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So This Is the Change You Vowed, Arnold?

Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t even taken office yet, but I already feel left out. So I’ve begun looking into a second home up north.

With a houseboat at the Sacramento Marina, I’ll be able to walk to wingdings like the one scheduled for Dec. 3. If you missed my colleague Dan Morain’s story, that’s the day Mr. Outsider hits up capital insiders at a fund-raising bash.

What’s that, you say? A fund-raiser for the guy who promised the end of pay-to-play politics? Yes, indeed, and just two weeks after Big Boy takes office.

For $21,200, the maximum allowable donation, you don’t get just a reception, and you don’t get just dinner for two. Send that check today, and you’ll get all of that and more -- namely, a photo opportunity with the celebrity governor.

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If $21,000 is a little steep for some special interests -- even if it puts a lobbyist face to face with the man they’re paid to influence -- don’t worry. For a mere $10,000, you’ll get a crack at the photo op and 20 tickets to the general reception.

Still too steep? No problem. Arnold will let even the hoi polloi of special interests catch a glimpse of him for just $500. In other words, he’ll take your money no matter what you’ve got to give, which, as I recall, was one of the chief complaints about Gov. Gray Davis.

“What’s different is that our fund-raising policy is different than other elected [officials] in Sacramento,” Schwarzenegger flack Rob Stutzman told The Times. “What’s different is that this governor will not play the special interest game.... Voters ... have sent a man to Sacramento who cannot be bought.”

Then why does it cost $21,200 for two plates of rubber chicken?

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I called Stutzman to find out, but really, I just wondered how many times he could use the word “different” in one breath. I also wanted to know if, for $300, I could stand outside and watch the governor arrive at his bash.

When he didn’t call back in time, I got my talking Governator doll and pushed the button for a quote from Arnold himself: “All of the politicians are not anymore making the moves for the people, but for special interests, and we have to stop that,” the doll said. “I will go to Sacramento and I will clean house.”

Passing the hat Dec. 3 seems like a curious way to begin.

“This is right out of Gray Davis’ playbook,” said Jim Knox of Common Cause. “I could argue that it’s worse, because assuming he’s going to use this to pay off his [personal campaign] loans, these checks could be going directly into his pocket.”

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I have complete confidence in Arnold’s ability to explain everything. This is a guy who boasted about his conquests, but couldn’t remember them, and if anything happened, which it sort of did but really didn’t, he was just being outrageous to generate some publicity.

This is a guy who wasn’t going to raise any campaign money because he had his own, or at least if he did raise money, it wouldn’t be from “special interests,” like, say, the $11.9 million that he did raise, which wasn’t from “special interests” as he defines them.

In a recycled August e-mail sent this week by Schwarzenegger’s team, donors are told that Arnold won’t take money from special interest groups that require him to fill out questionnaires. (Might as well have said: “Pssst, ask no questions and everything’s cool.”)

The e-mail also said Arnold won’t solicit donations from public employee unions and “single-interest trade associations,” but it doesn’t say he won’t accept them. And if he does, which he won’t, it’s for the sake of being outrageous, which he is, but what’s different....

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Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.


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