Friday, February 24, 2006

High school student gives governor $44,600

By Shane Goldmacher

A Eureka high school student, and the daughter of a major Schwarzenegger donor, has given the maximum donation of $44,600 to the governor's reelection effort. The donation came on the same day as maximum donations from her mother, father and sister.

All told, the Arkley family funneled $178,400 to the governor's reelection efforts in a single day earlier this month.

"Most Californians would find it ridiculous that a high schooler can give so much money to a candidate when they themselves are unable to afford to do so," said Ned Wigglesworth, an analyst with, a campaign finance watchdog group. "Most high schoolers are worried about getting into college or maybe buying a new car, not a $44,600 contribution to a political candidate."

Because Elizabeth Arkley is 18 years old, she, like any other adult, can donate up to $22,300 to Schwarzenegger for both the gubernatorial primary and general election. Elizabeth's parents, Cherie and Robin Arkley and her college-aged sister, Allison, each gave $44,600 to the governor's reelection campaign.

"Even if she is 18, it highlights how out of whack California's system of funding campaigns is," says Wigglesworth.

Bundling donations with multiple family members is an increasingly common trend used to fill campaign coffers. State Treasurer Phil Angelides' gubernatorial campaign has received donations of $22,300 from no less than seven members of the Tsakopolous family, while state Controller Steve Westly has had donors such as Hollywood producer Haim Saban bundle his donations of $44,600 with his wife Cheryl's contributions on the same day.

But what makes the governor's recent donation noteworthy is the high school status of the donor.

The governor's opponents were still quick to attack the governor for the donation.

"This governor always says he has a special interest in California's kids," said Nick Velazquez, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly. "We just didn't know until now his interest was in shaking them down for campaign contributions."

Brian Brokaw, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, said that, "Considering Schwarzenegger started the year nearly half a million dollars in debt, it's no surprise he is scrambling to meet his $120 million fundraising goal for 2006."

But the governor's campaign team defended the contribution. "The governor welcomes supporters from all backgrounds," said Katie Levinson, the campaign's communications director. "This contribution was made by an adult and is perfectly legal."

The recent donations were hardly the first political contributions from the Arkleys. Robin Arkley, who owns the Eureka Reporter newspaper, gave the governor's California Recovery Team $250,000 in 2004, and shelled out more than $500,000 to the Yes on 75 committee last year. At the national level, Arkey gave more than $500,000 to an independent committee to defeat then-U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. He also donated $100,000 to President George W. Bush's second inaugural.

But Wigglesworth says that the Arkleys failed to disclose additional donations made last year by their family-owned SN Servicing Corporation. Robin and Cherie Arkley are listed under "Race Investments LLC" in their major donor filings with the California secretary of state. But SN Servicing Corporation, which Mr. Arkley owns, gave the business-backed Citizens to Save California $250,000 and the Small Business Action Committee $100,000 last year.

Robin Arkley was traveling Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Wigglesworth said TheRestofUs planned to file a formal complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission on Friday.

"Wealthy interests can already give too much money in California," says Wigglesworth. "The major donor filings do help inform Californians which wealthy interests are trying to influence the political process. But when major donors make incomplete filings, enabling them to avoid disclosure, it deprives Californians of knowing who is trying to influence our elections."

Shane Goldmacher is a Capitol Weekly staff reporter.

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