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Sep 07, 2007 - 01:00 AM

Arnold Won’t Come Clean

by Doug Heller & Carmen Balber
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that Governor Schwarzenegger has refused a State Senator's request for documents that could reveal that the administration influenced the purchase of more than 1100 vehicles from General Motors. The $17 million purchase was part of a flex-fuel program that was supposed to decrease the amount of gasoline used by the state's fleet of cars, but to date, not a drop of alternative E-85 fuel has been pumped into these cars.

GM has a multi-layered financial relationship with Schwarzenegger, including a deal worth $15 million in cash and goods the automaker gave to the gov's non-profit Arnold's All-Stars.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights called for an audit of the deal in July, and State Senator Dean Florez opened an investigation, which led to today's refusal by the Schwarzenegger administration to make documents available.

"I'm shocked at the administration's decision," Florez said. "This is a public contract and deserves a public airing of the circumstances surrounding this contract. From their own letter, it appears that high-level administrative staff... may have been involved in the procurement of vehicles from General Motors..."

Florez said the role the governor and his officials may have played in the car purchases should be made public because contract specifications were dramatically altered from past fleet purchases. Those changes resulted in just one model of car and truck -- both made by GM -- that met the requirements for the multi-million-dollar contracts.

The legislative hearing led by Florez in July was prompted by a Mercury News investigation that showed the Schwarzenegger administration had spent $17 million to purchase 1,138 alternative-fuel vehicles from GM, trumpeting the buys as a major breakthrough for the environment.

State fleet managers who bought the cars and trucks were given "green" awards and told they were advancing "the governor's goal of reducing petroleum consumption," a state Web site shows.

However, two years after the administration began buying the GM cars and trucks, the vehicles had traveled a collective 10 million miles, but had run on nothing but gasoline.

The Senator gave the governor a chance to voluntarily address what looks like an example of his administration applying pressure to benefit a significant donor. His last chance is a new hearing called for Sept. 24th. If he won't answer on his own, a state audit can force him to make his involvement public.

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