Agence France Presse
LOS ANGELES, CA — Arnold Schwarzenegger is cashing in on his body-building legacy with a multi-million-dollar magazine deal that has critics accusing California’s celebrity governor of abusing his political muscle.
A five-year contract Schwarzenegger signed just days before being sworn in as governor guarantees him at least one million dollars a year as executive editor
of a set of fitness magazines, documents showed Thursday.
The brawny politician and action movie star signed on as a consultant for Flex and Muscle and Fitness magazines in November of 2003, according to a copy of the contract between his Oak Productions company and American Media Incorporated’s Weider Publications.
The payments could net the multi-millionaire movie star, who agreed to forego accepting a salary as governor of California to save the state cash, could be as
high as eight million dollars over five years.
The contract specifies that Weider’s demands on the governor, referred to in the contract as “Mr S,” are “subject to Mr S’s other commitments and his professional and personal availability.”
Under the contract, a copy of which is filed with the Securities and Exchange commission, that took effect in January 2004, the amount of time Schwarzenegger
spends on magazine business is left to the governor’s “sole discretion.”
Schwarzenegger was given an “executive editor” title and charged with “helping in various ways to further the business interests” but no administrative authority at the publications.
In return for his name on the magazine’s mastheads and editorial advice, the former muscle man gets an annual payoff of one percent of the net advertising revenues or a million dollars, whichever is greater, the contract dictates.
Much of the magazines’ ad revenue comes from promoters of body building supplements.
The Weider publishing group is named after founder Joe Weider, a compatriot of Schwarzenegger from his days as a Mr Universe bodybuilding champion.
American Media bought Weider’s fitness magazines for 350 million a few years ago, according to Schwarzenegger biographer Laurence Leamer.
Schwarzenegger put Oak in a blind trust when he took the job as governor to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Elected officials in the state can legally hold outside jobs as long as they avoid such conflicts.
But the magazine deal has critics questioning whether it influenced the governor’s 2004 veto of legislation that would have regulated the health supplement industry in California.
Leamer, author of “Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger,” claims the
actor struck a deal with American Media before he was elected to power in October 2003 and sworn in a month later.
Under the pact, the publishing group would refrain from making the future gubernatorial candidate’s purported sexual peccadilloes fodder for its tabloids.
“I think it’s devastating,” Leamer told AFP on Thursday. “He has no business doing this kind of thing. It is just unseemly.”
Schwarzenegger confirmed details of the business deal in an interview with Leamer, the author said.
Leamer contended the message that Schwarzenegger’s sex life would be off limits in its tabloids, including the National Enquirer, was an implied part of the pact with American Media.
Leamer quotes Schwarzenegger as telling him “I think it’s common sense… Do you want to work with someone who you are attacking? … You don’t have to be sleazy and make deals. It’s human nature.”
“Schwarzenegger strode into office as this exalted new force in politics, and this is politics as usual at its worst,” Leamer said. “I thought he was such an amazing man. He had such promise as governor and he just blew it.”
Members of a group called Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights rallied outside Oak’s headquarters in Los Angeles on Thursday to protest the governor’s magazine windfall.
Schwarzenegger’s office did not return calls for comment but his spokesman was quoted as saying in published reports that the deal did not present any conflict of interest because the governor was not involved with selling advertising for the publications.
“This is as deep a conflict of interest as there can be in government,” said Douglas Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “When the man in charge is secretly being paid on the side, and then doing what his paymasters want.”
The nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation has begun expressing its concerns to state lawmakers and will ask legislators to investigate the situation, Heller said Thursday.
“The governor should be required to end the contract and return all the money, as well as make public his tax returns so we can more fully understand who else is paying Schwarzenegger,” Heller said.