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Executive Gives $1.5 Million to Gov.'s Initiative Drives

March 04, 2005|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Spanish-language television magnate A. Jerrold Perenchio has given $1.5 million to the campaign for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's package of initiatives, in the first major infusion of cash for an effort expected to cost $50 million.

Perenchio, the chairman of Century City-based Univision, is among the largest individual donors in California politics, often giving six-figure sums to Republicans and Democrats.

The 74-year-old billionaire reported giving $1.6 million to state and local campaigns last year, including $750,000 to an earlier campaign account that Schwarzenegger set up to wage various ballot measure battles in 2004.

"Any time someone gives you $1.5 million to support your campaign, it is a good thing," said initiative promoter Joel Fox, a co-chairman of Citizens to Save California, the campaign committee that is pushing the Schwarzenegger-backed measures, which are probably headed for a special election ballot in November.

The governor and the campaign committee have endorsed a ballot measure that would make it harder for teachers to get tenure, and a second to reduce state pension costs by moving new state workers and teachers into 401(k)-style pension plans. The governor is expected to endorse other measures, including one to change how legislative districts are drawn and to install government spending caps.

Fox is the former president of the anti-property tax group, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. Others involved in the campaign come from business organizations, including the California Chamber of Commerce. Fox said the campaign's fundraising goal remains $50 million.

Fox said he was not sure who had solicited the money from Perenchio. But he said Schwarzenegger was vital to the fund-raising effort. By law, the governor cannot directly control how the campaign committee spends its money. But he has been helping raise money for the campaign.

"The whole concept is attributable to Schwarzenegger's draw," Fox said. "He is a valuable resource in raising money, and a valuable resource in communicating the reform ideas."

Altogether, Citizens to Save California reported in filings in recent days that it had raised $1.69 million.

The committee received $50,000 from Malin Burnham, chairman of a San Diego real estate company, and $30,000 from homebuilder KB Home.

Gale Kaufman, who is managing a nascent campaign opposing Schwarzenegger's measures, said she was taken aback by the lack of money raised by the Schwarzenegger-backed campaign.

"For all the fundraising that is going on, it is interesting that Mr. Perenchio seems to be the primary source of their money," Kaufman said.

She added that "it is not the first time he has bailed out committees that have had trouble raising money."

Perenchio is a former talent agent who once was producer Norman Lear's business partner. His company, which is publicly traded, reported earlier this week that its fourth-quarter 2004 profit had jumped 14% as its television stations attracted more major advertisers.

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