600 contributors pay at least $500 to attend twice-canceled event.
The Sacramento Bee
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said during the recall campaign he didn’t “need to take money from anybody,” finally held his twice-canceled Sacramento fund-raiser Wednesday night to help pay off lingering campaign debt and bills.
The private event at the Sheraton Grand hotel in downtown Sacramento drew 600 contributors who paid at least $500 to meet and mingle with Schwarzenegger.
An unspecified number paid $21,200 to have dinner in the hotel ballroom with the Hollywood action-hero-turned-governor.
At those rates, the reception alone would have brought in $300,000.
“It’s going to be a very successful event,” said Marty Wilson, a political adviser to Schwarzenegger, declining to state exactly how much was raised.
Wilson said the earlier fund-raisers were canceled because the GOP governor was engaged in budget talks with lawmakers.
Schwarzenegger came into the hotel through a back door and missed a handful of protesters who were out front accusing him of being too cozy with powerful special interests.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which had six people at the protest, has criticized Schwarzenegger for taking money from a variety of contributors with business before the state, including $100,000 from one of the biggest underwriters of workers’ compensation insurance.
“He hasn’t met with a single consumer group since taking office,” protester Jerry Flanagan said. “And the policies he’s been rolling out reflect the interests of the insurance industry executives he’s in there wining and dining with.”
Members of the group made a symbolic gesture of trying to get into the event with 21,200 green jelly beans — the same dollar amount individual donors are allowed to give to candidates. Security was extra tight at the hotel and the demonstrators were not allowed inside.
Schwarzenegger plans to introduce a campaign and government reform measure next year, Wilson said. But he noted that campaign contributions remain a necessary part of the political process.
“His view is this is part of the political system he’s operating in,” Wilson said. “It’s clearly built around voluntary campaign contributions from people who care about who serves in office and the positions and policies they represent.”
Schwarzenegger took out $4.5 million in personal bank loans that are payable in February, but his office has said he’s still considering whether to use his own money to pay them back. He’s raising money now, his aides have said, to pay outstanding bills from the gubernatorial recall campaign and for initiatives he wants approved by voters.
Schwarzenegger, who was repeatedly critical of “special interest” contributions during his campaign, has been raising money at a fast clip.
Common Cause, a political watchdog group, reported that Schwarzenegger committees raised most of the $468,300 disclosed in recent donor reports at fund-raisers hosted by Orange County developer Don Bren and other business interests in San Diego.
“Since the October election, Schwarzenegger has accepted contributions from the nation’s leading alcohol, oil and defense firms. The real estate and development sectors continue to hold a strong presence among donors, while individuals continue to contribute large amounts to the governor’s personal debt-relief effort,” a Common Cause newsletter on the subject said this week.
Common Cause and other watchdog groups have said Schwarzenegger is doing the same type of fund raising that caused critics to question former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis‘ integrity.
Schwarzenegger is even worse, critics like Common Cause have said, because Schwarzenegger promised to be different.
A number of Republican legislators attended the $500 reception and former state Attorney General Dan Lungren, now a candidate for Congress, said he came in part to get Schwarzenegger’s autograph on a picture he had taken with him eight years ago.
“A year ago, could you ever imagine this?” Lungren said as he looked across the crowd of people waiting for Schwarzenegger to arrive. “It’s all pretty amazing.”
The Bee’s Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or [email protected]
PHOTO: Jerry Flanagan, center, of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is barred from the Arnold Schwarzenegger fund-raiser Wednesday. He holds jelly beans symbolizing campaign contribution limits.
Sacramento Bee/John Decker