Arnold Does Manhattan
The first time in years he won't have top billing.
Sep 6, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 48 • By DAVID DEVOSS
Incessant fundraising was a major factor contributing to the demise of Gray Davis. During the campaign, Schwarzenegger promised he would never cater to special interests, if only because he was a millionaire not dependent on political donations. He did use his own money, much of it coming from personal bank loans he intended to have political contributors repay after the election. But a Sacramento judge ruled the scheme illegal. After that, Schwarzenegger was aggressively looking for contributions. So far this year his fundraising efforts have netted an average of $2 million a month, about $400,000 more than the $1.6 million Gray Davis averaged during his five years in office.
Schwarzenegger's quest for cash has attracted relatively little criticism, perhaps because much of it goes for perks for political allies. About $450,000 has been spent this year on travel for consultants and political aides, some of whom are rewarded with trips on the executive jet leased by his Santa Monica production company. He paid campaign consultants $1.5 million, spent $437,000 on attorneys and accountants, and gave pollsters more than $300,000. Along with the carrots comes the occasional stick. Recently, he funded a separate political corporation with $240,000 to pay for political rallies in districts where uncooperative legislators need to be shown who's boss.
Schwarzenegger is not shy when it comes to taking credit for political accomplishments. In June he celebrated a deal with five Indian tribes that should produce $1.5 billion in additional state revenues. Beneath an enormous banner reading "Promises Made; Promises Kept" in a ceremony that could have been directed by Howard Hawks, Schwarzenegger and the Indian chiefs exchanged gifts and did everything but smoke a peace pipe. Such high production values don't come cheap. Schwarzenegger paid vendors like San Francisco's Hartmann Studios more than $600,000 this year to choreograph his public appearances.
But not all of the governor's achievements are worth celebrating. Wearing a dark gray suit, lime-green tie, and cowboy boots embroidered with the governor's official seal, Schwarzenegger praised California's $105 billion state budget at a festive signing earlier this month. "This is a fair and responsible budget," he said, smiling. "It is balanced and it does not raise taxes." Noticeably absent from the ceremony were most of the state's 46 Republican legislators, more than a third of whom refused to vote for the document.
In fact, the budget is balanced only because of massive borrowing, accounting tricks, and false revenue assumptions. State spending has actually increased and so dramatically that deficits of up to $10 billion are projected for each of the next two years. "You can be a popular governor or an effective governor," says Sacramento Bee political columnist Dan Walters. "Unfortunately, Arnold loves to be loved."
"Schwarzenegger arrived in Sacramento with impressive political skills and a clear mandate to clean house," Walters adds. "Despite this leverage he's been surprisingly eager to roll over. For all his tough talk, he's the real girly man."
Some political observers believe Schwarzenegger will declare victory at a huge political rally and return to Hollywood when his term expires in 2006. Others predict he'll run for the Senate against Dianne Feinstein so he can exit Sacramento before all California's debts come due. Reportedly, Maria Shriver is no longer looking for a house in Sacramento, a fact that is cited as proof for both scenarios.
Close friend and political mentor Pete Wilson knows only what's not likely to occur. "Arnold has no interest in any legislative role," he says. "The next obvious step would be up to the national level where he could be chief executive or vice president. But that's not going to happen."
East-West News Service editor David DeVoss reports on California politics.