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How Much From Special Interests?

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Political Reform

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Governor Schwarzenegger rode a wave of public anger into office, as Californians revolted against the vote-trading, favor-mongering, and money-grubbing that is the status quo in Sacramento. Yet Arnold’s credentials as the man who will clean up the capitol have already worn thin, as he took millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the very special interests he pledged to sweep from the capitol and began appointing big business lobbyists to his cabinet.

As noted by the Los Angeles Times: "It may be that Schwarzenegger can't be bought, but the perception around Sacramento will be that those who contribute generously have a better chance at access and favors than those who do not. This perception isn't helped by the state Chamber of Commerce's underwriting of his 2,000-person inaugural lunch Nov. 17."

What Arnold Says About Political Reform What ArnoldWatch Sees
"I will go to Sacramento and I will clean house. I don’t have to take money from anybody. I have plenty of money."* And yet Arnold accepted more than $14 million in contributions from business and other people. This has apparently made it difficult for him to clean house, as his cabinet looks more like "this old house," with numerous appointees from the Wilson administration and others from the upper echelon of Sacramento’s powerful lobbying corps.
"Any of those kinds of real big, powerful special interests, if you take money from them, you owe them something."** Arnold’s top five donors are among the most powerful special interests in Sacramento (view chart). What does he owe them?

His effort to make exceptions to this rule to explain his own fundraising rings hollow.
"I want to bring the government back to the people." Arnold seems to mean that he will hand over government to the big business people. His high-ranking deputies include an HMO executive, a timber lobbyist and his legislative chief was the Chamber of Commerce’s top lobbyist.

Schwarzenegger's first meal as governor is a private luncheon sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
"It is inherently suspect for politicians to be taking money from lobbyists while they are spending the people's money. As Governor I will propose a ban on all fundraising by the legislature and the Governor from the day I propose a budget until I sign a budget." This is a subtler version of Arnold’s awkward definition of special interests as groups that have contracts with the state. Of course, most of the legislative year is spent debating non-budget issues that many special interests seek to influence. If Arnold is serious about rooting out the unseemly fundraising that goes on while important decisions are being made, he would extend the ban until all bills are signed or vetoed at the end of the legislative session.
"As Governor I will propose legislation to punish willful and knowing violations of the campaign finance laws as a felony [such as] intentional and knowing money laundering to hide the true source of a contribution." Arnold needs to review his own fundraising tactics: he received a $4 million bank loan and is now holding fundraisers to repay himself. This is another form of laundering that allows a candidate to hide the true source of funding until after the election - when special interests are more certain of a return on their investment.
"Money should not unduly influence politics [and] influence peddling should stop." Arnold will continue to justify his own fundraising by stating that his fundraising doesn’t influence him, as though he has a special superpower to resist the influence of campaign money.

The only way money will not have unduly influenced politics is if big business donors do not get special legislative or regulatory victories. We shall see.
All Schwarzenegger quotes are from, except *Sacramento Bee August 7, 2003 and **San Diego Union Tribune August 31, 2003

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