Big Daddy

Big Daddy

I hear a Chinese investment firm is paying for the governor’s trade mission to China. This is an outrage, right?

–Fiona in S.F.

Dear Fiona,
An outrage and a disgrace, of course. Luckily, that local paper in Los Angeles is all over this like white on rice. The story isn’t over.

I don’t begrudge anybody getting cash from anyone for anything – after all, I’m a former Assembly speaker and state treasurer – as long as everything is above board, transparent and there’s a good political reason, like the defeat of a hated rival. Politics is a contact sport and nobody expects anything less.

The problem with the Chinese company putting in $550,000 for the lame-duck governor’s junket is not the money, it’s the hypocrisy.

The idea that it’s okay because the taxpayers aren’t funding it doesn’t cut it. If the trip is worth making on behalf of California, then it’s worth being paid for by California and not some private company that wants the governor’s good will. The nonprofit foundation that was set up to capture donations to finance the governor’s travel is the same one that pays for his in-state travel and lodgings at the Hyatt. That allows the governor – who doesn’t take a salary – to go around saying that he’s saving the public’s dime.

I know what you’re thinking: You think I’m jealous because he gets all this free travel and has a ball. Absolutely not! I’m above that.

I used to go to New York in my capacity as treasurer – I had to woo Wall Street – and I spent many a difficult time wining and dining important people at restaurants and bars. It was a tough job, and I did it. Naturally, some people thought I went to the Big Apple only to party it down, but no way. It was serious business and it led to positive benefits for California.

So my trips were valuable and useful.

The governor’s trip to China – he did one in 2005, too, and that was a bust – has little real value, other than to entertain the friends and supporters who will accompany him. Arnold isn’t the first governor to do this, of course, and he won’t be the last, and when future governors do it, I’ll be the first to squawk.

By the way, why China? China already is making money hand over fist, its environmental and human-rights records are scandals and it has nothing to offer California except cheaper imports that supplant the home workers. I’ve always felt that if California workers are to be exploited, we can do it ourselves without Chinese help.

So I say, stay at home governor. You won’t be governor much longer and someday you’ll regret you didn’t spend more time in the state.

And if you’re going to China to enjoy the crowds, the bad air, the traffic, the deteriorating quality of life, the multitude of restaurants, mostly bad, a rapacious two-tier society and a cultural malaise, you can stay in  California.

Just go to San Diego.

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