Monday :: Jun 6, 2005

Dialing For Donor Dollars

by pessimist

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty.
- Plato

Republican memories are about as short as the personal appendages which cause them to overcompensate for their short-comings. Remember all the GOP jabber when it was disclosed that major Clinton contributors were allowed to spend the night at the White House? The purpose for such events was to provide the 'guests' with proximity to Clinton, something that was the subject of a Congressional investigation. That was, of course, just horrible! The noise generated from the Righty WhirLIEtzer was deafening - almost as deafening as the silence which greeted the revelation that King George hosted at least 160 'supporters' in the same manner between January 20, 2001 and May 1, 2002.

The desire of major contributors to gain access to their supported candidates is as old as civilization itself, and I am not about to condemn the practice on its own merits - PROVIDED the discussion is documented in the record as having occured (no, I'm not insisting on transcripts, although I won't oppose that option). No one should be above at least a minimal scrutiny as to who is seeking access and how much they contributed to get it.


Schwarzenegger Donors Rewarded With Access

Top contributors to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have been rewarded with a private telephone number that gives them access to his closest advisers and even to the governor himself.

The Los Angeles Times on Sunday reported that major donors are invited twice a month to participate in conference calls featuring information about the governor's campaign strategy. In turn, donors who dial in can give the governor or his advisers advice.

The Thursday discussion, involving multiple contributors and top Schwarzenegger strategists, offered a rare glimpse inside the governor's political circle. Participants in the call included representatives from the American Electronics Association, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. and Wells Fargo.

The Times said it was given access to the conference call Thursday by a participant. The newspaper did not identify that person.

In the half-hour call, Schwarzenegger media strategist Don Sipple outlined a plan to create a "phenomenon of anger" to turn voters against public employee unions that have been among the governor's harshest critics, the newspaper said. "The process is like peeling an onion," Sipple said in the call, describing a strategy for persuading voters that the unions are "motivated by economic self-interest" instead of "doing the best job for the state."

Can a case not be made that those who so participate in the governor's 'reform' of California are "motivated by economic self-interest" instead of "doing the best job for the state"?

Campaign finance experts said there is nothing illegal about conference calls with donors, providing contributors do not push for favors. The governor has repeatedly said he does not trade campaign money for favors.

And we're supposed to believe him! He's only following the example set by our C-Average Sovereign, who claimed that "he wouldn't use overnight invitations to the White House in any quid pro quo with donors."

OK I will believe them - about as much as our Wrong-Wing Wregulars believe me that their leaders are a bunch of greedy crooks seeking to destroy the nation for their own benefit.

I think that the facts support my contention.

Poor multimillionaire Arnold! Can't afford to put his own money where his big thick-accented mouth is.

After all, in 2001 alone he ONLY made $26 million! If he were playing Parker Brothers' Monopoly instead of with people's livelihoods, wouldn't he expect to mortgage his shopping mall and/or his prime Santa Monica real estate, such as the building that Schatzi On Main at 3110 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA, resides in?

Instead, he expect the conservative public which supports him to pick up the tab for promoting his political-action misadventures:

During the latest call, advisers said Schwarzenegger had spent $8 million so far on television ads defending and promoting his agenda, the Times reported. He wants to collect $31 million to $32 million to run his initiative campaign through the fall, the advisers said.

The pitch to his conservative contributors from the experienced sales actor appears to be working just fine:

Schwarzenegger Raised Nearly $3M in May

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger raised nearly $3 million during fundraising events in the second half of May, according to campaign disclosure reports released Friday. The reports include a partial accounting of money the governor received during a weekend trip to Republican strongholds in Florida, Illinois and Texas, but also include money he got from California supporters. Among the big contributions were $1 million from Stockton developer Alex Spanos, $111,000 from Texas high tech mogul Jeff Rich, and $50,000 from oilman T. Boone Pickens. Some of the money reported during the second half of May: $100,000 from the California Grocers Association and another $100,000 from Stockton developer Fritz Grupe.

Marty Wilson, one of the governor's senior campaign advisers who helps oversee fundraising, said the disclosure reports filed so far account for only some of the money Schwarzenegger raised on his out-of-town trip May 20-23. Wilson said he expects the trip will generated between $2 million and $3 million when all the accounting is completed, expected later this month.

All of the money went into Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team, the governor's general purpose committee used to push his ballot measures. The governor has said he will need $50 million to wage and win the fall election against the big money that labor groups and Democrats are expected to put up in opposition to his agenda. While the money is part of the governor's effort to push his ballot measures this fall, Wilson pointed out that some is being spent today on TV ads that are running statewide.

