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President Bush Campaigns in California - 2002-08-23

President Bush is in California Friday campaigning for the Republican candidate for Governor. It is a politically sensitive trip for the president as he is raising money for a man whose family firm is facing allegation of fraud.

The president's California campaigning is expected to raise more than $3 million for Republican Bill Simon.

Mr. Simon is trailing incumbent Governor Gray Davis in opinion polls and in fundraising, in part, because of allegations that Mr. Simon has been involved in corporate misconduct.

Tax collectors last month imposed a $78 million fine on his family investment firm for fraudulent business dealings.

That has led to a delicate political balance for President Bush who wants to be seen as acting tough amidst public outrage over a wave of American business scandals but does not want to look like he is abandoning his party's candidate in the nation's most populous state.

On Friday, that balance meant limiting Mr. Simon's role to an evening fundraiser and keeping him off the stage at a welcoming rally where the president again called for greater corporate responsibility. "I took a look out there and saw a problem," he said. "And the problem was that we had some folks who were trying to fudge the numbers. We had some people who decided they were not going to tell the truth when it came to their assets and liabilities to the detriment of not only shareholder and employee, but to the country itself. A few, a few began to shatter the confidence of the American people."

Campaigning in the neighboring state of Oregon Thursday, Mr. Bush said Mr. Simon has assured him that he is innocent of the fraud charges, and the president said he takes the candidate at his word.

Mr. Simon is trailing a well-funded incumbent in a state where his conservative views on abortion rights and gun ownership make a Republican win unlikely.

White House officials say this will be the president's last visit to help Mr. Simon unless the race looks a lot closer toward election day.