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The San Jose Mercury News (California)
Sep 19, 2003 - 01:00 AM

by DION NISSENBAUM, Mercury News Sacramento Bureau


SACRAMENTO, CA -- Standing in front of an old locomotive, a symbol of special-interest corruption that once dominated Sacramento, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled an ambitious political-reform plan Thursday that would restrict campaign fundraising and give the public more oversight of the often closed-door legislative process.

In a bid to solidify his credentials as an outsider in his run for governor, the 56-year-old actor vowed to ban fundraising while state leaders craft the budget and to veto any bills that do not get a full public debate in the Legislature.

"The people of this state do not trust this government," Schwarzenegger said while standing inside the California State Railroad Museum in front of a locomotive symbolizing the railway barons who once pulled the strings in Sacramento. "They feel it is corrupted by dirty money, closed doors and back-room deals."

The actor's proposals -- which have been floated by candidates in the past and rejected by legislators from both parties -- won mixed reviews. While supporters praised Schwarzenegger for picking up the mantle of reform, critics said his plan showed he does not understand the realities of the political process.

After his assault on political corruption, Schwarzenegger leveled his first pointed attack on his leading Republican opponent, state Sen. Tom McClintock, who the actor suggested was a tool of special interests.

While McClintock trails Schwarzenegger in the polls, the conservative lawmaker from Thousand Oaks is getting a new boost from California's Indian tribes, which have begun to spend tens of thousands of dollars to back McClintock.

Schwarzenegger suggested that McClintock was being used by tribal leaders who want to split the Republican vote so that, if Gov. Gray Davis is recalled, fellow Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante can win. Bustamante so far has received more than $3.3 million in contributions from the tribes.

"He knows they're financing him, not because they want him to be governor, they just want to interfere with the process so that Bustamante wins," he said. "So he has to decide: Which side is he on -- the Republicans or Bustamante?"

The broadside on McClintock follows weeks in which Schwarzenegger and his team have spoken highly of their fellow Republican, even as they suggested that he get out of the race for the good of the party.

McClintock dismissed the criticism as misguided.

"I think that's a ridiculous statement by a man who obviously hasn't paid much attention to California public affairs," said McClintock. "I believe this generation has an obligation to honor the commitment made to California Indians a century ago to exercise sovereignty on their reservation land. Arnold Schwarzenegger has broken many promises in the short span of this campaign. This is one promise that our generation must keep."

As a candidate for governor, Schwarzenegger has vowed not to take money from tribes or unions, but he continues to accept donations from businesses, which he contends are not special interests.

Thursday, the actor laid out a more expansive political-reform plan that would bar the governor and lawmakers from raising money between January, when the governor presents a budget, and the summer, when the fiscal plan isnormally enacted.

Schwarzenegger also vowed that if he becomes governor, he will reject any bills that are rushed through the Legislature. Normally, key pieces of legislation are pushed through the Legislature in the final, frenzied days of their session, creating an avenue for special-interest groups to exploit.

The actor also endorsed a proposal pending in the Legislature that would give the public expansive new rights to view everything from internal e-mail to draft reports. While the constitutional amendment -- which would need voter approval before taking effect -- currently exempts the Legislature, Schwarzenegger said he would seek to include lawmakers.

"There is no such thing as democracy in the dark," said Schwarzenegger, who was joined by former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery, a Democrat, and former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, a Republican.

Schwarzenegger's proposals drew immediate scorn from Davis aides, who noted that such reforms had been floated in the past but have fallen flat in the Legislature.

"Most of the proposals point to his naivete about how government really works," said Davis' press officer Steve Maviglio. "They sound good as part of the political rhetoric, but in the real world they don't work."

While hastily written bills are not ideal, Maviglio said, sometimes they are necessary.
"It's not something the governor likes, either, but sometimes there are things done as an emergency, and that's the only way to get it done."

Terry Francke of the California First Amendment Coalition, the group sponsoring the open-records constitutional amendment, commended Schwarzenegger's position, but expressed skepticism that he would follow through.

"We're very happy to see any candidate for governor express enthusiasm for open government," he said.

But he added, "once he's governor, I suspect he and the people surrounding him would take a somewhat different view," he said. "Some things are easier to commit yourself to as a candidate than as a sitting executive."

Schwarzenegger is not the only candidate to champion political reform. Columnist Arianna Huffington is vowing to lead a charge for public financing of campaigns by proposing a ballot measure to enact such laws. Bustamante and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo also support public financing.

Schwarzenegger's call for openness came on the same day the Los Angeles Times reported that the actor had forced his campaign aides to sign a highly unusual confidentiality agreement that bars them from talking about the candidate or his business affairs.

The agreement, the Times said, notes that Schwarzenegger has devoted "substantial effort and expense... to limit the constant efforts of the press, other media and the public to learn of personal and business affairs," and gives the actor the right to go to court to prevent them from talking. Violators can be required to pay $50,000 per violation.


Highlights of reforms:
- Ban fundraising while state leaders write budget.
- Veto any bills that don't get a full public debate in Legislature.
- Expand public right to view legislative documents, from internal e-mails to draft reports.
- Donations would have to be reported more quickly.
- Redistricting would be done by a panel of retired judges.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the front-running Democrat to replace the governor if he is removed, put himself at odds with many of his supporters when he said he believed the election should take place Oct. 7. "I think people are starting to get a little bit of recall fatigue," he said in West Hollywood after accepting the endorsement of Equality California, a gay-rights group. Meanwhile, a hearing was held in Sacramento County Superior Court on whether Bustamante's campaign contributions had violated campaign finance laws.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a ban on political fundraising from January, when the governor proposes a budget, until it passes in the summer, and said he favors a constitutional amendment giving the public access to most government meetings. "The people of this state do not trust their government," he said in a statement before speaking at the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento. "They feel it is corrupted by dirty money, closed doors and back-room deals."

Bustamante and state Sen. Tom McClintock threatened to boycott the only debate Schwarzenegger has agreed to attend unless organizers switch to an unscripted format. The California Broadcasters Association said it will not change the format, in which questions are given to candidates in advance.

A clerk for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a decision was likely today on whether the court would choose an 11-judge panel to reconsider a three-judge panel's postponement of the Oct. 7 election.
Mercury News Staff Writers Dawn Chmielewski, Mark Gladstone and Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.

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