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Governor's benefactors are named

California State Protocol Foundation funds Schwarzenegger's jets and luxury suites. Members get tax breaks.

December 07, 2007|Michael Rothfeld and Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday revealed for the first time the names of donors to a secretive nonprofit group that has funded his trips by private jet to countries around the world.

Schwarzenegger's benefactors, who will be eligible to receive tax breaks for their contributions to the California State Protocol Foundation, are a cross-section of the powerful: wealthy philanthropists, financiers, corporate moguls, Silicon Valley executives and Napa Valley and Sonoma County vintners.

The governor's aides and the foundation say the arrangement takes a financial burden off taxpayers while allowing Schwarzenegger to serve as an ambassador for the state. Watchdog groups contend it has the potential to allow moneyed donors to wield undue influence without public scrutiny.

The foundation is set up under the same rules as the United Way and Red Cross. State law does not require disclosure of its donors unless the contributions are made at a politician's behest.

Schwarzenegger solicited the $435,000 in gifts for the protocol foundation at a Nov. 7 fundraiser in San Francisco.

In the past, Schwarzenegger's office and the foundation have refused to provide the names of contributors or their links to Schwarzenegger and state government. Their donations paid for his and aides' journeys to Israel, China, Japan, Canada and Europe on trips, described by the governor's office as trade missions, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The group also paid for part of Schwarzenegger's state delegation to China in October for the Special Olympics, an event founded by his mother-in-law.

Under state law, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, must report the donations to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor had never personally raised money for the foundation before.

"That's an outside entity to us," McLear said. "They deal with how they want to disclose -- or not disclose -- their donors."

Some who gave at the fundraiser, held at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, have close ties to Schwarzenegger. Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones, a retired money manager from Woodside, Calif., and the daughter of venture capitalist David Morgenthaler, led a campaign to change the U.S. Constitution so Schwarzenegger could run for president even though he was born in Austria.

She gave $10,000, and her mother, Lindsay Morgenthaler of Ohio, gave $5,000.

Pitch Johnson, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who donated tens of thousands of dollars to Schwarzenegger's reelection last year, contributed $5,000 as well.

Don Fisher, founder of the Gap clothing stores, gave $25,000. Winemakers Robert Mondavi and Robert Lee Hudson gave $10,000 each; and Kay Harrigan Woods, a San Francisco philanthropist whose husband founded Clos Du Bois winery, was also a donor.

Charles Munger Jr., an experimental physicist and son of Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charles T. Munger, gave $25,000.

The political world was represented. George P. Shultz, the former Republican U.S. secretary of State, and Jeremiah Hallisey, a Democratic fundraiser who helped former Gov. Gray Davis, gave to the foundation.

Barry Cinnamon, founder and chief executive officer of Akeena Solar, said he attended the dinner and gave $5,000 for a variety of reasons, but chiefly because he wanted the opportunity to talk to Schwarzenegger about a renewable energy bill pending in Congress. Also, he said, the fundraiser was not far from his San Francisco home and involved "a nice dinner to go to with my girlfriend."

He said the protocol foundation "sounded like something worthwhile."

"Somebody's got to pay for those trips," said Cinnamon, "and I think what he does in terms of spreading the California message is absolutely terrific."

Cinnamon, whose 6-year-old company designs solar systems for homes and businesses, said he talked to Schwarzenegger for three or four minutes about backing federal legislation that would provide the first significant boost in vehicle fuel-economy rules in decades and require greater generation of renewable energy.

Schwarzenegger, he said, was enthusiastic but made no promises. Cinnamon credited the governor with providing stability to the solar industry by launching rebate programs for solar panel installation.

San Francisco philanthropist and socialite Diane Wilsey, president of the board of trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, provided $42,600 worth of food, event design and valet services for the dinner and donated $10,000 as well.

Other donors included Paul Touw, president and CEO of corporate charter jet business XOJet in San Carlos; the Los Angeles law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton; San Francisco arts museum trustee Lonna Wais of Alamo, Calif.; Fred Reid, chief executive of Virgin America airlines; and former banking executive and philanthropist Bernard Osher.

michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

nancy.vogel@latimes.com

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