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Feb 11, 2008 - 02:50 PM

Gov offers voter-approved bond money to campaign contributors

by Carmen Balber
The LA Times reports today that Governor Schwarzenegger wants to hand over millions of dollars in state bond money to two of his corporate campaign contributors, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroads.

Prop 1B, the source of the transportation bond money that voters approved at the ballot last November, was advertised as money for highway safety, traffic relief, public transportation and port security. Nobody ever mentioned private railroads.

The $136,200 donated to the governor by Union Pacific (including $15K to his glitzy inaugural ball) and $25,000 from Burlington Northern couldn't have hurt their cause with Arnold. The two railroads also gave $200,000 directly to the campaign to pass 1B.

(The same issue arose at the end of last year's legislative session when a last-minute bill was passed to allow a private developer and large contributor to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nez and Senate pro Tem Don Perata to access Prop 1C funds, the affordable housing bond.)

Arnold fancies himself a modern-day version of Hiram Johnson, the reforming governor who created the initiative process to wipe out the influence of the railroads that dominated Sacramento in the early 20th century. Almost one hundred years later, Schwarzenegger is handing out money approved by the voters through an initiative to the railroad industry. We have nearly come full circle, with the initiative process a tool of the very special interests Johnson set out to destroy.

You can judge for yourself if the Schwarzenegger administration is distributing bond funds fairly, or if donors are getting a leg up in the decision-making process. To someone's credit, the gov set up a website that is supposed to prove the money's being spent fairly. Give me your opinion on whether our money's been invested wisely or squandered. Here's the site:

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