Manhattan elite lining up for pricey Schwarzenegger fund-raiser tonight

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The following commentary by Jamie Court appeared on the radio show Marketplace – from Minnesota Public Radio on Feb 24, 2004:

DAVID BROWN, anchor: Let’s consider the road less traveled. One hundred days ago, an Austrian-born actor took over as California’s governor. Tonight, California’s governor is at a fund-raiser in New York. Come again? Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger promised it wouldn’t be politics as usual. No, indeed. Commentator and consumer advocate Jamie Court argues it’s business as usual.

JAMIE COURT: Schwarzenegger isn’t in politics at all; he’s in business. And tonight, Schwarzenegger will be selling California to New York. See, the governor wants to finance California’s $15 billion deficit with long-term bonds. So far, Californians are against putting that kind of money on a credit card, so Schwarzenegger needs to raise big bucks to change their minds. Just imagine TV ads featuring the last action hero touting those bonds, all courtesy of supper with the masters of high finance. If Californians vote “yes,” Wall Street underwrites those bonds and makes a killing. No wonder the limos are lining up for dinner.

So how can anti-politician who said he didn’t need anyone else’s money get away with holding the world’s highest-priced political fund-raiser? First, there’s the brand: Schwarzenegger said a thousand times over, ‘I’m going to get rid of special interest. I’m a millionaire and I can’t be bought.’ That’s like saying a thousand times, ‘Choosy moms choose Jif.’ It’s so blatantly easy to disprove the claim that people think it’s got to be true, even if it takes a half million dollars per plate to do it. Then, he supplies a rebate.

Schwarzenegger’s been raising more than a hundred grand per day, but he gave back the public 1 percent when he returned a hundred-grand contribution to a pushy oil distributor. That makes him look squeaky clean. Kind of like Caligula turning away a virgin at the orgy.

California’s governor has become a CEO, an actor at the end of his career is busting his way into new roles he can only dream of. Future roles as a director on Fortune 500 boards or leading man in the world’s biggest venture capital deals. For a guy who couldn’t get $7 per seat for “Terminator III,” half a million bucks per chair from Manhattan’s elite is a real step up. And when the governorship’s over, Arnold then will really take off. In Los Angeles, this is Jamie Court for MARKETPLACE.

BROWN: Consumer advocate Jamie Court is author of “Corporateering” and a founder of

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