Schwarzenegger travel committee forced to reveal donors | SierraSun.com

Schwarzenegger travel committee forced to reveal donors

Aaron C. Davis
Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO (AP) ” For the first time Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a list of the millionaires and billionaires who pay to send him on lavish overseas trips, offering a glimpse into the elite business and social circles critics say have unfair access to his power.

To comply with open-records laws, Schwarzenegger released a list of wealthy donors to the California State Protocol Foundation, an obscure nonprofit that has paid for millions of dollars’ worth of overseas travel and other bills racked up by his office.

Well-known California businessmen who have supported him publicly, such as winemaker Robert Mondavi and Gap founder Don Fisher, are on the list. But so are the names of both Republican and Democratic lawyers, developers, and others who have kept a low profile, or even remained anonymous, in supporting California’s celebrity governor.

The names are on a list of donors who paid as much as $25,000 to attend a private fundraiser that Schwarzenegger headlined in San Francisco last month for the California State Protocol Foundation.

The little-known nonprofit is run under the auspices of the California Chamber of Commerce and has funded most of Schwarzenegger’s international trade missions and other events since shortly after he took office. The Nov. 7 dinner at the de Young Museum raised nearly $400,000, according to the documents.

Until that dinner, Schwarzenegger had been careful to maintain a public buffer with the group that funds his travel and to follow other rules governing fundraising disclosures. That allowed the Protocol Foundation to keep its donor lists private.

By headlining the dinner, however, Schwarzenegger in essence solicited the donations on behalf of the group under California law, forcing the group and the governor to release the names of those who attended and contributed.

“Finally, we’re seeing the individuals who have been paying,” said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.

The foundation turned the list of donors over to the governor’s office last week. Schwarzenegger had until the end of December to file the documents with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission. His office released the list of donors Thursday following a request from The Associated Press.

Stern noted that although the administration released the list as required, it did not include the donors’ professions or other information that would be standard on state forms that identify donors to political campaigns.

“We don’t get that from this list, so you really have to track these people down to figure out who they are and why they were giving,” Stern said. “There really are two reasons why people give to this particular governor. They either want access in terms of policy, or access to him as a person, because he is a star.”

An AP review of fundraising records last month revealed that Schwarzenegger has become the most prolific campaign fundraiser in California history, taking in more than $125 million for his various political committees. The money raised by the foundation is in addition to that figure.

Contributions like those made last month in San Francisco have allowed Schwarzenegger and his staff to stay in five star hotels, fly on chartered jets and enjoy other luxury perks on trade missions to Canada, China, Europe, Japan and Mexico.

According to annual reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the Protocol Foundation raised more than $4.2 million from 2003 to 2006. Besides the trade missions, the group has paid for several Capitol receptions, a luncheon for the consular corps and a barbecue for the news media.

In a statement distributed by the governor’s office on Thursday, Charlotte Shultz, chairwoman of the Protocol Foundation, said the group serves a vital role, allowing the governor to meet with foreign dignitaries, “thereby supporting business opportunities between California and their countries, as well as cultural and goodwill exchanges.”

Shultz is married to former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, who contributed $10,000 at the November fundraiser.

“California is fortunate and benefits by having someone of Governor Schwarzenegger’s international stature serving as California’s ambassador,” Charlotte Shultz said in her statement.

Until Schwarzenegger attended last month’s dinner, the group refused to disclose its funding sources. Foundation president Allan Zaremberg told the AP as recently as September that not even Schwarzenegger knew who contributed to the group and that some members wanted to remain anonymous.

Others on the list include Jeremiah Hallisey, a major Democratic donor and former appointee of Gov. Gray Davis; Charles Munger, Jr., an executive with Berkshire Hathaway; and George Jewett, former president of Potlatch Corp., a major timber harvester and wholesaler of wood and paper products.

Mondavi, who contributed $10,000, also was inducted by Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver into the California Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Zaremberg, who is also president of the California Chamber of Commerce, did not immediately return a call from the AP on Thursday, but has previously disagreed with characterizations of the trips as luxury vacations or opportunities for donors to press a particular point of view with dignitaries.

Schwarzenegger’s trips funded by the California Protocol Foundation are too jammed with events, Zaremberg has said, for those who go along to have much contact with the governor.

Critics say the trips allow the governor and his staff to enjoy luxuries that otherwise would be inappropriate for public officials traveling on taxpayer money. They also argue that donors and business leaders who help fund the trips, then travel with the governor, appear to have extra access to Schwarzenegger and his staff. Because the foundation has refused to release lists of donors, it has been difficult to track whether business leaders invited on trips with the governor also helped pay for his travel.

Aaron McLear, the governor’s press secretary, has repeatedly defended the arrangement in which a private nonprofit foundation pays for the governor’s trips, saying it saves taxpayer money.

A predecessor group also funded trips taken by Gov. Davis, although he traveled less than Schwarzenegger.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.