SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was not inspecting the orange crop when he slipped out of the state for a quick trip to Florida, and he wasn't eyeing a new set of wheels when he visited with car dealers.
Nor was he parched when he bellied up to liquor dealers in Lake Tahoe, or craving a burger when he chatted with Jack-in-the-Box owners. Rather, he was gobbling up campaign money at each stop.
As legislators were approving more than 1,000 bills in August, Schwarzenegger was crossing the state, and the country, soliciting campaign cash. Now, as he decides whether to sign those bills into law or nix them with a veto, he will be cashing checks from scores of contributors whose interests intersect with legislation.
Schwarzenegger is vastly out-raising his Democratic challenger, state Treasurer Phil Angelides. He has taken $26.4 million into his reelection account so far this year, compared with Angelides' $13.4 million, according to records filed with the Secretary of State's office.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 13, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Governor's fundraising: An article in Monday's Section A about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fundraising described a pending bill, SB 1640, as a measure to increase monitoring of contaminants in groundwater. In fact, it would increase monitoring of groundwater supply.
Last week alone, the Republican governor held five fundraisers, including two on Friday in the Central Valley, two in Los Angeles and one in suburban Sacramento. He has scheduled at least 22 such events this month.
"This is exactly the kind of practice he said he was going to Sacramento to end," said Angelides consultant Bill Carrick.
As a candidate in the 2003 recall campaign, Schwarzenegger called for fundraising blackout periods covering times when weighty decisions were being made. The proposal was a swipe at then-Gov. Gray Davis -- the man Schwarzenegger ousted -- who used the months when he was signing bills as prime fundraising season.
Schwarzenegger never followed through on his own idea.
Former Gov. George Deukmejian, a Republican and a Schwarzenegger backer who chastised Davis for raising money during bill signings, similarly criticized the current governor in an interview last week.
"Personally, I think that should be avoided because it a very sensitive time," Deukmejian said. "It is the appearance. I'm sure he wouldn't do anything in exchange for a contribution. But it does give that appearance. That should be avoided."
Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Matt David said the governor is not influenced by the money he raises. "The governor makes decisions based on what is in the best interest of Californians," David said.
In his quest to be reelected, Schwarzenegger is raising money from all manner of businesses: restaurants, insurance companies, banks, financial services providers, construction and real estate interests, farmers, energy producers and car dealers. All have business before the state.
New-car dealers have given Schwarzenegger almost $1 million this year, nearly $80,000 of it in August. Angelides has received less than $11,000 from donors who identify themselves as car dealers.
The car sales industry has taken positions on numerous bills awaiting the governor's action. One measure, by Assemblyman Joe Nation (D-San Rafael), would require that half of all cars sold in California by 2020 be fueled by alternative sources.
Peter Welch, president of the California Motor Car Dealers Assn., said he feared the bill would limit showroom selection and hike costs. But he also said no single action by the governor would turn car dealers against him; they support Schwarzenegger because of his generally pro-business attitude, including opposition to taxes and support for freeway construction.
For the dealers, Welch said, the choice between the two candidates "is night and day. The choice is very stark."
Agriculture is another sector that gives heavily to Schwarzenegger -- more than $1 million this year -- and little to Angelides. The California Farm Bureau co-hosted a fundraiser for Schwarzenegger on Friday in Modesto.
Several bills pending before the governor would affect farmers. The Farm Bureau opposes SB 1640 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), that would increase monitoring of contaminants in groundwater. Another, SB 815 by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), could lead to higher workers' compensation charges for employers, farmers say.
George Gomes, the California Farm Bureau's administrator, said he doubts any single donation sways a governor. He noted that Schwarzenegger has championed issues dear to farmers, such as increasing water supplies for the state. And like the car dealers, farmers are alarmed by Angelides' talk of tax hikes.
"That is a clear signal about how little he cares about farmers," Gomes said, in a reference to the Democrat. "Agriculture is more conservative and has supported the more conservative candidates."
For his part, Angelides depleted his campaign account in his successful primary run against state Controller Steve Westly, which cost $28 million. Westly, a wealthy former EBay executive, spent $43 million on his losing effort.