FOR A GOVERNOR WHO CLAIMS to take no pleasure in raising money, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is spectacularly good at it. Gov. Gray Davis had a reputation for focusing too hard on fundraising and not enough on leadership, which is partly why he was drummed out of office, but Schwarzenegger has taken campaign fundraising to a new level. On a recent 17-day tour that took him from Sacramento to Boston and back, the governor is expected to have raised about $5 million on top of the $22 million he already had gathered this year. And the campaign won't really begin until after Labor Day.
More than that, Times staff writers Robert Salladay and Peter Nicholas reported last week on another key source of funds to help pay the governor's political expenses: money contributed by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations that do not have to report the identities of their donors to state political regulators. The organizations are run by Schwarzenegger's closest aides. One such group pays the $6,000-a-month rent on Schwarzenegger's Sacramento hotel suite. The Times learned that donors to these organizations include Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and Wells Fargo Bank.
Some of the corporations and special interests contributing to these nonprofits have business before the state. If the governor backs them, there is no way for voters to know about influence peddling, meaning there is no way to hold him accountable. Further, the normal limits on the size of contributions don't apply.