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Dec 29, 2003 - 10:55 AM

Shades Of Gray in No-Limits Contribution

by Jamie Court and Doug Heller
After unseating Gray Davis for his pay-to-play politics, Arnold has accepted an above-the-limits contribution from a company that is the capitol's foremost practitioner of pay-to-play: Mercury Insurance. Although the recall campaign ended on October 7th, Mercury contributed $38,800 on December 17th to "Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall Committee, Vote Yes To Recall Gray Davis." Mercury gave to Arnold's pro-recall committee because it is not subject to the normal $21,200 limit. The contribution was made on the dayof the Gov's capital fundraiser at the Sheraton Grand but Mercury was the only donor that day to contribute to the no-limits committee.

Mercury played the no-limits game with the recalled governor as well. On August 2nd, Gray Davis signed a bill that allows insurers to surcharge motorists who were previously uninsured, despite vetoing an identical measure the year before as an illegal violation of voter-approved Proposition 103. Then, in September, Davis received $175,000 from Mercury to defeat the recall. Davis' about-face prompted our Foundation to ask the Justice Department for a bribery investigation in light of a memo from Mercury's lobbyist suggesting a deal with Davis to flip-flop.

A recent declaration by Mercury's lobbyist reveals that Gray Davis actually consulted Mercury about the content of his announcement that he was signing the bill -- before it was made public. This gives new meaning to the phrase "money talks." That declaration can be read at:

What does Mercury want from Schwarzenegger? Having seen all the money going into Arnold's campaign, Mercury must assume that it is business as usual in Sacramento and Schwarzenegger's signature on the insurer's agenda is up for auction. Californians elected Schwarzenegger to be above all that. Arnold should return Mercury's cash to send the signal that the governor's office is not for sale to an insurer who refuses to let the voters have the last word.

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