faith in the dynamism of Simon's ideas. Simon, a financier and former California gubernatorial candidate (described by one commentator as "the only person less popular than incumbent Gov. Gray Davis back in 2002"), is not a particularly distinguished man. But his selection as policy director says something about how the Giuliani campaign seeks to define itsef.

Simon's father, William Simon, Sr., served as treasury secretary during the Nixon and Ford Administrations. He was a hard-charging financier and movement conservative; the son, by contrast, was apolitical and, according to some accounts, happy enough to lead the comfortable life of a wealthy heir. From 1986-88 Simon worked for Giuliani as an Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York; following that stint he took up the family business, moving to Los Angeles as an executive of the William E. Simon & Sons investment firm. He has at times shown signs of questionable judgment in his business decisions, as a San Francisco Chronicle article reported:
There have been some noticeable failures, including a savings and loan seized -- unfairly, Simon said -- by the government; a disastrous deal with a former drug lord to invest in Southern California pay phones [in 2002 a California jury found Simon's firm guilty of defrauding the drug trafficker; the judge later overturned the verdict]; and the bankruptcy of two companies that left hundreds out of work.
A 2002 article in The Nation investigated Simon's ties to Enron; as a board member at the Houston company Hanover Compressor, Simon conceived a number of joint-venture ideas through a partnership with Enron called Joint Energy Development Investments. The Nation article also reported on questions raised about Simon's work at Hanover independent of the Enron dealings:
Simon was also involved in Hanover in matters separate from the Enron deals that could raise legal concerns. Hanover said in February that it would have to restate its financial results beginning in January 2000 because of improper accounting for a partnership that--as with Enron--made the company appear more profitable than it was. Over several years during this time, according to the Wall Street Journal, Hanover officers sold millions of shares of stock--again much like Enron, where officers who were allegedly aware of the company's accounting practices were encouraging employees and others to buy shares even as they were selling their own. Hanover is now the target of at least four class-action lawsuits by shareholders who have alleged the company misled investors; and it is also under investigation by the SEC.

Simon wasn't a member of Hanover's board at the time of the improper accounting, but a week before Hanover made the announcement, the company reported that every annual report it has issued since going public in 1997 contained errors. Simon, as a member of Hanover's audit committee, was responsible for approving the company's annual reports. The audit committee, according to Hanover's investor relations department, was held responsible by Hanover for the error.
Simon's challenge to incumbent California Governor Gray Davis in 2002 delighted conservative pundits, who saw the political novice as one of their own. William F. Buckley, Jr. praised him as a sort of "Superman"-in-waiting, poised to rescue the state from Davis's spending; The National Review's John Miller called him "the sort of candidate conservatives can get excited about," someone who had, almost literally, been born into the movement. Davis labelled Simon a "true-blue think-tank conservative;" what was meant as a pejorative sounded like high praise to conservative ears.

Calling himself a "candidate of ideas," Simon ran for governor as both a social conservative -- anti-choice and a supporter of California's Proposition 22, the "Defense of Marriage Act" -- and a tax- and budget-cutter. His proposals for solving the latter equation were vague; he promised cuts in unspecified "new" programs and pledged to "hold the line" on taxes. He also expressed opposition to college tuition and drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. Despite his opposition to abortion (except in cases of rape or incest), Simon had "no plans," according to the Chronicle, to reduce state funding for reproductive health care. On education, Simon advocated "restoring local control" of schools, but conceded that "the voters have spoken" against tuition vouchers, indicating that he would not press the matter. Simon won the Republican nomination after the Davis campaign trained its fire on LA mayor Richard Riordan; in the general election he earned 42.4% of the vote, losing to Davis by five points.

As Giuliani's policy director, Simon has so far refused to discuss the specifics of his candidate's domestic policy positions. One of his major roles is simply to reinforce Giuliani's right flank against social conservative attack. He claims to "have an assurance" that Giuliani is in favor the Hyde Amendment (which would forbid "taxpayer-funded abortion") and makes much of a statistic showing a decline in New York's abortion rate during the Giuliani mayoralty.

Simon was reportedly the main author of Giuliani's "12 Commitments" speech. The speech itself, a laundry list of wild, unsupported conservative promises, gives little indication of what Giuliani would actually do as president, though Simon does suggest that a President Rudy would be a free-trader and a supporter of "portable free-market solutions" (possibly "Health Savings Accounts?") to the health care crisis. Despite his fiscal conservative appeal, Giuliani has refused to sign Gover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," a decision Simon has been forced to defend to supply-side fanatic Larry Kudlow.

California is a critical state in Rudy Giuliani's path the the GOP nomination. It's also a state that presents the former mayor with something of a problem: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Pundits have compared Rudy to Arnie, discussing the ways in which each represents a "new" kind of Republicanism -- coastal, pro-choice, "liberal." The political consequences of this kind of talk are very different for Schwarzenegger than they are for Giuliani, and it's hardly a surprise that, in the primary at least, Rudy would want to draw a sharp distinction between himself and the Governator. By making Bill Simon, Jr. his policy director, Giuliani was doing just that. Simon is possibly the most prominent figure in the conservative wing of the California Republican party, which makes him a valuable asset for Rudy. A blue-blood businessman, Simon reinforces Giuliani's fiscal conservative cache; an anti-choice conservative Catholic, he sends a reassuring signal to the social right. And as a "true-blue think-tank conservative," he tells the right that Rudy, far from being a different kind of Republican, wants very much to be anchored to the orthodox conservative movement.

Cross-posted at The Right's Field.

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