Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Governor and big business allies

Governor, allies spent $23 million

Ballot measure costs rising, with foes having raised $22 million.

By Gary Delsohn -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, August 2, 2005
With his special election still more than three months away, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his business allies have spent more than $23 million since the first of the year to qualify and promote his ballot initiatives.

New campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state's office on Monday show most of the pro-Schwarzenegger money went to petition circulators, political consultants, direct mail, and television and radio advertising.

The money was almost equally divided between Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team, which spent $11 million, and the Citizens to Save California, a business group, which spent $12 million.

"You've got very big numbers coming in, and I don't think it's unrealistic that in what was supposed to be an off-election year - when it's all done - this special election could see in excess of $500 million in spending," said Barbara O'Connor, a politics and media expert at California State University, Sacramento.

"The numbers are extraordinary. They're obscene - despite the fact the citizenry of California says, 'We don't want this election, we don't understand why you're doing it and why aren't you doing your jobs, you politicians?' "

Various groups have come out against the Republican governor's special election initiatives, including the California Teachers Association and the Alliance for a Better California, a coalition of Democrats and public employee labor unions. They have raised about $22 million and spent about half that on advertising against Schwarzenegger's agenda.

Shortly after Schwarzenegger laid out his government overhaul agenda in January, he said he would need $50 million to campaign for his ballot initiatives. He predicted the other side would spend at least $200 million.

"In a state the size of California, it costs an awful lot of money to get your message out," said Todd Harris, a Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman.

"We've had to pay for TV advertising, for radio advertising, for the governor's political events. And when you do all of that in a state this size, the money adds up very quickly."

The pro-and anti-Schwarzenegger money is especially noteworthy given that his "reform" agenda has shrunk considerably from when he first announced his intentions.

His proposal for teacher merit pay never qualified for the ballot. Schwarzenegger withdrew his pension overhaul proposal when it created an outcry from unions and public safety officials who said it would have eliminated death and disability payments for widows and orphans, something Schwarzenegger denied.

A Superior Court judge disqualified Schwarzenegger's redistricting proposal after state Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued because circulated petitions contained language different from the measure filed and certified for signature gathering.

Although Schwarzenegger and his allies say they hope a court appeal will get redistricting back on the ballot, they're currently certain of submitting just two measures to voters.

His so-called "Live Within Our Means" initiative, which would give the governor broad new powers to make spending cuts, trails in voter surveys. His other proposal, making it harder for public school teachers to get tenure, is ahead in most polls.

Although the spending report for Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team shows the committee was $1 million in debt on June 30, spokesman Harris said it now has about $1 million in the bank.

"The debt is gone," Harris said. "We're doing very well right now as far as fundraising goes, but we are facing an opponent with a bottomless well of money from which to draw, so we are ever mindful of that fact."

Two Democratic state officeholders who want to take Schwarzenegger's job - Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly - have 2006 gubernatorial bank accounts that dwarf Schwarzenegger's own 2006 fund.

Schwarzenegger collected $2.1 million for 2006 during the first six months of the year - although he has not yet said whether he will seek a second term.

The governor's re-election account was left with about $150,000 on hand and $275,000 in debt at the end of June. It spent more than $2 million on campaign consultants, political events and a $35,000-plus hotel bill at the Hyatt Regency, where Schwarzenegger bunks while in Sacramento.

The campaign paid $254,000 to Oak Productions, Schwarzenegger's holding company, and $202,000 to San Francisco-based Hartmann Studios, which has provided lighting and other production assistance for some of his public appearances. The re-election committee also gave $1 million to the governor's California Recovery Team.

Angelides, the first to announce he would run for the Democratic nomination next year, had $16.8 million in the bank at the end of June, having raised $4.7 million in the first six months of the year. He formally entered the race in March.

Westly's campaign announced Monday that he had $13.2 million on hand at the end of the reporting period, including $10 million of his own money that he poured into the race after he announced his candidacy in June. The former eBay executive also contributed $5 million more on Monday to his 2006 campaign committee.

In the race to replace Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, reported more than $1.9 million in cash. She raised more than $800,000 through June 30.

State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi had $450,000 in cash on hand, having raised nearly $429,000 so far this year.

About the writer:
• The Bee's Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or gdelsohn@sacbee.com. Clea Benson, Alexa H. Bluth, Andy Furillo and Dan Smith of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.
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