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How Much From Special Interests?

The Foundation For Taxpayer and Consumer Rights

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RecordNet.com
Jan 02, 2004 - 01:00 AM

by Will Shuck, Capitol Bureau Chief

Donor watchdog seeking donations

Fund-raising letters tout ArnoldWatch
SACRAMENTO -- Keeping an eye on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his deep-pocketed donors isn't easy, a government watchdog group says, and your tax-deductible contributions would help.

"Keeping an eye on a governor with a personal fortune of more than $200 million requires resources," according to a fund-raising letter from the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, soliciting donations for its ArnoldWatch operation.

Foundation President Jamie Court, who for years hectored Gov. Gray Davis, promised to "keep watch over the hidden hand of special interests in the Schwarzenegger administration."

Schwarzenegger has raised millions from insurers, business groups and developers, including Stockton's Alex Spanos, who helped raise $1 million in a single night during the recall campaign.

Schwarzenegger says such donors don't count as special interests. Court says they do.

Court said his effort "is about seeing whether a governor who pledges not to give special consideration to special interests really does it."

In his letter to potential donors, Court encourages a contribution, "if you are committed to helping keep an eye on the big guy."

"I'm not sure quite how to respond," Marty Wilson, a Sacramento-based political adviser to the governor, said when he was made aware of the effort Wednesday. "I guess I should pay more attention to these clowns."

Wilson called the outreach effort a "new verse for an old song," referring to the tendency of political organizations to use high-profile public figures in their fund-raising pitches.

But, he said, "They're exercising their First Amendment right, and we support the First Amendment."

Court said he'll continue scouring the governor's financial reports, looking for connections between contributions and policy, just as he did during the previous administration.

"We're going to be trailing him," he said. "He's taking a lot of money from the same people who gave it to Gray."

Court says he doubts the fund-raising effort will bring in as much as he'll spend watching the governor, and he'll end up subsidizing ArnoldWatch from his organization's general operating fund of about $850,000.

"The importance of doing this is not to raise money," he said. "The importance is to hold a governor accountable to his promises."
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To reach Capitol Bureau Chief Will Shuck, phone (916) 441-4078 or e-mail sacto@recordnet.com





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