Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sacramento Bureau Is Appropriately Tough On Schwarzenegger

Sometimes, to pay the devil its due, I have to say that the L.A. Times Bureau in Sacramento is tougher on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger than the Times Washington bureau is on President George W. Bush.

Certainly in accord with the trend is Peter Nicholas' Sunday, Jan. 15 story on how the governor's top four aides are having their pay checks bolstered by money coming from Schwarzenegger's big corporate donors.

It is not the first story indicating that the governor, who is up for reelection this year, is not the most honest of public officials.

Nicholas says that four top Schwarzenegger aides, including his new chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, who coddles business interests all the time, have been receiving monthly $5,000 checks from his political accounts to moonlight as campaign aides.

Named as getting the extra money besides Kennedy are Patrica Clarey, former chief of staff, Rob Stutzman, former communications director and Richard Costigan, who continues to serve as the governor's chief liaison to the Legislature.

Part of Kennedy's job, according to the article, will be to brief campaign donors about the governor's policy agenda in a series of luncheons and conferences.

Does this stink to high heaven? Of course it does.

Nicholas quotes watchdog groups as warning that Schwarzenegger is creating a potential conflict of interest if his aides appear financially beholden to campaign donors whose interests depend on state actions.

It was also revealed in Times stories last year that Schwarzenegger was getting a big series of payments, amountikng to millions of dollars, from a fitness magazine with many advertising interests in the food supplements the state should be regulatings. Shortly, after this was revealed, he terminated that contract.

But the governor has proved to be as much in the pocket of special interests as his predecessor, Gray Davis, ever was. And his hiring of Kennedy as chief of staff is especially suspect.

Kennedy has now worked for two unsavory governors in a row, in addition to serving utility interests when she was Davis' appointee on the Public Utility Commission. Nominally, Kennedy is a Democrat, but she is Republican when it takes to serving big business.

There is every reason to eye Schwarzenegger with great suspicion as he pursues a second term. But of course we'll get to know more about his Democratic opponents later. Right now, it appears that at least they are professional politicians, when Schwarzenegger is an insincere neophyte. By and large, professionals are preferable.


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