Days after Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped into the race for governor and girded for questions about his past, a tabloid publisher wooing him for a business deal promised to pay a woman $20,000 to sign a confidentiality agreement about an alleged affair with the candidate.
American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, signed a friend of the woman to a similar contract about the alleged relationship for $1,000.
American Media's contract with Gigi Goyette of Malibu is dated Aug. 8, 2003, two days after Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy on a late-night talk show. Under the agreement, Goyette must disclose to no one but American Media any information about her "interactions" with Schwarzenegger.
American Media never solicited further information from Goyette or her friend, Judy Mora, also of Malibu, both women said. The Enquirer had published a cover story two years earlier describing an alleged seven-year sexual relationship between Goyette and Schwarzenegger during his marriage to Maria Shriver, California's first lady.
On Aug. 14, 2003, as candidate Schwarzenegger was negotiating a consulting deal with American Media, the company signed its contract with Mora, who said she received $1,000 cash in return. Goyette declined to say whether she received the $20,000 promised in her contract.
Rob Stutzman, the governor's communications director, said he believed Schwarzenegger did not know of American Media's deals with the women. Schwarzenegger is on vacation and not available for comment, Stutzman said.
Stutzman denied any link between AMI's deal with Schwarzenegger and the company's agreements with the two women.
"There is no connection with his business with AMI or AMI's business of purchasing the rights to stories," Stutzman said. "That's what they do. Obviously, part of their business is the tabloid business."
The women might have been in a position to embarrass Schwarzenegger in his bid for the governor's office. When Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy on "The Tonight Show," he speculated that he would face accusations of infidelity.
Host Jay Leno asked if he was prepared for a bruising campaign, and Schwarzenegger replied: "I know that they're going to throw everything at me and they're going, you know, to say that I have no experience and that I'm a womanizer and that I'm a terrible guy, and all these kinds of things are going to come my way."
But American Media was effectively protecting Schwarzenegger's political interests, said a person who worked at the company when the contracts were signed. At the same time, American Media was crafting a deal to make Schwarzenegger executive editor of Flex and Muscle & Fitness magazines, helping to lure readers and advertisers.
If American Media was buying exclusive rights to the women's stories, said the person, who has a confidentiality agreement with the company and spoke on condition of anonymity, "why didn't the stories run? That's the obvious question."
"AMI systematically bought the silence" of the women, said the person. Schwarzenegger "was a de facto employee and he was important to their bottom line."
Schwarzenegger biographer Laurence Leamer wrote in his book, "Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger," that Schwarzenegger understood the tabloids would not skewer him if he was entering a business relationship with the company -- although Schwarzenegger told Leamer he did not specifically seek such assurances.
Indeed, during the recall campaign, American Media put out a 120-page magazine celebrating Schwarzenegger as an embodiment of the "American dream."
The Enquirer did run a story repeating allegations in the British media that Schwarzenegger had an extramarital affair. The story was published first on its website before the election, and then in the newspaper three weeks after his election victory. But it was not prominently displayed, running on Page 24.
American Media, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment, reached its agreement with Schwarzenegger on Nov. 15, 2003, two days before he was sworn in as governor. The deal was to pay him, by the company's estimates, at least $8 million over five years and no less than $5 million.
Schwarzenegger dropped the contract last month after the arrangement was made public in the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee. He said he plans to continue writing a monthly column for the two magazines.
American Media's contracts with Goyette and Mora, both titled "Confidentiality Agreement," are two pages long and never expire; they bind the two women "in perpetuity."
Goyette's agreement states that she is not to disclose "conversations with Schwarzenegger, her interactions with Schwarzenegger or anything else relating in any way to any relationship [she] ever had with Schwarzenegger," except to American Media.
Mora's contract bars her from disclosing anything about Goyette's "conversations with Schwarzenegger ... interactions with Schwarzenegger or anything else relating in any way to any relationship Gigi Goyette ever had or alleged to have had with Schwarzenegger."
In an interview with The Times last week, with her lawyer present, Goyette said of Schwarzenegger "we're very good friends -- and work associates."
Goyette has spent much of her life living in Malibu and grew up, she said, working as an extra on Hollywood film and TV productions. Today she acts occasionally in commercials. She said she last communicated with Schwarzenegger in the spring of 2001, before the National Enquirer published its story.
