Out to Sushi?

Published on

According to an LA Times
analysis, Arnold’s staff has accepted hundreds of gifts worth tens of
thousands of dollars from special interests. These gifts ranged from
152 lunches to $7,818 in Kings tickets to a trip to the circus for
Arnold’s PR chief’s family. [Note #1 to PR team: taking special
interest perks is not good PR for the gov who said he’d get rid of the
special interests.] (A full database of the gifts is available at http://www.latimes.com/lobbygifts).

Now that Arnold has announced a delegation of special interests — led
by Chamber of Commerce chief Allan Zaremberg — which will join him on
his upcoming trip to Japan, we can only imagine what goodies might be
showered on the gov’s staff from the corporations on this trip. A
Samurai Sword from Sunkist. A day at the Dojo from Disney. Yakitori
from United.

The point is Arnold should never have let this special interest gift
giving get out of hand as it has. The interests are wining and dining
his administration and will continue to because they know their
generosity will be repaid when decisions are made.

If Schwarzenegger really wanted to cut special interests out of
Sacramento, the Gov would have brought down the hatchet on his
legislative secretary (who took two dozen special interest gifts) and
the rest of Team Arnold that raked in $44K worth of special treatment
from special interests. Instead, Arnold’s spokeswoman Margita Thompson
told the Times that the outings — like her family’s free ride to
Disneyland — "affords you an opportunity in an informal setting to
develop a rapport and build on a relationship." She then added that it
would be unfair to make administration officials with salaries over
$100K pay for their own iPods or family trips to Sea World. [Note #2:
saying high paid staffers deserve free stuff makes the gov look out of

In Arnold’s "I’m no Gray Davis" administration, why would these special
interests even try to buy their way into the Gov’s inner sanctum? "It
just makes good sense," said California’s largest land developer;
"having a relationship allows you to be higher on [government
officials’] calendar," said ChevronTexaco’s lobbyist. The largess, says
a British Petroleum flak, "allows us to have, in a relaxed setting, the
ability to meet those people who are involved in. . . all the
government decisions that affect our business."

The reason these interests want to be higher on the calendar is because
they have big money issues before the administration. ChevronTexaco
aims for support from Arnold & Co. on plans to bring Liquefied
Natural Gas into California, for example. SBC, which wants to shape
Arnold’s appointments to the Public Utilities Commission, gave Kings
Tickets to the Gov’s Appointments Secretary.

For some clarity on the need to avoid too much coziness with the
special interests, Gray Davis himself chimed in and counseled from
experience: "over time you feel the need to reciprocate. It’s human
nature." Arnold needing Gray for ethics advice, who could have guessed?

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdoghttps://consumerwatchdog.org
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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