News

High school student gives governor $44,600

A Eureka high school student, and the daughter of a major
Schwarzenegger donor, has given the maximum donation of $44,600 to the
governor’s reelection effort. The donation came on the same day as
maximum donations from her mother, father and sister.

All told, the Arkley family funneled $178,400 to the governor’s
reelection efforts in a single day earlier this month.

“Most Californians would find it ridiculous that a high schooler can
give so much money to a candidate when they themselves are unable to
afford to do so,” said Ned Wigglesworth, an analyst with
TheRestofUs.org, a campaign finance watchdog group. “Most high
schoolers are worried about getting into college or maybe buying a new
car, not a $44,600 contribution to a political candidate.”

Because Elizabeth Arkley is 18 years old, she, like any other adult,
can donate up to $22,300 to Schwarzenegger for both the gubernatorial
primary and general election. Elizabeth’s parents, Cherie and Robin Arkley
and her college-aged sister, Allison, each gave $44,600 to the governor’s reelection campaign.

“Even if she is 18, it highlights how out of whack California’s system
of funding campaigns is,” says Wigglesworth.

Bundling donations with multiple family members is an increasingly
common trend used to fill campaign coffers. State Treasurer Phil
Angelides’ gubernatorial campaign has received donations of $22,300
from no less than seven members of the Tsakopolous family, while state
Controller Steve Westly has had donors such as Hollywood producer Haim
Saban bundle his donations of $44,600 with his wife Cheryl’s
contributions on the same day.

But what makes the governor’s recent donation noteworthy is the high
school status of the donor.

The governor’s opponents were still quick to attack the governor for
the donation.

“This governor always says he has a special interest in California’s
kids,” said Nick Velazquez, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Steve Westly. “We just didn’t know until now his interest
was in shaking them down for campaign contributions.”

Brian Brokaw, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil
Angelides, said that, “Considering Schwarzenegger started the year
nearly half a million dollars in debt, it’s no surprise he is
scrambling to meet his $120 million fundraising goal for 2006.”

But the governor’s campaign team defended the contribution.
“The governor welcomes supporters from all backgrounds,” said Katie
Levinson, the campaign’s communications director. “This contribution
was made by an adult and is perfectly legal.”

The recent donations were hardly the first political contributions
from the Arkleys. Robin Arkley, who owns the Eureka Reporter
newspaper, gave the governor’s California Recovery Team $250,000 in
2004, and shelled out more than $500,000 to the Yes on 75 committee
last year. At the national level, Arkey gave more than $500,000 to an
independent committee to defeat then-U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom
Daschle in 2004. He also donated $100,000 to President George W.
Bush’s second inaugural.

But Wigglesworth says that the Arkleys failed to disclose additional
donations made last year by their family-owned SN Servicing
Corporation. Robin and Cherie Arkley are listed under “Race
Investments LLC” in their major donor filings with the California
secretary of state. But SN Servicing Corporation, which Mr. Arkley
owns, gave the business-backed Citizens to Save California $250,000
and the Small Business Action Committee $100,000 last year.

Robin Arkley was traveling Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Wigglesworth said TheRestofUs planned to file a formal complaint with
the Fair Political Practices Commission on Friday.

“Wealthy interests can already give too much money in California,”
says Wigglesworth. “The major donor filings do help inform
Californians which wealthy interests are trying to influence the
political process. But when major donors make incomplete filings,
enabling them to avoid disclosure, it deprives Californians of knowing
who is trying to influence our elections.”

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