The Game Goes On

You may remember this Arnold Schwarzenegger commercial from the recall election, which described how Sacramento works: "Here's how it works. Money goes in. Favors go out. The people lose. We need to send a message. Game over." Well, if you thought you were sending a message by voting for Schwarzenegger, you were wrong. Because in the land of Governor Schwarzenegger, it's still Game On.

In this morning's San Diego Union-Tribune, Bill Ainsworth reports that "Schwarzenegger has carried on the political tradition of providing favors – in the form of coveted state appointments – to generous campaign donors."

At least 13 of Schwarzenegger's appointees, their spouses and their companies have contributed more than $1.4 million to his campaigns, according to campaign disclosure forms and a review by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.Schwarzenegger has hired some donors for key positions in government, but has also made several appointments that bestow prestige rather than pay. He has named five major donors or their spouses to the unpaid Del Mar Fair Board, one of the most sought-after appointments in state government.

Among Schwarzenegger's appointees to the board was defense contractor Brent Wilkes, who has since resigned. Wilkes has been identified as a co-conspirator in the case of convicted former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Wilkes has not been charged.

During the 2003 campaign, he served as county finance co-chairman for Schwarzenegger. Wilkes, his wife, Regina, and his company, ADCS Inc., contributed $77,400 to Schwarzenegger.

Also on the list of generous appointees is OC strawberry and green beans baron

A.C. Kawamura

. Kawamura went from Arnold donor ($21,200) to being in charge of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Secretary Kawamura previously made another list--

's special interest appointments:

Kawamura donated $21,200 to Arnold. He is a past chairman of the Western Growers Association, which has been a vocal opponent of legislation protecting farmworkers and the environment enacted over the past several years.The Food and Agriculture Department is responsible for environmental, public safety and other regulations governing agricultural interests. Kawamura's appointment is incongruous - it places a man who ran an anti-regulation organization in charge of development and implementation of regulatory safeguards. Farmworkers, and the environment in farming communities, are bound to suffer when agribusiness interests take the forefront at the department.

Among the legislation opposed by the Western Growers was last year's SB 700, which required farmers to obtain pollution permits for certain diesel powered field machinery. Previously, agricultural interests were exempt from the emission rules that require permits for other industries and Central Valley air quality was greatly compromised as a result.

Agricultural interests gave Arnold's campaign committees more than half a million dollars.

Of course, sometimes the process is reversed, and the favors go out, before the money goes in. As Jim Sanders reported in the

Sacramento Bee

on Saturday:

A campaign committee controlled by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata accepted a half-million dollars from a builders' trade group Thursday, just two days after the Oakland Democrat killed flood legislation opposed by the group.The $500,000 donation was made by the California Building Industry Association to Rebuilding California, a committee formed by Perata to promote school, housing transportation and flood-control bonds on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Bob Stern, former general counsel to the Fair Political Practices Commission, said there is nothing illegal about the builders' contribution but that the timing "looks bad."

Looks bad

, you must admit, is a charming understatement. But a day earlier in the


, Sanders quoted Perata as saying his reason for shelving the bills were

last-minute amendments by Schwarzenegger to AB 1899 that he said would weaken the bill, favored developers and were unacceptable."We're not going to go through all this (wrangling) and not have a tough-enough law," he said.


By shelving the eight-bill package, Perata not only cured a legislative headache, he pleased development interests that have been generous campaign contributors both to him and Schwarzenegger.

Perata's campaign committee to support five bond measures on the Nov. 7 ballot has solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers or real-estate interests, while Schwarzenegger's campaign committees have collected more than $5 million from developers over the past year, state records show.

$5 million is, of course, 10 times what the CBIA just dropped on Perata's committee.

Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, said the building industry has become increasingly powerful since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office.

"Let me put it this way: The governor is the tractor, and they're working the gears," Florez said. "And you can quote me."

And so, the money keeps going in and the favors keep coming out… but maybe that can save Governor Schwarzenegger some money. Instead paying for new commercials, he could just recycle his old recall election commercials, and campaign against the corrupting influence of money in Sacramento, as symbolized by a governor who sucks up dollars at a dizzying rate.


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