Last month, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was forced to give up a multimillion dollar contract with a muscle magazine publisher because of ethical conflicts. Now we learn that three of his top staffers have been moonlighting as campaign consultants – and taking rather hefty paychecks on top of their government salaries.
The campaign work by Patricia Clarey, the governor’s chief of staff; Richard Costigan, his legislative-affairs secretary; and Rob Stutzman, the director of communications — all of whom earn more than $100,000 for their day jobs — troubles government watchdogs, such as Larry Noble, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.
“The question is how close are they to various special interests” that fund the campaign committees for which the aides work, Noble said. “It raises questions about the amount of time and work they put in on their jobs. And it raises questions about what hat they are wearing when people come to talk to them.”
Margita Thompson, the governor’s spokesperson, was perplexed at all the fuss:
the outside work is not problematic for the senior aides, who have worked after hours this year for two Schwarzenegger political committees. She said the staffers all work long hours for their taxpayer salaries and, besides, it’s “standard operating procedure” for many legislative staffers to work on campaigns.
“Where is there a conflict?” Thompson asked. “You’re asking us to deal with a hypothetical. The person and the agenda that these people focus on is the governor and the governor’s issues.”
Indeed, these staffers were working on the governor’s staff as well as on various campaigns that he and his cronies are involved in, including the California Recovery Team – the group that forces Schwarzenegger’s agenda onto ballot boxes and on Arnold’s re-election committee.
They all have salaries of over $100,000 and earned over $20,000 on their outside gigs.
The practice isn’t illegal (although it was prohibited in the administration of former Gov. Gray Davis). But it is almost certainly unethical.
But is for damn sure hypocritcal. No one here in the Golden State can forget the incessant photo ops of Schwarzenegger on the stump brandishing the broom, ranting about who he was going to clean up Sacramento.
Clean it out, maybe.