Late last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger climbed past former Gov. Gray
Davis as the most prolific fund-raising governor in California history.
Since Schwarzenegger received his first contribution in the 2003 recall
election, he has corralled in more than $110 million in political donations.
While it took Davis from 1997 until 2003 to amass a $107.3 million in
contributions–which funded his two elections and a failed bid to beat back
the recall–Schwarzenegger reached the figure in almost half the time,
according to state records.
Over the last three years, Schwarzenegger has pulled in more than $94,000
per day, on average. Those totals do not include the $22 million of his
personal funds he has spent on political causes, or the $4.5 million he has
loaned his various campaigns.
“It’s a record-shattering amount in many regards,” says Derek Cressman of
TheRestofUs.org, who is writing a book on Schwarzenegger’s fund-raising. “It
obviously blows away anything we’ve ever seen in California.”
As of Tuesday, Schwarzenegger had outraised his Democratic challenger, Phil
Angelides, nearly two-to-one in 2006, hauling in $33.2 million compared to
$17.2 million for Angelides. He used that cash advantage to air negative ads
in the summer, lambasting Angelides as a tax-happy Democrat, gaining a lead
in the governor’s race that he has yet to relinquish.
Schwarzenegger is one of only four members of the so-called nine-digit
club–those politicians that have raised at least $100 million. The others
are Davis, President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic
“He’s famous. He’s governor. He’s got lots of rich friends.,” explains Gary
Jacobson, professor of political science at UC San Diego. “He’s done things
that are pleasing to the business community.”
On the day that Schwarzenegger topped Davis, September 25, the governor
hauled in $383,200 in donations. The range of contributions–from that single
day–demonstrate the breadth of Schwarzenegger’s fund-raising operation.
There was $2,500 from a New York urologist and $2,000 from an Illinois
investor. Eli Broad, the Los Angeles real-estate mogul; Arthur Kern, who
sits on the Yahoo! board of directors; and the Occidental Petroleum Corp.
each gave the maximum $22,300, along with six other donors. A total of 95
separate companies and individuals gave to the governor.
“He has this broad appeal of being a superstar, which helps him in so many
ways, including fund-raising,” says Rob Stutzman, a former Schwarzenegger
To raise his political cash, Schwarzenegger has hired an army of
professional fund-raisers, led by Marty Wilson and Renee Croce. Most of his
donation-getters have been women, including Croce, Wendy Warfield, Kristen
Hueter, Caroline Dorsee, Stacy Davis and Wendy Cantor Hales, among others.
That team has helped Schwarzenegger set records without taking money from
two of California’s best-heeled interest groups: Indian gaming tribes and
public-employee unions, from whom he pledged to not take money in 2003.
What’s more impressive, say those who follow campaign spending, is that
Schwarzenegger has raised so much money in an era of contribution limits
that did not exist for Davis. Individuals and businesses can give him a
maximum of $22,300 for the primary and general election this year, though
Schwarzenegger also controls ballot-measure accounts where he has raised
money in unlimited sums. The $110 million figure is the total of all
Schwarzenegger-controlled political committees.
The governor’s top three donors–William Robinson of DHL; Alex Spanos, a
Stockton real-estate developer; and Jerry Perenchio, past CEO of
Univision–each have given Schwarzenegger more than $2 million.
In the recall, Schwarzenegger was swept into office on a platform of going
to Sacramento to “clean house.” He routinely criticized Davis for
pay-to-play politics and endless fund-raising, but since has surpassed
Davis’ fund-raising himself.
While good-government advocates on the left have criticized Schwarzenegger
for his fund-raising, even launching the Web site Arnoldwatch.org
specifically to track the governor’s largesse, their criticism, unlike that
of Davis, has not sunk into the general-public discourse.
“If things weren’t going well, we might be having a different conversation,”
says Stutzman. “Once there was an energy crisis and a huge deficit,
fund-raising became more of an issue for Davis.”
Stutzman says that Schwarzenegger’s money-raising successes are due in part
to the ever-escalating costs of campaigning.
“The next governor will raise more than him,” he said. “It just goes up and
up and up. The next guy always breaks the old record.”