Consumer group urges governor to return computer firm’s $50,000

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Associated Press

SACRAMENTO (AP) — A consumer group called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to return a $50,000 contribution from a technology company that does business with the state, saying it violates the governor’s own pledge not to take money from special interests.

The governor opened his campaign saying he didn’t need to take money from “special interests.” He later narrowed his ban on contributions to those from parties he would have to negotiate with, namely Indian tribes and labor unions.

Critics called the governor’s policy murky, since it still allowed him to take money from car dealers, developers and other businesses that have interests in state government’s actions.

“He has such a novel and self-serving definition of what special interest is,” said Jim Knox, executive director of California Common Cause. “It seems to me that any entity that has business with the state has a vested interest.”

The Foundation for Consumer and Taxpayer Rights said Thursday the $50,000 donation from Affiliated Computer Services Inc., violated Schwarzenegger’s own pledge.

“It’s a company that can do business with the state, so he has to give the money back if he doesn’t want to look like a hypocrite,” said Jamie Court, the foundation’s president.

Representatives of Schwarzenegger’s campaign didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

ACS State and Local Solutions, the Washington, D.C, branch of the Dallas-based company, is an approved vendor for state government contracts and has a small technology contract with the state worth less than $70,000, said Joe Barrett, the company’s director of communications.

Its larger contract with California is with the state controller’s office to collect unclaimed state property. In return, the company gets 10 percent of the value of any returned property, the state controller’s office said.

The unclaimed property contract expires next month. That contract is approved by the controller, not the governor, officials with the controller’s office said.

ACS provides technology and support for welfare-to-work, education and other government programs to many states, and to local jurisdictions around the country.

It also provides red light camera technology for local governments, and has lobbied on California legislation on that issue.

The company gave Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall Committee the $50,000 donation on Dec. 1.

Barrett said he was unsure whether the contribution was made as part of a fund-raiser, but added that it wasn’t unusual for the company to make contributions.

“We support the political process and contribute to candidates and elected officials who we believe will have a positive effect on state government,” he said.

In September, the company gave the anti-recall campaign $50,000, and last year gave then-Gov. Gray Davis $30,000. During the recall campaign, ACS executives also gave a combined $33,000 to Schwarzenegger.

This “illustrates that most contributors have policy objectives and they want to influence government,” said Knox.
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