Fat Cat Donors Have Hotline to Das Guber

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s polling has deflated since he took on popular groups in California, like teachers, nurses, and firefighters, whom he has labelled “special interests.” Now we learn in a scoop from the Los Angeles Times that Das Guber is laying the groundwork for a scorched-earth campaign to create a “phenomenon of anger” against these popular groups and others.

That fact comes as a result of the scoop. The big news here is that Schwarzenegger’s biggest donors are treated to regular phone conferences where they listen to the governor’s schemes and plots, and are invited to join in.

When wealthy contributors write checks to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, they often get a few canapes and a drink — and a secret telephone number that grants them access to his closest advisors and even the governor himself.

Twice a month, donors can become insiders’ insiders — invited to participate in conference calls featuring information about Schwarzenegger campaign strategy that his political enemies would love to have. In turn, donors who dial in can give the governor advice.

In the latest such call, a few days ago, Schwarzenegger’s media expert, Don Sipple, outlined a strategy “based on a lot of polling” to create a “phenomenon of anger” among voters toward public employee unions. Firefighters, police officers, teachers and other state-paid workers have become the governor’s harshest critics this year.

“The process is like peeling an onion,” Sipple said, describing a multi-step plan for persuading voters that public-worker unions are “motivated by economic self-interest” instead of “doing the best job for the state…”

The governor has dubbed 2005 the “year for reform,” and he needs millions of dollars for support, mainly for TV ads. The Times was given access to Thursday’s half-hour call through a participant.

“It’s a good way to keep in touch with you, our most important supporters, about the latest developments in the campaign,” Schwarzenegger’s chief fundraiser, Marty Wilson, told the contributors…

Contributors to Schwarzenegger’s causes are first invited to join the discussions in e-mails, which tell them how to get — for each call — a phone number and a password. The campaign staff decides which significant donors will be included each time. The discussions feature a “special guest,” such as Sipple, talking about the governor’s plans, as well as information about fundraisers and a question-and-answer session.

In the latest call, the advisors said Schwarzenegger had spent $8 million so far on television ads defending and promoting his agenda. He launched another TV ad campaign the same day that will cost $2.5 million for a few weeks of air time, and he wants to collect $31 million to $32 million to run his initiative campaign through the fall, the advisors said.


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