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Dec 19, 2006 - 04:45 PM

Bilking Builder Bets On Arnold

by John M. Simpson & Doug Heller
A Los Angeles jury just found that construction giant and Arnold inauguration donor Tutor-Saliba Corporation double-billed the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) when it built LA's Red Line Metro and ordered the company to pay a penalty of $450,000.

Tutor-Saliba may not have fared well in court, but the company is hoping to win over the Gov with campaign contributions. The company, which was also a $50,000 donor to the massive infrastructure bond measures on the November ballot and will undoubtedly seek contracts for bond-funded work, recently gave Arnold's inauguration party fund $15,000. Other Schwarzenegger campaign committees have received $47,300 from Tutor-Saliba.

The verdict against the Tutor-Saliba is not the first time the construction firm was caught gouging the government. Last February it agreed to pay $19 million to settle claims that it overcharged for building the international terminal at San Francisco's airport and violated city minority-contracting laws. Other claims against the company from the 10-year old MTA project are still pending.

The construction firm is kicking in to the inauguration bash in order to help pave the way to get a fat contract from the state to build (and pave) some new highways and other infrastructure projects. The $100,000 plus it has put up for the bonds and given to Arnold will pay for itself many times over if they get a slice of the bonds. And then they'll bill California twice for their work. Arnold should return contributions from any donor found to be bilking the taxpayers. He can start by returning the Tutor-Saliba money.

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