By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Ironically, Ross may have received an earlier go-ahead from the FPPC to launder the casino money directly into Bustamante’s gubernatorial campaign. FPPC Executive Director Mark Krause told the Weekly a few weeks ago that the practice was acceptable, that it was “an accounting device” that the commission had discussed. Ross was very likely told the same thing. But after the press began to focus on the practice, the FPPC began a classic Sacramento shuffle.
“We have not formally advised anyone that they can do this,” said FPPC chair Liane Randolph. “It is our clear statement of policy that the law does not allow this.” Not that the tame watchdog would offer more than a few perfunctory barks, as she said, smiling, “We get a thousand complaints a year.” She stopped smiling when asked how many such complaints involved $4 million in laundered campaign funds from casino interests.
The tide was turning (editorial writers weighed in around the state, and the FPPC scheduled a special meeting), and Ross wisely backed away, brewing up some lemonade with the Cruz–fronts–No on 54 move.
Speaking of lemons and lemonade, there is Schwarzenegger’s attempt to explain why he is receiving campaign contributions when he can afford to pay for his campaign himself. Schwarzenegger insists he won’t be swayed by contributions, noting that he is “strong-willed,” a superrich movie star and business mogul who will not be in the position of having to grub for money to ensure his survival. He further notes that while it’s been reported that he has “a goal” of spending only $5 million of his own money on the campaign, “I will, of course, spend what it takes.”
Indeed, most of the money in the Schwarzenegger campaign comes from Schwarzenegger. So why raise money from others? He suggests several reasons.
“Many people are excited about what I’m doing, they want to be part of it.” Think of this as the tribute theory. Another is the pragmatic theory: “People giving me money aren’t giving it to someone else.” Some Gray Davis supporters have gone over to Schwarzenegger, and Schwarzenegger’s fund-raising reduces the already slim likelihood that right-winger Tom McClintock can gain financial traction.
Then there is the power theory. Schwarzenegger agrees that he is putting together a bicoastal fund-raising operation, with big plans for New York. As governor of California, Schwarzenegger could become a huge player in national politics, though not president because he was born in Austria. Finally, there is the governance theory. “If Arnold tried to triangulate between the two parties in Sacramento,” says one top Republican strategist, “he could be whipsawed by the left and the right. He needs to have some control over the Republican Party, especially if he is going to bring it into the 21st century. Popular appeal is not enough; he needs a handle on the party’s resource base.”
Of course, with Arnold gaining all these handles, the people he is receiving money from might just gain a handle on him. There are, however, some signs of independence.
Although Schwarzenegger just received an unprecedented endorsement from the state Chamber of Commerce — the first time in 100 years that it has endorsed a gubernatorial candidate — the ex–Mr. Universe, as he told the Weekly last summer, strongly backs the state’s landmark anti-global-warming law, which had been targeted by the Chamber and other business groups as a major “job killer.” Schwarzenegger also backs major renewable-energy programs.
These are positions that Davis had to be lobbied into supporting, though the governor’s support, once gained, was very helpful. Schwarzenegger is showing some independence from the conventional business view, but it’s clear that his fund-raising will have to be scrutinized.
And what of Hollywood, the Terminator’s stomping ground and the happiest of hunting grounds for Democratic pols in recent years? Press reports on Hollywood money focus on it not flowing to Schwarzenegger. Duh. Most Hollywood stars and players are Democrats. The relevant point is that Hollywood Democrats are not rallying behind Davis and Bustamante. In a close race, that can make the difference.
The incumbent, who has impressed of late with some town-hall performances that would have been especially timely six months ago, probably didn’t impress Hollywood or anyone else with several tacky occurrences in recent days. In one incident, Davis campaign minions shouted down Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger’s wife and JFK’s niece, as she tried to register voters at a Sacramento shopping center Monday. Over the weekend, Davis landed himself in hot water with this crack: “You shouldn’t be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state.” Of course referring to the action hero’s famous accent, the governor didn’t seem to understand that Schwarzenegger’s “Kah-lee-fohr-nyah” is basically the way California is pronounced in the mother tongue of a third of all Californians, albeit without the Black Forest baritone. In his familiar style, Davis declined to apologize for the crack, calling it a joke, then blasted Schwarzenegger for opposing the bill to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants — which Davis had just signed after vetoing it last year and which was necessitated by a bill Bustamante voted for in 1993. Just before that, Schwarzenegger — now running a fairly close second to Bustamante among Latino voters — had been mysteriously uninvited from the Mexican Independence Day parade, of which he was to have been grand marshal. Schwarzenegger received a letter of invitation just before he announced his candidacy, and a follow-up request a few weeks later, from a board member of the sponsoring Mexican Patriotic Civic Committee, who has since resigned over the incident. The Weekly has not heard back from parade sponsors. But even though more than 50 percent of Latino voters back the recall, L.A.’s Latino politicians, whose backing is crucial to the parade, are all lined up with the Democratic establishment.
And there they were with Davis at the parade, grinning and waving to their constituents in “Kah-lee-fohr-nyah.”