Sunday, January 15, 2006

Crossing the Line

Republicans have so blurred the line between politics and governing that it might take years to sort out the mess and undo the damage. Every action of the Bush Administration is based upon political consideration. At the White House and in Congress, lobbyist cronies of the Republicans write legislation and then provide financial incentives to members of congress to pass that legislation.

I guess with that sort of example in front of him, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no problem blurring the distinction between public employees and political operatives. The LA Times reports that top Schwarzenegger aides are receiving paycheck from both the state of California and the Schwarzenegger campaign simultaneously.

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has supplemented the salaries of at least four of his top government aides with private campaign money, a practice that means a piece of their overall pay has come from donations by corporations and others that do business in the Capitol.

Schwarzenegger set up a standing agreement in which three present and former aides received a monthly $5,000 check from his political accounts to moonlight as campaign aides, on top of what they earned in salary as government employees, the governor's office said.

The combination boosted their overall annual compensation rates from the $120,000-to-$130,000 range to $180,000 to $190,000. That's more than the governor's job pays, although Schwarzenegger waives his $175,000 state salary."

Having his chief government aides on his campaign payroll is just another case where the governor of our largest state can't seem to understand the distinction between governing and politics. A couple of months ago the Times highlighted the large number of dollars being donated to Schwarzenegger for his housing and expenses by some of his main campaign contributors. Then there was Arnold's multi-million dollar income from writing monthly columns in a body building magazine. And more recently, Arnold made a trip to China paid for by corporate interests.

The median income in California is around $35,000 per year. This is for someone working full time at a job. Arnold's staffers were taking home four to five times the median pay and then getting the equivalent of nearly twice the median pay for work on his perpetual political campaign.

"Costigan, the legislative secretary, collected nearly $46,000 in income and expenses from the governor's campaign committees in 2004-05, campaign finance reports show. That was on top of his annual $123,230 state salary. His job is to help shepherd the governor's agenda through the Legislature and consult with him on which bills to sign or veto.

Since Schwarzenegger's election two years ago, Costigan has also been seen at some of the governor's fundraising events.

Clarey, who served as the governor's chief of staff at $131,412 annually until Kennedy replaced her last month, took in about $30,000 in salary and expenses from campaign accounts over the last two years, records show. A total of $4,114 of that reflected travel expenses incurred when she left the government payroll for two months last year to run the governor's special election campaign.

Clarey's duties included setting up the campaign organization and providing direction.

Stutzman earned about $56,000 in salary and expenses from the governor's campaign funds in 2004-05, records show. His state salary was $123,230 a year. He temporarily left the government payroll for about three months during that period to engage solely in campaign work."

It's illustrative that these government employees have such flexibility in their duties that they can leave their jobs for months at a time to support Arnold's political agenda. As with Bush, politics always comes first for Schwarzenegger.