SACRAMENTO — Attorney General Bill Lockyer returned $50,000 in campaign donations Wednesday to the Oracle Corp., saying he didn’t want the money to undermine his investigation of a state contract signed by the computer company.
Lockyer said the donations didn’t create a conflict of interest for him, but he also said he didn’t want Republican criticism of the contributions to weaken public confidence in his office.
“Full, fair, nonpartisan and nonpolitical investigations have always been the standard for this office,” he said in a written statement. “Returning the campaign contributions from Oracle will help ensure that partisans don’t undermine public confidence in the integrity of the ... investigation.”
Lockyer is looking into a $95 million, no-bid contract that Oracle signed last year to provide the state with database software. The deal was initially touted as a way for the state to save at least $16 million through volume purchases.
But the state auditor says the contract could end up costing the state up to $41 million more than if it had not signed the contract and kept its previous software supply arrangements.
The agreement has also come under fire because Oracle gave Gov. Gray Davis a $25,000 contribution a few days after the contract was signed last year.
Davis said Wednesday that he would wait “until all the facts are in on Oracle” before deciding whether to return his donation. He has denied there was any link between the contribution and the state’s willingness to sign the contract.
Lockyer made his announcement as Davis’ budget director, Tim Gage, met with Oracle representatives for about 90 minutes to talk about rescinding the contract.
“We are proceeding promptly and carefully to unwind this contract and we appreciate Oracle’s cooperation in this effort,” Gage said.
More meetings are planned but have not been scheduled, said Sandy Harrison, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance.
Lockyer received a $25,000 donation from Oracle in December 2000 and another $25,000 contribution from the Redwood Shores-based company in June 2001.
Lockyer’s Republican opponent in the November election, state Sen. Richard Ackerman, R-Fullerton, said last week that Lockyer should drop his investigation because of his campaign support from Oracle.
Other GOP lawmakers have urged the U.S. attorney’s office to launch its own investigation of the contract.