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Nov 16, 2004 - 10:30 AM

Furry Little Arnold

by David Fink and Douglas Heller
In the weeks leading up to the November election Governor Schwarzenegger took cues from the savviest of woodland creatures: he stocked up for the winter. The Gov. took $500,000 from real estate mogul and developer Alex Spanos, $100K from The Home Depot, $750K from mortgage lender Ameriquest Capital, $250K from the parent company of Fox News Channel and $1.5 million from tech billionaire Henry Nicholas. Based on the latest public reports, Arnold will have millions to put in his burrow for the next political season. ArnoldWatch has just released the new Arnold's Top 100 donors and an updated chart of his top donors by industry, available at:

These recent mega-contributions are particularly noteworthy because, as of Nov. 2nd, Arnold is no longer allowed to sidestep voter-enacted contribution limits through creative financing schemes. Last June, the Fair Political Practices Commission approved a rule change requiring that all campaign committees controlled by a politician be subject to the same contribution limits applied to their regular candidate committees. The limit for donations to the Governor is $21,200.

The FPPC decided not to put this rule into effect until after the election, allowing Arnold to continue raising above-limits contributions including the millions noted above. The decision to hold off on this rule probably made the difference in a number of initiative battles this past election. The question now is whether Arnold will try to circumvent the new rules or if he'll respect the voters' limits on political fundraising. Today, gubernatorial fundraiser Marty Wilson said the Gov. would comply with the rules, because: "We don't have the pressure to raise the kind of money in 2005 that we did in 2004." But earlier this year Arnold's attorney Charles Bell cynically dismissed the rule change: "When you look at a piece of swiss cheese it does have holes in it."

What happens when the 2006 ballot initiative season comes around? Will Arnold use those holes to avoid the new rules and squirrel away millions more? He might open an endless string of new committees to allow contributors to give $21,200 multiple times. He could ask donors to give money to committees he doesn't officially control, like the California Republican party, the Chamber of Commerce PAC or other ostensibly independent political committees. Arnold has also created a series of private political charities into which he can funnel money without having to disclose a dime. Of course, the public might just smell a rat if the governor elected to clean up cash register politics sweeps the new rules under the rug.


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