WHEN Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for governor of California in the Gray Davis recall of 2003, he campaigned fiercely against the corrupting power of political contributions. Less than two years later, he has burned a good deal of his credibility in the Golden State by raking in far more special-interest money than his much-maligned predecessor.
Mr. Schwarzenegger raised a record $26 million in campaign cash last year and the former iron-pumping actor vows to raise twice as much in 2005, leading one consumer advocate to liken the effort to "Gray Davis on steroids."
Indeed, Mr. Schwarzenegger made much of his role as a rich movie star who could not be bought and would act independently in running the state. Californians, he said, believe their government "is corrupted by dirty money, closed doors, and backroom dealing. They see the contributions go in, the favors go out, and they're punished with wasteful spending and high taxes."
Now it appears that all the populist rhetoric amounted to just lines on a script for a politician addicted to six-figure checks from the insurance, energy, and pharmaceutical industries.
One example of the payback: Last fall, the governor vetoed four bills that would have made it easier for Californians to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. A pharmaceutical trade group, meanwhile, has raised $8 million to promote a ballot issue that would set up a discount drug plan like the one favored by Mr. Schwarzenegger. In addition, the governor has sued the state to allow him to raise even more money than current rules allow to promote a package of ballot issues that would cut state spending and give the power to redraw political district lines to retired judges rather than the legislature.
At the same time, he's forcing the issues into a special election this year that will cost taxpayers $70 million, rather than offering it in the gubernatorial vote in 2006. The reason? Mr. Schwarzenegger can't appear in campaign spots if he's on the ballot.
Much of the money to promote the issues is coming from outside California. In Cincinnati recently, financier Carl Lindner, one of Ohio's richest individuals, forked over $44,600 to a Schwarzenegger-controlled political fund and gave an additional $200,000 to the coalition of business interests backing the governor's ballot proposals.
The list could go on but suffice it to say that Governor Schwarzenegger is behaving just the opposite of Candidate Schwarzenegger.
Breaking campaign promises is hardly news, but this is a politician some are prepping to run for President of the United States if the states can be persuaded to pass a constitutional amendment eliminating the ban on foreign-born candidates.
If that be the case, no one can say they weren't warned.