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.”
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– ArnoldWatch.org's special interest appointments:
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:
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 Bee, Sanders quoted Perata as saying his reason for shelving the bills were
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.