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Dec 07, 2007 - 01:00 AM
by Shane Goldmacher
Donors who fund governor's trade trips are disclosedFor the first time, donors to the obscure nonprofit that funds Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's overseas trade travels were revealed Thursday.
Schwarzenegger attended a San Francisco fundraiser on Nov. 7 for the group, triggering a state disclosure law governing politicians soliciting money for charitable groups. Only donors at that event were identified.
Campaign and charity watchdogs have criticized Schwarzenegger's use of the nonprofit, the California State Protocol Foundation, saying it allowed for what amounts to anonymous and tax-deductible political giving.
The newly revealed list of donors includes well-known names, such as winemaker Robert Mondavi, inducted into the California Hall of Fame by the governor on Wednesday, along with lesser-known philanthropists and business people.
The one-evening affair, which San Francisco philanthropist Dede Wilsey hosted, netted the foundation just shy of $400,000.
Previously, the leaders of the foundation, which is closely aligned with the business lobby in Sacramento, have argued that by shielding donors' names, they were keeping not just the public, but Schwarzenegger himself, in the dark about who was funding the trips.
Larry Dicke, chief financial officer for the nonprofit and the California Chamber of Commerce, said the foundation has not changed its policy.
The foundation has no plans to disclose any future or past donations other than those made at events the governor attends, he said.
"We prefer not to disclose the donors so the governor doesn't know," Dicke said.
But campaign monitors have criticized that rationale, particularly after Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, headlined last month's fundraiser.
The foundation donors include some of the governor's major financial backers, such as Gap founder Donald Fisher, who gave $25,000 to the nonprofit in addition to the $125,000-plus he's given to Schwarzenegger's campaign accounts.
Another major Schwarzenegger supporter, Diane Lake of Bakersfield, identified on campaign filings as a homemaker, also gave $25,000 to the foundation. She has donated more than $160,000 to the governor's campaign committees since 2003.
Unlike campaign contributions, donations to the protocol foundation, which is registered as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, are tax-deductible.
Nearly three dozen donors gave at least $5,000 -- the disclosure threshold -- at the San Francisco event.
From 2004 to 2006, the protocol foundation spent $4.2 million, more than $2.5 million of which went to pay for foreign excursions, the group's tax filings show. The money has paid for Schwarzenegger and administration officials to travel abroad on trade missions to China, Japan, Canada, Austria and Mexico.
Aides to Schwarzenegger, who declines his $200,000-plus state salary, have said that using the nonprofit saves taxpayer dollars.
Conact the author Shane Goldmacher, Bee Capitol Bureau, at (916) 326-5544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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