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The Los Angeles Times

Gov. Cancels Events Before Activists Can Crash Them

by  Patrick McGreevy, Times Staff Writer
December 15, 2003

As if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't have his hands full selling his budget package to the voters, he's also catching flak from taxpayer activists for his efforts to retire his $4-million campaign debt.

Schwarzenegger decided twice to postpone political fundraisers in Sacramento in the last two weeks after activists threatened to crash the events, with television cameras in tow. They want to call attention to what they see as the governor's reneging on his promise to refrain from fundraising during budget deliberations.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumers Rights had publicly announced plans to show up at both fundraising events with 21,200 jelly beans, representing the $21,200 limit on campaign donations. During his campaign, Schwarzenegger handed out jelly beans to voters. "We were going to see if that would buy our way in," said Jamie Court, the foundation's president.

Schwarzenegger postponed a fundraiser planned last week at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel with San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spano as host, but a spokeswoman said the governor had changed plans so he could focus on the state budget talks, not because of criticism.

Schwarzenegger went ahead with a private fundraiser, away from the Sacramento press corps, when he flew to Orange County on Wednesday to attend an event whose host was Donald Bren, chief executive of the Irvine Co.

Court's group and others believe the fundraising conflicts with Schwarzenegger's campaign pledge to seek "a ban on all fundraising by the Legislature and the governor from the day I propose a budget until I sign a budget" that is certified by the state controller to be in balance.

"There is no question that he has broken his promise when the governor says he is not going to fundraise during the budget talks and will not take money from special interests, and then he goes about retiring his $4-million campaign debt with fundraising after he puts a budget forth," Court said.

A Schwarzenegger representative disputed the criticism, saying the governor had been talking about the regular budget process, which does not begin until January.

"This isn't the same, because he hasn't submitted a budget," said Margita Thompson, a spokeswoman for the governor.

She also noted that his proposal to ban fundraising during certain periods had not been approved by the Legislature.

"When it's law, he will follow that law," she said.

Alexa H. Bluth contributed to this report.

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