Oaths of Arnold

SN&R’s ongoing progress report on the Governator’s campaign promises. This week: special interests.

This week: special interests

The platform: From the very onset of his campaign for governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed time and time again that he would go to Sacramento and “clean house” to get rid of special interests. As one of his campaign commercials put it, “Special interests have a stranglehold on Sacramento. Here’s how it works: Money comes in; favors go out. The people lose. We need to send a message: Game over. If you want to change this state, then join me.”

The promise: During an August 25 radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Schwarzenegger openly pledged not to take campaign contributions from special interests. “I want to be a governor who is for the people. Therefore, I don’t want to take any contributions, any campaign contributions, from the special interests, because as soon as you do that, as soon as you say, ‘OK, give me this money, and I will do this, this and that for you,’ you are selling out.” During his acceptance speech at the November 17 inauguration, Schwarzenegger reaffirmed the promise: “I enter this office beholden to no one except you, my fellow citizens. I pledge my governorship to your interests, not to special interests.”

The payoff: Since the election, Schwarzenegger has accepted more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions, including a $100,000 donation from insurance giant American International Group, the state’s leading underwriter of private workers’ compensation insurance and a registered lobbyist on two workers’ compensation reform bills that passed through the Legislature earlier this year. This hefty contribution was announced just four days before Schwarzenegger convened a special session with the state Legislature to discuss California’s current workers’ compensation situation. In addition, Schwarzenegger has accepted more than $200,000 from various automotive dealers, who profited greatly from Schwarzenegger’s repealing of the state’s car tax.

The retreat: When asked about the makeup of his campaign finances, Schwarzenegger stated that 90 percent of his campaign contributions had come from small donors, and he likened the donations to “money from a small company or a shoe store.” When asked to clarify his definition of “special interests,” Schwarzenegger narrowly defined them as public-employee unions and American Indian tribes with gambling interests, because they negotiate directly with the state. He did not include major businesses with strong state interests.

The fund-raisers: At a policy briefing during his campaign, Schwarzenegger declared, “As governor, I will propose a ban on all fund-raising by the Legislature and the governor from the day I propose a budget until I sign a budget certified by the state controller to be in balance, with a 90-day exception before elections.” During the course of December’s budget talks, Schwarzenegger planned to hold at least four fund-raisers throughout the state to help recoup $7 million in campaign debts and to begin raising funds for next year’s political activities. Earlier this month, the Schwarzenegger camp canceled a Sacramento fund-raiser for the second time but insisted the cancellations had nothing to do with planned protests.

Groping sequel: Last week, Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed his pre- and post-campaign pledges to investigate sexual-harassment allegations made against him by 16 women, one of whom has now filed suit for libel. According to the suit, Schwarzenegger’s campaign team knowingly smeared Rhonda Miller by leaking a different woman’s criminal record to the press in order to discredit her claims. Miller has offered to take a lie-detector test; Schwarzenegger, so far, has not.