Goyette did not dispute an account of her relationship in Leamer's biography of Schwarzenegger, published two months ago. Like the National Enquirer, Leamer's book says Goyette and Schwarzenegger had a periodic intimate relationship.
In the book, Leamer says Goyette and Schwarzenegger got together yearly at the Arnold Fitness Weekend in Columbus, Ohio, where she helped with events.
Leamer writes that Goyette described her contact with Schwarzenegger with the term " 'outercourse' because it's like foreplay." The interaction, she told him, was "whatever we wanted it to be."
Goyette's lawyer, Charlotte Hassett, told The Times: "She maintained it was more of a massage situation -- however you want to interpret that."
Margita Thompson, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, declined to discuss the relationship. "I'm not going to characterize the relationship," Thompson said.
Two years after the Enquirer published its article about the relationship, Goyette told The Times, she heard from the tabloid again. In late July 2003 -- as speculation was brewing over whether Schwarzenegger would enter the recall race for governor -- Goyette said she got a call from reporter David Wright, who had written the 2001 story.
Goyette said Wright talked casually about the possibility of publishing a book on her life and that a division of American Media might be interested. Goyette was and still is eager to write a book -- not a tell-all about Schwarzenegger, she said, but a chronicle of her life in the entertainment industry, from her days as a film and TV extra and a commercial actress to her life now as a 46-year-old single mother and PTA member with a teenage son.
That conversation "was a teaser," said Goyette, who gave Wright a manuscript. Goyette said she heard nothing further until Wright called her on what she believes was Aug. 6 or 7, 2003 -- just as Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy -- and asked if she could meet with someone from the company right away.
Wright declined The Times' requests for comment, saying, "I can't help you with that."
Goyette said that, unaccompanied by a lawyer or anyone else, she met an American Media representative at a Starbucks near her Malibu home, looked the agreement over hastily and signed it.
She said she did not believe American Media would purchase the rights to her story and then do nothing with it. She thought signing the pledge would be the prelude to a book deal.
"In my mind, it was trying to seal a deal so I wouldn't do the book with anybody else," she told The Times. "That was my feeling in my heart and in my mind."
Hassett added later: "She has reason to believe that she was manipulated by the actions of the people at National Enquirer."
The contract that bears Goyette's signature makes no mention of a book project. Goyette's recollection was that she signed a three-page contract. She said she did not get a copy until several weeks later, via fax, and it was two pages.
The contract was sealed just when interest in her story was peaking. Once Schwarzenegger's campaign was launched, the media quickly dug up the 2001 National Enquirer article. She was besieged by reporters.
They were "in front of my house. In front of my school. In front of the coffee shop," she said. "I didn't answer anyone's questions."
"A lot of people have offered me a lot of money to tell my story," she said. "I always said 'No comment' and turned everybody down."
Before she signed her contract, Goyette gave an interview to the BBC that aired after the contract was sealed. On Sept. 3, 2003 -- after signing the contract but before receiving a copy of it, Hassett said -- Goyette was quoted in a story by Fox News.
"She conducted herself in a way that a person who thought she had a book deal would act," Hassett said.
Mora, 50, said her first dealings with the National Enquirer took place when the tabloid was preparing the 2001 story on Goyette. The Enquirer, she said in an interview, "only wanted me to establish that she really knew him."
When the Enquirer reporter called, she said, she told him Goyette had pictures of Schwarzenegger around her house and had told her of how she worked with Schwarzenegger at his fitness exhibition.
Mora also said Goyette introduced her to Schwarzenegger once, at a Santa Monica restaurant he used to own.
Mora said she received a call from someone from the National Enquirer soon after Goyette's confidentiality contract was signed. The male caller, whose name she said she could not remember, offered her $1,000 to sign a confidentiality agreement of her own.
"They said, 'Would you be willing to agree to not say anything else?' " Mora recalled. "And I remember at the time saying something like, 'Uh, yeah. I don't know anything else.' They said, 'We paid her an additional $20,000, and if we give you $1,000 will you not say anything?' And I said, 'Sure, I don't know anything.' "
The next day in Los Angeles, Mora said, she met with a woman who gave her an envelope containing $1,000 cash. She said her recollection was imperfect, but she thinks it was then she signed the contract.
The document gives Mora's name as Judy Walker, a name she said she sometimes used. The signature says Judy Mora, as does the name printed by hand below it.
Mora said she does not have a copy of the document.
Times staff writer Cynthia Cho contributed to this report.