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Angelides Urges Gov. to Release Tapes

The challenger's aides hint at what is said in recordings made in Schwarzenegger's office, and they want voters to know before Nov. 7.

October 21, 2006|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — In private conversations in the governor's office earlier this year, Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke with aides about the "failure of Mexican American immigrants to assimilate into American culture" and made "ad hominem remarks about a variety of legislators," Phil Angelides' gubernatorial campaign said Friday.

An attorney for Angelides sent a 10-page letter to Schwarzenegger aides urging them to release recordings of the governor's conversations before the Nov. 7 election.

In the letter, the Angelides campaign offered more detail about what Schwarzenegger said in unguarded moments in his office than has been made public to date.

Angelides aides know what the recordings contain because they downloaded them from the governor's website in late August. But the campaign has declined to release the tapes on its own, calling on Schwarzenegger to take that step.

"Instead of hiding behind his handlers, he should publicly release these records so that the people of the state of California can hear for themselves what the governor believes in candid moments away from the spotlight," Angelides campaign attorney Lance Olson wrote.

Schwarzenegger officials indicated that the governor would not release the recordings, saying they are not a matter of public record.

Schwarzenegger campaign manager Steve Schmidt, in an interview, said of Angelides: "This is yet another act of political desperation by a failing candidate who, with every passing day, makes it clear he lacks the ethics, integrity and character to be governor of California."

At issue are four hours of recordings. They were made by the governor's speech writing team, whose members taped the governor's conversations to familiarize themselves with his cadence and speech patterns. Six minutes of recordings have been made public so far and are posted on The Times' website at

In that snippet, Schwarzenegger, talking casually with his inner circle of advisors, made comments about the temperament of Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City). Discussing her ethnicity, he said it didn't matter if she was Puerto Rican or Cuban.

"I mean, they are all very hot," he said. "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."

Fearing legal repercussions, Angelides campaign officials have been unwilling to release the rest of the recordings. But they've offered hints about what Schwarzenegger says in recent letters to the governor.

In the letter Friday, Olson rebuts Schwarzenegger's claim that the tapes are exempt from disclosure under a legal provision that protects the governor's internal "deliberations."

Olson writes that the recordings "do not relate to anything 'deliberative' at all and are clearly unrelated to speech writing but, rather, discuss Republican Party politics, derogatory remarks about Mexican Americans and observations about legislators and other public figures."

Were Schwarzenegger to demean Mexican Americans, it could produce a backlash.

The governor has been courting Latino voters in hopes of building on the 32% of the Latino vote he received in the 2003 recall election.

After The Times made public part of the recordings last month, the California Highway Patrol opened an investigation. The Schwarzenegger administration had notified the CHP, claiming the Angelides campaign had "penetrated" a secure, password-protected part of the governor's website.

Angelides campaign officials deny that's the case. They said staff members encountered no passwords or obstacles of any kind in downloading the recordings and they assert that others who have visited the governor's website have done much the same thing.

The CHP said it would produce at least a preliminary report quickly. But at this point, with 17 days left in the campaign, no report has emerged.

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