People’s business

It’s a little easier to keep track of the whereabouts of the governor than it used to be. The passage of Proposition 59 last November has made Arnold Schwarzenegger’s schedule available to the press and the public. A quick peek at his calendar suggests that the self-proclaimed “people’s governor” isn’t spending much time doing the people’s business.

Or, not at the office, anyway.

In the first three months of this year, Governor Schwarzenegger spent only 18 full days in Sacramento. As of a few weeks ago, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante had served as Schwarzenegger’s surrogate for a combined total of three of Arnold’s 16 months in office. The governor brags about his fund-raising prowess, claiming to raise an average of $72,000 a day. These activities keep him on the move, both in and out of the state. In fact, fund-raising would seem to be a big part of how he defines his work as governor, though one of the criticisms he most often leveled at his predecessor, Gray Davis, was that he spent too much time raising money and not enough time governing. Schwarzenegger called it “cash-register politics,” and he seemed to disapprove of the practice.

Even when Schwarzenegger is at his desk, much of his time and attention is taken up by people able to grease the skids of his political operations. If he’s “the people’s governor,” his calendar for 2004 reveals that quite a few of “the people” who had access to him were the presidents and chief executive officers (CEOs) of major corporations, including Wal-Mart, Target, Bank of America and Safeway.

Nothing much new in that, except it seems at odds with the kind of government Schwarzenegger was peddling when he found such an urgent need to recall a duly and newly re-elected governor.

Since taking office in November 2003, Schwarzenegger has visited Europe, Japan and the Middle East, in addition to making repeat stops in Ohio, New York and Washington, D.C. In the last three weeks, the governor has attended at least five fund-raisers, including three in other states. Despite all this time away, the governor’s calendar does not show a single meeting with his lieutenant governor during all of 2004. Apparently, there is little need to coordinate governmental responsibilities when the governor is out of town.

Spokespeople for Schwarzenegger are quick to defend his travel, of course. And besides, he’s accessible. “When I need to get ahold of him,” said Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman, “I can get him. He’s not AWOL.”

How very reassuring.

Meanwhile, the governor has grown more aggressive in his fund-raising tactics. Recently, he referred to people who oppose his proposals as “evil.” Those evil ones, presumably, would include the state workers, teachers, and nurses.

Governor Schwarzenegger won his post on the strength of his populist appeal. He was going to be “the people’s governor.” Now, after nearly a year-and-a-half in office, the only things missing seem to be “the people” and time spent in the office.