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The San Francisco Chronicle
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:00 AM

by Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer

Women pressure Schwarzenegger

Alternative rock/folk artist Michelle Shocked is among a group of more than 135 women -- many of them identified as past victims of sexual assault -- who say that, in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must make good on a past promise to fully investigate groping allegations leveled against him three years ago.

The women say they are not associated with either political party or campaign -- though a high-level official in the governor's campaign immediately dismissed the effort as thinly disguised effort by Schwarzenegger's opponent, Democratic state treasurer Phil Angelides, to raise the character issue in the final weeks of the campaign.

Shocked, a well-known folk and rock singer in alternative circles, said today in a phone call to the Chronicle that she is a survivor of rape, and got involved in the issue because "I don't consider this a partisan debate."

"It's much more a focus on the hypocrisy on Schwarzenegger's position," said Shocked, who said she is not associated with the Angelides campaign. "As an artist, I have a sense that the function of power is to protect itself. It's politics and business as usual, and we should do anything that we can do to call this out."

Karen Pomer, who heads the Rainbow Sisters Project for sexual assault victims, and rape crisis advocates Jane Piper of Survivors and Artists for Abolishing Violence, and Alena Donovan, a community education coordinator for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, also signed the letter.

Pomer, a progressive activist with Code Pink and anti-war groups, said the letter was generated after Schwarzenegger's post-debate comments last month. The governor said he was glad Foley, the Florida congressman accused of improper sexual advances toward congressional pages, had resigned and "if anyone else knew about it, they should resign. It's inexcusable."

During the 2003 recall campaign, the Los Angeles Times reported allegations by a dozen women that then-candidate Schwarzenegger, as an actor and former body builder, had on various movie sets and in public settings groped or sexually humiliated them.

Schwarzenegger, in the course of that campaign, issued a dramatic public apology saying he had "behaved badly sometimes." He acknowledged actions that "were not right, which I thought were playful."

Pomer noted that Schwarzenegger at the time promised to appoint an investigator to check out the claims and address them -- but following his election, he changed course and dismissed the matter as "old news."

"It's serious what women are asking (for)," said Pomer, who was active in 2003 raising the issue of the sexual allegations against the then-candidate.

Piper, in the letter, said that "considering the allegations of sexual battery against him, it's shocking and ironic that he praised Foley for resigning. If Schwarzenegger were to take his own advice, he should resign immediately."

The governor's campaign strongly rejected the allegations of impartiality in the letter, saying that the coordinated effort by more than 100 women seemed an unusual coincidence so close to the election.

"Did they all communicate with each other telepathically?" said one campaign adviser.

Schwarzenegger campaign manager Steve Schmidt has accused Angelides of being a "world-class smear artist" and has said the candidate is desperate to gain traction because he lags behind the governor by double digits in the campaign.

But Angelides campaign spokesman Nick Papas said that there were no ties between the Democratic candidate and the women's effort. Angelides has, in recent weeks, remarked that the governor's character is an issue in the campaign -- though he has not directly raised the issue of the groping allegations.

Pomer says, "I'd like for them to find a tie between me and Phil Angelides ... you might as well link me to (Republican House Speaker) Dennis Hastert."

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