1st Benefit Is Set for New Gov.
Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, who as a candidate vowed not to take special interest donations, has scheduled his first fund-raiser as governor aimed at tapping contributions from Capitol insiders, an invitation sent to Sacramento lobbyists Monday shows.
In an event set for Dec. 3, two weeks after his swearing-in as governor, Schwarzenegger is soliciting donations of as much as $21,200, the maximum he can accept under Proposition 34 campaign finance restrictions.
Longtime Republican patron Alex Spanos, a Stockton developer and owner of the San Diego Chargers football team, signed the invitation for what he promised would be a “spectacular event.”
Despite campaigning as a populist who decried politics as usual, Schwarzenegger took out bank loans totaling $4.5 million and raised $11.9 million from donors during the recall campaign to oust Gov. Gray Davis, who ran afoul of voters in part because of his frequent fund-raising.
The actor turned politician had denounced the “special interest game” in which contributions come in and favors go out. But by scheduling a fund-raiser for shortly after his swearing-in, Schwarzenegger is following the pattern set by most newly elected legislators and statewide officeholders.
“That is how it is done up here,” said Jim Knox, director of California Common Cause. “We’re seeing that the first order of business for a newly elected official is to hold their first fund-raiser.”
Knox and other advocates of campaign finance overhaul note that Schwarzenegger could use the money he raises at such events to repay his bank loans, essentially benefiting directly from political donations.
“It is always easier to raise money to pay back your debts if you win,” Knox said.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said he is uncertain whether the governor-elect, a multimillionaire, will use campaign donations to pay off the loan. City National Bank of Beverly Hills, which is a regular donor to California politicians and has a lobby presence in Sacramento, lent him the money at 4% interest.
“What’s different is that our fund-raising policy is different than other elected [officials] in Sacramento,” Stutzman said. “What’s different is that this governor will not play the special interest game.... Voters know they have sent a man to Sacramento who cannot be bought.”
Schwarzenegger began the campaign by saying he would accept no outside donations. He quickly amended that statement to say he would not take money from “special interests,” which he defined as public employee unions and Indian tribes that own casinos.
At least one lobby firm that received the invitation Monday represents a public employees union. Lobbyists are barred from donating directly to state officials. However, their family members and their clients can make donations.
The invitation says donors giving $21,200 are entitled to two tickets for dinner, plus a “reception with photo opportunity” with Schwarzenegger. Donors giving $10,000 are entitled to a single ticket to the reception “with photo opportunity,” plus 20 tickets to a general reception. People giving $500 may attend the general reception, but not the private dinner or host reception.
The event will be held at the Sheraton Grand, a hotel generally favored by Democrats. Its employees are represented by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.