Fund-raising during budgeting at issue

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The Orange County Register

As a candidate, Arnold Schwarzenegger called for a ban on fund-raising while the budget was being written in Sacramento. Now, as the governor tries to get lawmakers to approve his budget plan, Schwarzenegger is holding a series of fund-raisers, including one next week in Irvine.

Promise, from candidate Schwarzenegger’s reform agenda: “California legislators collected $18 million during the first six months of 2003. This June, when the state faced a $38.2 billion state budget deficit, lawmakers held at least 66 fund-raising events — as many as 10 fund-raisers a day. “It is no coincidence that the budget season is also the political fund-raising season. It is inherently suspect for politicians to be taking money from lobbyists while they are spending the people’s money. This system also creates little incentive for Sacramento to pass a budget in a timely manner. That is why 28 other states have passed fund-raising blackout periods.

“As governor, I will propose a ban on all fund-raising by the Legislature and the governor from the day I propose a budget until I sign a budget certified by the state controller to be in balance, with a 90-day exception before elections.” Action: Schwarzenegger’s campaign has raised almost $1 million since he took office Nov. 17 and called a special session of the Legislature to balance the budget. That total does not include money from a $500-per-person fund-raiser Tuesday at the La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla or three fund-raisers set for next week, including a $5,000-per-person reception Wednesday at the Shady Canyon Golf Club in Irvine. Hosts of the Shady Canyon event include several leaders of the New Majority, a Republican club of wealthy investors, developers and high-tech entrepreneurs who gave more than $2 million to Schwarzenegger’s campaign and inauguration.

Reaction: Critics say Schwarzenegger increasingly resembles ousted Gov. Gray Davis, who was accused of rewarding large campaign donors with favorable legislation and contracts. “With each fund-raiser, the governor looks more like Gray and less like Arnold,” said Doug Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica.

Tom Tucker, a Newport Beach investor who is co-hosting the Wednesday fund-raiser, said Schwarzenegger is not violating his campaign promise because the current special session of the Legislature is not writing the budget — just trying to repair damage of the prior administration. “I think they’ve already spent the people’s money,” Tucker said. “They’re talking about reductions and restructuring debt — not spending more.”

Response: At a Nov. 18 press conference, Schwarzenegger addressed the contrast between his proposed ban and his current practice. In effect, his answer was that he would not unilaterally abide by such a blackout. He said, “Well, as soon as it becomes the law, yes, we will do so. I think we all then should do so. That is the idea behind it. But we don’t want to have just one do it and no one else do it, so I think the key thing is just to make it the law so that everyone has to abide by the law.” He did not say when he would propose the law.

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