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How Much From Special Interests?

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Sacramento Bee
Feb 01, 2005 - 01:00 AM

by Dan Smith and Alexa H. Bluth

Governor raked in $28.8 million from '04 donors;

The fund-raising feat doubles what Davis collected his first year.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set box office records and bodybuilding records.

Now he has a campaign fund-raising record.

The Republican governor pulled in $28.8 million from campaign donors last year, more than twice as much as former Gov. Gray Davis collected in his first year in office.

Davis, the Democrat whom Schwarzenegger ousted in the 2003 recall election, still holds the single-year mark with a $29.1 million haul in 2002.

Schwarzenegger didn't do it for his own possible re-election campaign in 2006 - those accounts had less than $700,000 in them at the end of 2004. Most of the cash was raised to push his agenda on the ballot.

His advocacy included backing for two budget-related measures last March and his opposition to a pair of Indian gambling propositions in the fall. It also included his last-minute crusade against Proposition 66 - which would have softened the "three-strikes" sentencing law. He was successful in all of those high-profile pursuits.

The fund-raising numbers, reported on Monday's deadline to file 2004 disclosure forms, are stunning to the experts.

"This is a staggering amount of money for any politician, but even more so for a governor who came into office promising to get rid of money in politics," said Doug Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Bob Stern of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies said it is difficult to compare Schwarzenegger to Davis, who amassed millions for his own re-election efforts rather than ballot measure committees.

"But it still is an enormous sum of money, and obviously he received a lot of it from what he might even call a special interest," Stern said.

"He's getting a lot of money from people who want something from government, and that's by definition a special interest."

Marty Wilson, Schwarzenegger's chief fund-raiser, emphasized that the governor's efforts were about changing policy, not amassing a re-election war chest.

"This is not self-serving fund raising," Wilson said. "This is a guy who's put his popularity on the line in two elections and, frankly, enjoyed unparalleled success."

That will all change now, Wilson said, as the 2006 gubernatorial election approaches.

"We've got to start focusing on his re-election," he said, noting that the governor has yet to decide whether he'll run for a second term.

In the meantime, Schwarzenegger likely will pursue an ambitious menu of ballot measures this year, having proposed to amend the state constitution to overhaul budgeting, redistricting, teacher pay and public pensions in a special election this year. He believes it will take $50 million to succeed, said his communications director, Rob Stutzman.

But he will have to adjust his tactics. As of Nov. 3, a new ruling by the Fair Political Practices Commission imposes limits of just over $20,000 per donor to candidate-controlled issue committees, the same amount that candidates can take from each donor for their personal election committees. Until the ruling, Schwarzenegger was free to raise contributions in unlimited amounts for his ballot measure efforts.

Stern said the new limits might change the way money is raised for the governor's pet measures but not necessarily the staggering amounts.

"He won't be able to call people and solicit people, and he won't be able to control the money, but I think there's still going to be a lot of money coming in to committees he supports," Stern said.

Wilson said the special election will be "an expensive undertaking." He said the governor's team is still trying to sort out how he can encourage donors to contribute to the ballot measure efforts without breaking the FPPC rules. "We're going to err on the side of caution," he said.

Schwarzenegger's donors wrote checks to seven committees formed for a variety of purposes and ran the gamut of traditional GOP givers - developers, retailers, drug companies and insurers.

His single biggest contribution - $1.5 million - came from technology guru Henry T. Nicholas III. The money went to defeat Proposition 66.

Mortgage giant Ameriquest Capital gave over $1 million to Schwarzenegger's ballot measure committee. He also took six-figure checks from wealthy businessmen such as Univision founder Jerry Perenchio, home builder Eli Broad and grocery czar Ron Burkle, all of whom were among Davis' top contributors.
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About the writer:
The Bee's Dan Smith can be reached at (916) 321-5249 or smith@sacbee.com




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