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THE RECALL CAMPAIGN

Schwarzenegger Got Tribal, Union Funds for Prop. 49

Some see inconsistency in his current position, which shuns such help. An aide cites differences.

September 06, 2003|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — In his campaign for governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has labeled unions and Indian tribes that operate casinos as "special interests" and rejected their campaign money.

But last year, as Schwarzenegger was raising money for a ballot initiative he was promoting, he accepted $530,000 from the California Teachers Assn., one of the most powerful public employees unions in the state. And he hosted a fund-raising brunch for Indian tribes in San Diego, three of which gave a combined $62,000.

The donations helped Schwarzenegger's effort to finance the successful campaign for Proposition 49, which aimed to expand before- and after-school programs. That campaign was an opportunity to show he had public policy views and to burnish his image for a future gubernatorial run. At the time, he was widely seen as a likely candidate for the 2006 election.

Representatives of the teachers and one of the tribes that donated to the initiative campaign said they were confounded by the candidate's turnaround.

"We were good folks to come to for Proposition 49," said David Baron, who oversees governmental affairs for the Barona Band of Mission Indians, which donated $10,000. "But now that he is running for election to a statewide office, we are taboo. It is a little odd."

Schwarzenegger campaign aide Sean Walsh said there was a major difference between fund-raising for Proposition 49 and the candidate's decision to turn down donations from some groups as he runs for governor.

The actor "was not in a position during Proposition 49 to affect public policy as it directly related to these organizations," Walsh said. If the actor becomes governor, he will have to negotiate with public employees and with casino-owning tribes.

"He has set a bar: When he is having direct negotiations with a group, he does not want the public confidence to be undermined," Walsh said. "He doesn't want to give the impression that he is beholden to any group."

Walsh read from remarks the candidate made this week to the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, in which Schwarzenegger supports tribal sovereignty and the tribes' right to operate casinos.

"Since I want to be governor of this state," Schwarzenegger told the newspaper, "I want to do things for them because it is right for the people and it is right for them, rather than because I get money.... I want to have their endorsement, but I don't want them to pay for it."

At least some campaign finance experts agreed that there is a difference between raising money for an initiative campaign and for a gubernatorial run.

Donors "may have ingratiated themselves to him by contributing to his pet project," said California Common Cause's Jim Knox. "But there is a distinction. Those contributions were for a specific measure, up or down."

However, state Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks, a fellow Republican and one of Schwarzenegger's rivals in the recall race to replace Gov. Gray Davis, chastised the movie star.

"He changes directions quite often," said McClintock, a recent recipient of tribal donations. "One wonders why contributions that are not special interest money one day become special interest donations the next, and vice versa."

Since announcing his candidacy, Schwarzenegger has striven to make an issue of the influence of campaign donations on state officeholders -- even as he holds fund-raisers, three of which are planned today in Sacramento and Sonoma.

"I will never take money from the special interests, from Indian gaming or from unions or anything like that," he said at a Labor Day appearance at the California State Fair in Sacramento.

That was a modification of his initial campaign pledge not to take outside money.

He has collected almost $6 million in his gubernatorial campaign account, according to reports filed with the California secretary of state. He contributed $3.5 million of that himself; the rest has come largely from real estate developers, corporate executives, venture capitalists, contractors, winemakers and numerous small donations. Many of those groups have business pending in Sacramento.

Schwarzenegger spent more than $2 million of his own money on Proposition 49, which passed with 55% of the vote and earmarks around $500 million a year for after-school programs. (Because of the funding formula in the initiative, none of that money has yet been available.)

Altogether, the star raised $9 million for that campaign. Much of the money came from Hollywood figures and wealthy individuals who take a personal interest in education, including billionaire John Walton of the family that founded Wal-Mart. Walton, a major political donor, gave $400,000 to Proposition 49.

A. Jerrold Perenchio, chairman of the Spanish-language Univision TV network, gave $1 million.

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