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May 20, 2005 - 01:00 AM
by Gary Delsohn, Bee Capitol Bureau
3-state swing to raise funds Governor heads to Florida, Texas and Illinois seeking cash for a possible special election.Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to leave California today for a three-state, weekend fundraising swing as he gears up to collect an estimated $30 million for a possible special election.
Two of the events, a dinner tonight at an airport-area hotel in Tampa and a Saturday lunch in Miami, are scheduled to also feature Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. Oilman Boone Pickens will chair a Texas event.
Another fundraiser, a Chicago lunch Monday co-hosted by billionaire real estate developer Samuel Zell, was organized, members of his campaign team said, by the fundraising consultants who work for House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
"Governor Schwarzenegger is a Republican superstar, so he is a draw in his own right," Marty Wilson, his chief fundraiser, said Thursday.
"But over and above that, I think many business leaders across the country are very interested in the reform agenda the governor is advocating, with the belief that if he can have these reforms in California, there is hope for them across the country."
Wilson, who is a member of Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team that is helping to organize the fundraisers, said "it will be a seven-figure trip."
In an interview with The Bee earlier in the week, Schwarzenegger complained he has to travel "from city to city" and "pound away and do all this fundraising" while Democratic foes can easily tap into millions raised by public employee labor unions from their members' dues.
"I am so lucky," he said, "that everything I have done in the past has trained me for this, for this job. For my afterschool programs, I have raised millions and millions of dollars from General Motors, from this corporation and that corporation. Millions from studio heads. Or for the Special Olympics. It's not anything new."
Schwarzenegger has threatened to call a special election for November so voters can consider his measures to change legislative districts, control state spending and make it more difficult for teachers to attain tenure protections.
Mike Murphy, Schwarzenegger's chief political adviser, told reporters earlier in the week that Schwarzenegger was raising money in Texas and Florida because they were "both A-1 Republican finance states."
Murphy, who has also been Jeb Bush's campaign consultant, said Schwarzenegger built up a lot of personal goodwill in the party when he stumped for President Bush last fall in Ohio in the campaign's final days.
"Working for Governor Bush as I do and being kind of acquainted with Texas Republican politics, Arnold's a very popular figure in both those places," Murphy said. "They're both A-1 Republican finance states. People haven't forgotten that in a very tough presidential campaign who was in Ohio on that critical day in that critical state. I think we're going to have access to a big finance number and will be able to raise it."
Democrats and government watchdog groups have criticized Schwarzenegger's prolific fundraising, but the Republican governor has maintained he needs the cash to get his "reform" message to voters through expensive television and other advertising.
In addition to the Tampa event, Schwarzenegger is to be featured at a Saturday lunch at a Miami hotel where about 25 to 30 guests are expected to pay the $10,000-per-couple ticket, members of Schwarzenegger's political team said.
On Saturday night, Robert Earl, the British tycoon who founded the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, and David Siegel, who owns Westgate Resorts, are co-hosting a Schwarzenegger fundraiser in Orlando.
Schwarzenegger was one of the original investors in Planet Hollywood, which now operates about 20 show business-themed restaurants around the world.
According to Siegel's Web site, his Central Florida Investments is the largest privately held corporation in the central Florida area, employing more than 7,000 people.
Schwarzenegger's schedule for Sunday was not released, but he goes on to Chicago and Dallas on Monday for two more fundraisers.
The Chicago lunch, where tickets go for $1,000 to $25,000, is hosted by Zell and Patrick G. Ryan, executive chairman of Aon Corp., a worldwide leader in risk management, insurance and re-insurance brokerage, according to the firm's Web site.
Ryan, one of Chicago's best-known businessmen, is also chairman of the board of trustees of Northwestern University in Evanston, a Chicago suburb.
Zell is one of the richest men in the country, with a net worth of $2.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine. A profile last year in USA Today said he was the nation's biggest landlord, with 128 million square feet of office space and 225,000 apartments.
The last fundraiser on this trip is a cocktail and dinner party in Dallas on Monday evening. According to an invitation posted on the Web site ArnoldWatch maintained by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, persistent Schwarzenegger critics, a "co-chair" designation can be had for $50,000.
For that price, contributors get seating for two at the head table, a photo with Schwarzenegger and "preferred seating for two additional guests."
The invitation says the event chairmen are Jeff Rich, a Texas contractor, Pickens and Bob Schlegel, chairman and chief executive officer of Pavestone Co., manufacturers of concrete landscaping products.
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The Bee's Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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