Why Arnold Is Right to Be Raising Campaign Cash

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The last few days have seen thoroughly mindless criticism of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for continuing to raise political money -- including a fundraiser he's hosting at his home next week. My old colleagues at the Los Angeles Times (full disclosure: I remain contributing writer to the opinion pages) went so far as to argue in an editorial that Schwarzenegger has no good reason for raising them money. Perhaps it's just an ego trip, they suggest.

I wonder if my LA Times friends have stopped reading their own newspaper.

The governor needs to keep raising money for a very obvious reason: nearly all big decisions on policy in this state are made by voters, not lawmakers or governors. And ballot measures filed by his allies and by his enemies are forcing him to defend his legacy and deals he's made at the ballot -- both next month and especially in November.

There are so many measures that involve the governor that one Schwarzenegger aide I spoke with this week in Sacramento expressed concern that he isn't raising money aggressively enough. What are these measures?

1. Prop 14, the "top two" primary measure on this June's ballot, is the product of a budget deal Schwarzenegger negotiated last year. It's also a priority of Schwarzenegger's newly appointed lieutenant governor, Abel Maldonado. For those reasons, the governor needs to campaign and defend it.

2. Reversal of corporate tax cuts. The California Teachers Assn. has just turned in signatures for an initiative for the November ballot that would reverse $2 billion in corporate tax cuts championed by the governor. Schwarzenegger is obligated to defend it, and he'll need more campaign cash to fight CTA, which outspent him more than two-to-one the last time the union tangled with him on the ballot, back in 2005.

3. The water bond. Schwarzenegger spent years working to convince the legislature to put a bond to revamp the state's water infrastructure on the ballot. Now that the legislature has done it (an $11 billion water bond is on the November ballot), he must campaign for it. Polls show this is an uphill battle, and he'll need millions for a successful campaign.

4. Most important for the governor, a ballot initiative to suspend the governor's signature environmental achievement, the climate change legislation AB 32, appears headed to the ballot in November. Schwarzenegger has made this legislation the centerpiece of his legacy; look for him to raise money and put his personal wealth into the cause.

I'm sure the governor would prefer not to be raising money right now. It's distasteful and it takes time away from policymaking. But he's a governor in a state with direct democracy. If he weren't raising the money he needs to defend his policies at the ballot, he wouldn't be doing his job.

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