Governor raises $17 million in 6 months

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The San Francisco Chronicle

When it comes to flexing his money muscles, there’s no stopping Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Financial reports expected to be released Monday will show that the new governor raised an eye-popping $17 million in political contributions during the first half of the year — and he’s already spent all but a fraction of it.

Schwarzenegger’s money haul even exceeds the $14 million that his predecessor, Gray Davis, raised at the height of his pedal-to-the-metal re-election drive during the first six months of 2002.

Schwarzenegger has spent the largest chunk of his cash — nearly $9 million — to push his political agenda.

For instance, about $3 million went into collecting signatures for a workers’ comp reform measure that the governor used as a hammer over the Legislature until a compromise measure was passed.

An additional $3.6 million went toward passage of Propositions 57 and 58, the March measures authorizing a $15 billion budget bailout and statewide spending cap.

Other spending was a bit more personal.

About $4 million went to help retire debts left over from Arnold’s gubernatorial recall election run.

And then there’s the $600,000 that Schwarzenegger has steered into his 2006 re-election campaign committee. Sources said he has been using that money to help cover his commuting expenses to Sacramento, where he and his family are “temporarily” living at the downtown Hyatt while they continue to house hunt.

(Seems the governor got a state Fair Political Practices Commission ruling permitting him to dip into the campaign funds for these living costs at least until November.)

As for who’s giving to the governor, figures provided to us by the nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights — which tracked $14.8 million in contributions reported since Schwarzenegger presented the state’s new budget Jan. 10 — pretty much turned up the usual list of special interests:

— Finance, accounting and banking interests: $1.9 million.

— Real estate/development: $1.5 million.

— Technology: $1.1 million.

— Construction: $874,600.

— Health care: $619,600.

— Insurance: $609,000.

As for Arnold’s big criticism of legislators for fund raising during the budget season and his own talk of eliminating the practice?

“The important distinction here is that the overwhelming portion of the money that we have raised is to help the governor achieve his comprehensive reform agenda,” said Marty Wilson, who directs the governor’s fund-raising effort.

In other words, Wilson said, comparing re-election funds with contributions used to promote his political agenda is comparing “apples to oranges.”

Maybe. But whatever the fruit — squeeze it, and it all goes into the same political punch.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
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