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Mar 12, 2004 - 12:10 PM

Arnold's $800,000 Star Chamber

by Douglas Heller & Carmen Balber
What happens when you mix Arnold's star quality with a private commission that looks like it was drawn up by the Chamber of Commerce? You get the Star Chamber that the Governor has dubbed his "Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth." It is comprised almost exclusively of CEOs, many of whom are big donors to Schwarzenegger (over $800,000 went to Arnold's political committees from the commission's members.)

This group, tasked with "identifying legislative, regulatory and administrative barriers" to businesses in California, will inevitably make the pronouncements we expect from corporate CEOs: consumer, environmental and worker protections are just too much regulation and business taxes are too high for corporate comfort.

What makes the group even more problematic is that unike most state commissions, this is a purely private affair. In creating this Star Chamber of donors, Arnold has completely torn down the firewall that is supposed to stand between campaign contributions and policy decisions. Instead of opening up government to the sunshine he promised on the campaign trail, the Gov has put his decision-making process behind closed doors and into the hands of his corporate donors.

Rather than giving CEOs a special platform to second guess government, Arnold should sit down (for the first time) with consumer groups and others who can offer another perspective on what's good for California and its economy.

Finally, Arnold's Star Chamber should not operate in the shadows. The advice of his task force, regardless of its membership, should be open to the public and subject to the public records act, so taxpayers have access to the process. Otherwise, the Star Chamber should disband. We hope Arnold's donors would understand.

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