Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Is Arnold Playing Games with Democracy?
I was on TV yesterday with ABC's Marcy Brightwell talking about big money coming from Indian casinos in California politics. See the clip here. Here's the background:

When he was running in the recall campaign, Arnold Schwarzenegger really laid into Grey Davis, Cruz Bustamonte, and Tom McClintock for raising money from Indian casinos. Arnold's ads said "All the other major candidates take their money and pander to them. I don't play that game."

Well, that was then and this is now. On Monday, the Governor announced a deal that he struck behind closed doors with 5 tribes to protect their monopoly on slot machine gambling in exchange for them kicking in some money to help with the state's budget crisis. Arnold will now work to defeat two ballot initiatives that would expand slot machine use in the state. And, it's now looking like he'll accept Indian casino money to help him do that. See details here in the Los Angeles Times with the Governator's aides suggesting it may now be OK for Arnold to take money from the tribes now that he's in agreement with them.

I sure don't have all the answers to gambling policy, and polls show that Californians are of two minds on the topic. That's fine. But we have a right to decide our gambling rules without the interference of powerful private interests who stand to make billions off the deal.

Candidate Schwarzenegger understood this when he promised to get special interest money out of politics. But its beginning to look like Governor Schwarzenegger is playing the same game that other politicians have played, rather than changing the rules to create a more honest game in the future.

In fact, it now looks as though Arnold is actively opposing positive reforms in how ballot initiatives are financed. The California Fair Political Practises Commission is considering regulations on how much candidates can solicit for ballot measures (here's the FPPC staff memo on the issue.) See this story by Dion Nissenbaum in the Contra Costa Times, where Arnold's staff attorney says this:

"If adopted," Hiltachk wrote, "the regulation would prevent the governor from controlling a committee to oppose these two measures that are a direct assault on his constitutional power, unless he were to agree to oppose the well-funded campaigns for the initiatives using limited contributions."

That's exactly right. The Governor has the right to oppose ballot measures he doesn't like. But he should do so with limited contributions. Get used to it Arnold, its a concept called "one person, one vote."

California Senator Ross Johnson has a letter to the FPPC supporting reform here. Paul Ryan of the Center for Governmental Studies has one here. Arnold's lawyer has one opposing the reform here.

We should remember that Arnold launched his political career around the feel good Prop 49 in 2002 that provided funding for after school programs. Here's a link to the folks who gave money to that campaign, including Emulex Corporation for $60,000 plus ate least another $320,000 from its CEO Paul Falino, Richard Santullie, CEO of Net-Jets Corporation (for at least $100,000), Todd Wagner of Dallas, Texas (for at least $600,000), Jeff Pericho of Univision (for at least $1,000,000), the corporation of Conexant Systems for $50,000, The Morongo Band of Indiants ($25,000), The Yucaipa Companies LLC ($100,000), developer Alex Spanos ($100,000).

UPDATE: On Friday, June 25, the California Fair Political Practices Commission adopted regulations that will apply California's (very high) contribution limits to ballot committees that are controlled by candidates. This will mean that Arnold cannot raise more than $21,200 for any ballot committee he controls. See our news release here for additional details.

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