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Jan 12, 2005 - 05:05 PM

Arnold's Special Interest Tools

by Carmen Balber and Doug Heller
Arnold and his corporate backers have contrived yet another way to get around California's campaign finance rules. We shouldn't be surprised. When the FPPC issued rules last spring (after ArnoldWatch complained that the Governor was violating voter approved Prop 34) to block Arnold from accepting above-the-limits contributions from donors, his lawyer admitted to the that the Gov would find a way to cheat the law: "When you look at a piece of swiss cheese it does have holes in it."

The new rules went into effect in November limiting the amount the gov can receive from any one source to $22,300. Despite threatening to find loopholes, Arnold's fundraising team said they'd comply, because "We don't have the pressure to raise the kind of money in 2005 that we did in 2004."

But when Arnold announced his intention to call a special election in 2005 and put his agenda on the ballot, he quickly changed tunes and had his loophole committee established. To evade the new rules Arnold needs a legally independent group into which his special interests can contribute bigger chunks of money than the $22,300 that the law allows.

Enter the "Citizens to Save California." This so-called citizen group was started by the big special interests that will benefit from Schwarzenegger's agenda (corporations that want to destroy the California Pension system, businesses that want to protect their tax loopholes, and industries that want to see independent consumer protection boards swallowed up into the political bureaucracy).

Despite the legal distinction between this group and Arnold, the veil of independence is pulled back as soon as its founders (who already have close ties to Arnold) try to explain their new group:

"[The committee] can certainly talk to the governor's office... Wherever he moves, a lot of things move with him." (Joel Fox, a former consultant to Schwarzenegger, in the LA Times)

"The governor laid out an agenda in the State of the State speech...Our desire is to help him achieve that agenda." (Rick Claussen, who worked for Arnold on his March 2004 ballot campaign, in the Times)

"Clearly the group wants to support the governor, and we want to be a tool in this process." (Claussen in the SJ Mercury News)

This committee is, in their own words, a tool of the Governor and should be subject to the voter approved campaign finance law. If the committee accepts contributions larger than $22,300, then the Fair Political Practices Commission should investigate and hold Arnold to the same laws as every other politician.

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