Democrats said the big-money players giving to Schwarzenegger all have interests in California and will one day expect to be repaid. "It's just one more indication that the governor has gone back on everything he said when he ran for governor," said Gale Kaufman, noting Schwarzenegger's campaign pledge that he would never take money from special interests. "He's just showing himself as another politician. And it's unfortunate that all these people giving to him are from Taxes and Florida and helping to put three insignificant issues on the ballot, which is going to cost Californians $80 million," she said.

Here, in more detail, is what Arnold is seeking to accomplish, and the reaction his initiative is generating:

Unions, Democrats outraged over Schwarzenegger's 'phenomenon of anger'

Democratic leaders and union officials on Monday condemned a plan by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political team to create a "phenomenon of anger" against public employee unions leading up to an expected special election. "The idea of creating anger is so offensive," said Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association. "It's the worst kind of politics. I believe the people of California are smarter than the governor is giving them credit for and they will see through this."

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
- Plato

I disagree - didn't the people of California elect him by a sizeable margin? That alone didn't speak well of them in my opinion.

But I digress.

The Latest Raving Reviews

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that its reporters had listened to a conference call between the governor's political team and top contributors. The group discussed how to persuade voters that unions are the cause of many of California's problems. Democrats and their supporters claim those measures are aimed at them.

The excessive increase of anything causes a reaction in the opposite direction.
- Plato

On Monday, labor leaders took issue with the newly revealed campaign strategy. "Reports about Gov. Schwarzenegger's strategy of demonizing public employees should come as no surprise," said J.J. Jelincic, president of the 140,000-member California State Employees Association. "Ever since he dropped his 'moderate' facade earlier this year, he has been blaming government employees for the inability of his administration to meet the real needs of Californians."

Lance Corcoran, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said that the governor's agenda will backfire because it goes beyond unions and targets all working people.

Treasurer Phil Angelides, who declared he will run against Schwarzenegger next year, delivered 50,000 petition signatures to the governor's office Monday calling for Schwarzenegger to drop his plans for the election expected to cost $80 million. He said if the governor needs to manufacture animosity to achieve his goals then there's no need for an election because voters aren't truly discontent about the things he wants changed. "The governor's so-called reforms will take California in the wrong direction while doing nothing to address the real issues facing our state," he said.

It is right to give every man his due.
- Plato

'Real issues' to movie star Arnold are less interesting than 'reel issues' - the creation of television ads to support his radical and unbending agenda:

Der Try-oomf Uff Der Vill

Candid Talk on the Party Line
Major donors are given an unfiltered channel to Schwarzenegger's office for strategy sessions.

When wealthy contributors write checks to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, they often get a few canapes and a drink and a secret telephone number that grants them access to his closest advisors and even the governor himself. Twice a month, donors can become insiders' insiders invited to participate in conference calls featuring information about Schwarzenegger campaign strategy that his political enemies would love to have. In turn, donors who dial in can give the governor advice.

Contributors to Schwarzenegger's causes are first invited to join the discussions in e-mails, which tell them how to get for each call a phone number and a password. The campaign staff decides which significant donors will be included each time. The discussions feature a "special guest," such asSchwarzenegger's media expert, Don Sipple, talking about the governor's plans, as well as information about fundraisers and a question-and-answer session.

In the latest such call, a few days ago, Sipple outlined a strategy "based on a lot of polling" to create a "phenomenon of anger" among voters toward public employee unions. "The process is like peeling an onion," Sipple said, describing a multi-step plan for persuading voters that public-worker unions are "motivated by economic self-interest" instead of "doing the best job for the state."

Sipple's comments about unions came after a representative of Wells Fargo suggested that the governor sharpen his message to focus on public employees rather than private industry labor groups. The banking giant donated $100,000 last year to Schwarzenegger's efforts to overhaul workers' compensation through an initiative that never made the ballot.

Sipple said one piece of information makes voters particularly angry about unions: the "stinky episode" in 2002 when former Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature granted state prison guards a 34% raise. "People remember that," he said, suggesting that the campaign would try to rekindle the voter disgust that swept Davis out of office and Schwarzenegger in.

Most of Davis' support for this measure came from Republican law enforcement officials. People DON'T remember that!

But I digress.

A political consultant who is organizing opposition to Schwarzenegger's agenda said Sipple's use of the word "create" was apt. Gale Kaufman works for the Alliance for a Better California, a coalition that includes several unions. She said the public sees firefighters, teachers and others as public servants, not leeches. "Sounds to me like when [Schwarzenegger's advisors] noticed there wasn't a problem, they had to create one," Kaufman said.

