Schwarzenegger Sets Fund-Raising Record in First Year; Collects More Than $2 Million From Insurance, Health Care Interests
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in his first year in office "smashed every fund-raising record" by accepting at least $26.6 million in donations, including more than $2 million from insurance and health care interests, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the Chronicle, the "vast majority" of the donations "came from special interests" that are "deeply vested in the outcome of legislative and regulatory decisions in Sacramento."
According to the Chronicle, the governor used a "legal loophole" in fund-raising laws that allowed him to collect an unlimited amount of contributions through ballot measure committees, as well as an "all-purpose committee" called the California Recovery Team. New regulations established by the state Fair Political Practices Commission closed the loophole on Nov. 3. Schwarzenegger already had accepted numerous donations that exceeded the state's $21,200 limit, including individual contributions as high as $500,000.
Marty Wilson, a Schwarzenegger adviser who oversees fund-raising efforts, said the governor needed a "very aggressive fund-raising program" to finance some initiatives, including a proposed ballot measure earlier this year to reform the state workers' compensation insurance system that helped push a reform package through the Legislature.
According to the Chronicle, the governor accepted more than $1 million from insurance interests. "[A]ny suggestion to regulate premiums charged by insurers" was "notably absent" from his workers' compensation reform plan, the Chronicle reports.
Schwarzenegger also accepted more than $1 million from health care and drug companies. During his administration, he has vetoed bills that would have addressed the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada, the Chronicle reports. In addition, the Department of Managed Health Care earlier this year planned to approve a merger of WellPoint Health Networks and Anthem without first holding a hearing concerning the deal's impact on patient care, according to the Chronicle.
David Fink, a policy advocate at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said, "He's taken more money from special interests than anyone in this state ever has. He hasn't changed the political culture in Sacramento. It's the status quo. He made everyone believe in him, that he wasn't the typical politician, and he's just like everyone else."
Schwarzenegger recently told reporters that he could not be influenced by contributions from special interest groups and called the subject a "character issue." The governor added that comparing his fund raising to that of former Gov. Gray Davis (D), who in his first year in office raised $13.2 million that he used for a re-election bid, would be a "great comedy."
According to the Chronicle, observers say there probably will be fewer potential campaign issues in the coming year, but it is "unclear whether Schwarzenegger will continue his aggressive fund raising." However, some observers say the governor will always need "huge sums" in order to employ "his chief political skill: meeting throngs of voters and persuading them to support his positions," the Chronicle reports.
Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said, "His fund raising has led to some real big wins for him. That's where his victories are. He'll find something." Stern added, "I think he enjoys doing it. I think he enjoys making policy by ballot measure. That seems to be his biggest joy, going out and campaigning" (Berthelsen, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/17).