Capitol Punishment

How Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped worrying and learned to love selling out to special interests

Because unions are special interests, but Enron is not.

* * *

I call Veronica. She was just going to call me! Stutzman definitely doesn't have time for coffee—I've picked the week when the governor's budget revise is coming out, for one, and also the week when famed union organizer Miguel Contreras is being laid to rest following a heart attack at the heartbreakingly young age of 52; since all the Dems will be in LA for his funeral, there is no session on Thursday so all the legislators will be gone any second as well—but Stutzman is going to call me. On my phone! Veronica says.

Veronica is a dirty liar.

* * *

I meet up with Tom Umberg. He asks after my small buttercup of a son, even remembering from my column that his name is "Buttercup" (man's got skillz!), and kisses judiciously the ass of Helen, the ancient Latina who runs the private Lege-only elevator. Helen tells us the governor's uncle was in the Capitol yesterday, and she took such good care of him, everyone said so! She even asked him if he would like to go see the Holocaust pictures on the second floor.

"You asked the governor's uncle if he would like to see the Holocaust exhibit?" we ask slowly. "Um, what did he say?"

"He said no," she tells us with a shrug.

Imagine that.

* * *

It's pretty early for Chops. I go anyway. Absolut on the rocks, with a twist. Okay: four.

* * *

Dinner with Gil Cedillo, Tuesday, lateish: We talk about sexy, sexy things. Mostly, the illegal alien driver's license bill, which Cedillo's been working on for seven years now. It's passed the Lege and was signed into law by Gray Davis in a blatant pander to the Latino community. It was Davis's downfall. Cedillo worked a deal with Schwarzenegger too, but Schwarzenegger reneged.

Imagine that.

Cedillo is going to be on the live broadcast of TheAlFrankenShowat the Crest Theater the next morning. I'd planned to go too!


* * *

Wednesday morning, at the Crest, a grand rococo theater of gilt and fleurs-de-lis, of peacock feathers and jewels, more than 900 people have arrived before 9 a.m. to see Al Franken. Security isn't making any of the lurkers sit, and Kelly DiGiacomo, the nurse who was evicted from BeCoolbecause she was wearing her scrubs—and so was clearly some kind of terrorist threat—is handed a tiara and full-blown orange roses fresh from someone's garden.

This is muchnicer than trying to interview the governor.

Phil Angelides (he's our state treasurer, people; get with it!) comes onstage. He's adorable, in a wonky Jew way. Is he Jewish? I don't know! Next to me is a representative from the Association of Flight Attendants, who lost her pension yesterday when a bankruptcy judge okayed United's reneging on labor contracts signed in good faith years ago. She's a little frazzled.

The organizers of the show, seeing my notebook and chic business attire of mismatched separates, escort my new friend and me to the front row. This is good, as it will enable Gil Cedillo, once his segment comes on, to see me stalking him.


But Angelides is a regular showstopper: he talks about Schwarzenegger's speech to the Republican National Convention, the one where he said he'd been inspired by Richard Nixon to enter politics.

"I too was inspired to enter politics by Richard Nixon," Angelides says, and his deadpan timing is impeccable. I'm telling you, people: comedy gold!

He talks about the financial cap Schwarzenegger's placed on the UC system, how $100 million has been cut from inner city outreach alone.

And he talks about shareholders' rights, and not investing California's multibillion-dollar pension funds in companies that incorporate in a post office box overseas. But the governor, who's been losing his ass this year over privatizing pensions the way the president wants to privatize Social Security, hasn't made a peep about pension losses from the corporate scandals at Enron and AIG.

I regret a recent column where my big punch line regarding the coming governor's race was, "But who's gonna beat him? Phil Angelides?"

Clearly Angelides is feeling pretty good about his chances. But a year's more like a dog year in politics, and Schwarzenegger's a ruthless prick.

Now, I'm not the world's best political prognosticator: I called the governor's race for Tom McClintock, and John Kerry by 340-something electoral votes.

But while all the mainstream media is reveling in Schwarzenegger's precipitous recent poll drop—not because they're liberal, but because they'd all bought the myth about his invincibility, so a drop is news, news, news!—I'm not nearly so silly as to think Schwarzenegger couldn't win handily on name ID alone no matter how pissed off at him the nurses (and teachers, and cops, and firefighters) are.

Still, at least Angelides, look-Jew though he does, isn't a stiff in the Gray Davis/Cruz Bustamante vein. If people saw him, they'd like him. Really, he's adorable!

And then Arnold would go on John&Kento remind people the Mexicans are coming, and that would be that.

Behind me, a nurses' lobbyist tells me that, while the Dems will be attending the Rosary for Miguel Contreras in Los Angeles tonight, their fellow Catholic Schwarzenegger will be attending a fund-raiser at the Bonadelle Mansion in Fresno.

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