The Thursday discussion, involving multiple contributors and three top Schwarzenegger strategists, offered a rare glimpse of the governor's "donor maintenance" effort: insider information, solicitous compliments, invitations to exclusive parties. "It's a good way to keep in touch with you, our most important supporters, about the latest developments in the campaign," Schwarzenegger's chief fundraiser, Marty Wilson, told the contributors.

The governor has dubbed 2005 the "year for reform," and he needs millions of dollars for support, mainly for TV ads. In the latest call, the advisors said Schwarzenegger had spent $8 million so far on television ads defending and promoting his agenda. He launched another TV ad campaign the same day that will cost $2.5 million for a few weeks of air time, and he wants to collect $31 million to $32 million to run his initiative campaign through the fall, the advisors said.

It was also a window on the governor's attack strategy ahead of an expected Nov. 8 special election. A special election ballot is expected to include a proposed government spending cap and a plan to lengthen the time it takes teachers to get tenure measures embraced by Schwarzenegger and opposed by public employee unions. The unions and their Democratic allies have spent millions on TV ads criticizing the governor and his proposals with some success, the advisors acknowledged. "There is no question to anybody who is rational that we have been in the barrel for the past several months," Sipple said during the phone call. "The good news is we have polling that shows us coming out of the trench."

Surveys by independent groups have shown Schwarzenegger's public approval dropping as much as 20 percentage points since January, to about 40% in recent weeks. Sipple was referring to a poll commissioned by the governor's campaign showing about 50% approval.

That politician who curries favor with the citizens and indulges them and fawns upon them and has a presentiment of their wishes, and is skillful in gratifying them, he is esteemed a great statesman.
- Plato

What's Good For The Goose Isn't Good For The Gander

Campaign finance experts said there is nothing illegal about conference calls with donors, if the contributors do not "cross the line" and push for favors. Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, said that Schwarzenegger's donors are allowed to discuss policy with him and interact with him but that non-donors should not be shut out. Both should have access to the administration to express their views, she said. The governor's public calendars show many visitors to his office who are not campaign donors. And he has repeatedly said he does not trade campaign money for favors.

BUT, ...

An executive with the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. of San Diego asked during Thursday's call if the governor was "going to come out strongly supportive" of a ballot initiative that would force public employee unions to get permission to use a member's dues for political activities, such as the current TV ads attacking the governor. The building official, whose industry has donated more than $14 million to Schwarzenegger, said there was a "compelling argument" for the governor to support the measure.

Sipple told him that Schwarzenegger might withhold an endorsement of the initiative in exchange for concessions from the Legislature on other matters. He said it was a "distinct possibility" that the governor would endorse the measure, however. "We certainly would encourage it," Sipple said.

There are a number of problems inherent in these comments. First, the conservatives want to make the tactics they themselves use - political contributions - unavailable to their opposition. Do these conservatives ask their shareholders if they can spend company money on political contributions? Ignoring the wealthy individuals cited above, how many of the thousands of shareholders of the Schwarzenegger contributors - which include the 3,000 member companies of the American Electronics Association, the 23,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., the 500 retail members operating over 6,000 food stores in California and Nevada, and approximately 300 grocery supplier companies of the California Grocers Association, and the holders of the 1,687.34 million outstanding shares of Wells Fargo - have given their expressed approval for the funds of these companies and associations to be used for political contributions?

Why is it never discussed that these corporate contributors are just as 'guilty' of the charges they levy upon organized labor? This is one of the reasons that the nation has become so unbalanced. Besides labor not having access to the sort of funds that their employers have raised - in part through curtailing the wages and benefits paid to these same workers - labor also doesn't have 'pet' assets available to offer at no cost to the politician:

Some of the donors offered unsolicited help to the strategists. An executive with the American Electronics Assn., which has donated $25,000 to the California Republican Party, said: "We can get our public relations entity involved and send out our own press releases endorsing the governor's activities, etc."

Just how much does a 'public relations entity' cost to maintain each year? Just how much of the total possible productive output of such an entity is used for political purposes - whether or not any shareholders approve? This sort of 'contribution' ought to be just as reportable as any other. [If it already is, then I'm sure that one of you commentors will edjimacate me.]

Let's look at a typical perception of one of Schwarzenegger's contributors:

'The opposition is obviously spending millions of dollars to demonize the governor, but they are not coming anywhere close to demonizing the truth.' - A donor from Fresno

Now let's turn it around:

'The governor is obviously spending millions of dollars to demonize the opposition, but he is not coming anywhere close to demonizing the truth.'

Which statement is correct?

That's going to depend upon which side wins this battle, for "Those who tell the stories rule society":

The partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question, but is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions.
- Plato, Dialogues, Phaedo

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