Schwarzenegger flexes his fund-raising muscles

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The San Francisco Chronicle

If there’s one thing this election proved, it’s that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can definitely do some heavy lifting — especially when it comes to raising money.

Since his election in October, rookie Schwarzenegger has raked in $14 million in campaign contributions — more than twice as much as his predecessor, the ever-prolific fund-raiser Gray Davis, scooped up in his first months in office.

One key difference: Davis raised money for Davis, while the bulk of Schwarzenegger’s dollars have gone into the hard-sell fight for his bipartisan state “recovery” proposals, Propositions 57 and 58.

What’s the secret behind Arnold’s record take? “It’s a lot more fun to go to an Arnold fund-raiser than to Gray’s,” said Jim Knox of the watchdog group California Common Cause, which has tracked the contributions.

As for individual contributors, a list provided to us by the nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights shows Stockton developer and San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos at the top, with $609,700 in donations.

Paul Folino, of Emulex technology, clocked in with $488,400.

William Lyon Homes: $456,200.

William Robinson (retired DHL delivery service founder): $450,000.

Ameriquest (mortgage company): $417,400.

New Majority PAC (moderate Republicans): $376,500.

Dole/Castle & Cooke (agriculture and development): $352,000.

Jerry Perenchio (Spanish-language TV exec): $292,400.

But it’s not strictly Republicans who have contributed. Ron Burkle, the Los Angeles grocery and investment mogul who has been a major backer of Davis and Bill Clinton, gave $100,000.

While Arnold’s good-government pitch and star power draw well, behind the scenes there lurks a healthy bit of good old-fashioned “lay your bets” politics.

Take, for example, the money given by the Silicon Valley semiconductor equipment maker Applied Materials.

Records show that Applied CEO Mike Splinter gave Arnold $25,000 for his bond recovery measures Feb. 19. That same day, the CEO sent out an e-mail to company employees describing a meeting he had with the governor to discuss another topic, one near to Splinter’s heart — the workers’ compensation issue and its effect on the California economy.

Indeed, Team Arnold insiders make no bones that much of the money that came in for the “recovery” campaign was from businesses whose real interest is workers’ comp reform — an issue that may be headed for the November ballot.

According to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Arnold’s various committees collected $409,858 from major workers’ compensation insurance companies.

“It’s no surprise,” said foundation rep Douglas Heller. “They don’t want to see their rate practices regulated. … It’s hard to ignore the special influence these donors have.”

Another item of interest to many of Schwarzenegger’s donors: the repeal of SB2, the initiative passed by the Legislature in the waning days of the Davis administration that will require small businesses to provide health insurance to employees — a move Schwarzenegger has opposed.

All in all, Arnold’s business-friendly gestures appear to be keeping the money rolling in from all market sectors — insurance companies, banks, health care providers and real estate.

As for Arnold’s campaign promise to put an end to fund raising in Sacramento during the budget season?

Well, administration officials tell us legislation has already been introduced. But until there’s a change in the law (and nobody is holding their breath on any serious reform), the governor will play by the same rules he’s criticizing.

Fair enough, says fund-raising watchdog Knox: “I don’t necessarily hold him to his ideal before it’s enacted. But he did say he was going to end politics as usual, and I certainly don’t see that.”
Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. They can also be heard on KGO Radio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phil Matier can be seen regularly on KRON-TV. Got a tip?
Call them at (415) 777-8815 or drop them an e-mail at [email protected]

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