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Schwarzenegger Meets Movers and Shakers in New York City

August 13, 2003|Joe Mathews | Times Staff Writer

In the early days of the campaign, Arnold Schwarzenegger often said with pride that he would spend his own money on his campaign because he didn't need the money of interest groups or big donors. "I have enough money already," he said.

But during a brief trip this week to New York, Schwarzenegger -- at the Four Seasons Grill Room in Manhattan -- for the first time dipped his finger in the waters of high-level campaign fund-raising.

At lunch Monday with eight New Yorkers prominent in business and politics, an impressed businessman asked Schwarzenegger if he would accept a donation to his campaign. His reply, according to two people who attended: He might well come back to New York to do just that, but he is not far along enough in his campaign to do that now.

Schwarzenegger had to be in Harlem this week for a long-planned ceremony involving an after-school sports program he heads. Late last week, he asked Republican Gov. George Pataki to put together a lunch with heavy political hitters, three New York Republicans said. And Pataki, who aides said knows Schwarzenegger from years of political functions the actor has attended, responded by putting his top fund-raiser, Charles Gargano, the state's economic development czar, at the actor's disposal.

"The governor thinks Arnold Schwarzenegger running for California governor is terrific," said Mollie Fullington, a press secretary for Pataki. "He gives fresh ideas and new perspectives."

Over heritage tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, poached salmon and seasonal berries that one diner said needed whipped cream, Schwarzenegger and Gargano launched the lunch with a discussion of California's budget and economy -- and the outsized impact each has on the nation. Attendees said much of the conversation was "fun," with Schwarzenegger even talking about Austria with one guest.

At the table were the Republican National Committee finance chairman Lew Eisenberg, J.P. Morgan Chase's International Vice Chairman David Coulter, real estate mogul Arnold Fisher and airline leasing company owner Richard Santulli, a friend of Schwarzenegger's. Also at the table were Santulli's business partner, James Jacobs, and the head of the Manhattan Republican Committee, Jim Ortenzio.

Schwarzenegger told his lunch mates that California lacked an economic plan and that as governor, he would listen to voters and experts from all walks of life, put together a plan and act on it. His first acts would be to build business confidence, though he did not discuss specifics. Coulter, the banker, said at the lunch that he was impressed with Schwarzenegger's knowledge of economics, one attendee said.

Another attendee said Schwarzenegger left the impression that he would run a "Reaganesque" campaign. "This guy is solid timber," Ortenzio said. "I meet a lot of people interested in running for office, and his scope and understanding of the problems in California were really astounding."

Ortenzio called Schwarzenegger "forceful.... He means what he says." Ortenzio added: "I don't think he will permit himself to be overly handled" by campaign advisors.

Schwarzenegger's campaign did not list the event (or a brief stop at a birthday party at a lower Manhattan community center) on its public schedule. Before the lunch, press secretary Karen Hanretty had said that Schwarzenegger would not meet donors or political figures. Asked about Pataki and the aides, she said that she knew of no event and that there was no "official" fund-raiser on Schwarzenegger's calendar.

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