Copyright 2004, San Francisco Chronicle
Tantalizing peek at governor’s calendars
Budget meetings vie with interviews with Access Hollywood
(San Francisco Chronicle 12/23/04) — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration provided a glimpse behind the somewhat secretive workings of California’s celebrity governorship, releasing Wednesday his official calendars that show days mixing routine budget meetings with movie-star media appearances.
The calendars — the first to be released by a sitting California governor, according to administration officials — document how Schwarzenegger’s political and celebrity lives intertwine.
His days in Sacramento are dominated by meetings with staff and lawmakers typical of any state’s top politician. But chats with national media, from Vanity Fair to Access Hollywood, are sprinkled through his schedule in a way the nation’s 49 other governors can only envy.
But the calendars of the governor’s first 379 days in office through Nov. 30 give only limited insight into who gets access to Schwarzenegger. They show huge gaps in the governor’s daily activities as well as numerous “private meetings,” with little explanation.
Other than some moments of clarity — May 16, for example, when Schwarzenegger appeared at the Taurus World Stuntman Awards — the context of his actions are not readily apparent.
“A door that has been double-padlocked for more than a decade has been pried open, but only by a crack,” Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said after briefly reviewing the documents. “There are a lot of entries that simply don’t tell us anything. Who was there, what were they talking about — it’s not there.”
The year’s worth of daily planners, which included eight days while Schwarzenegger was governor-elect, were made public Wednesday after a recent public records request filed by the First Amendment Coalition and joined by several newspapers, including The Chronicle. The requests were made after last month’s passage of Proposition 59, which broadened access to various public records and enshrined that right in the state Constitution.
The release of the schedules marked the first public peek into the day-to- day operations of an administration since the Los Angeles Times lost a court battle seeking then-Gov. George Deukmejian’s records more than a decade ago. At the time, the state Supreme Court ruled the logs were part of the “deliberative process” and exempt from disclosure.
The calendars reveal Schwarzenegger to be in the near-constant company of Chief of Staff Patricia Clarey, Communications Director Rob Stutzman, Legislative Secretary Richard Costigan or Legal Affairs Secretary Peter Siggins. Last month, Siggins rejected a Chronicle request to release the schedules of most of Schwarzenegger’s closest aides.
Administration officials stressed that the calendar is not meant to be a full accounting of Schwarzenegger’s daily life as governor, but merely lists his official events plotted the previous night. It shows him gliding from fund- raisers to briefings to interviews to staff consultations in the space of several hours, frequently dividing time between the Capitol and his home in the exclusive Brentwood section of Los Angeles.
“What is shown are meetings and events regarding official state actions, ” said Ashley Snee, a spokeswoman for the governor. “It’s a working document.”
As such, the essence of Schwarzenegger’s daily, kinetic life — let alone the influence of his informal close circle of advisers, including first lady Maria Shriver — exists beyond the schedule’s reach, a political diary with a lot of politicking left out.
“You can have a very lengthy meeting that might result in nothing of import,” said Dan Schnur, former communications director for Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. “But you can have a five-minute hallway conversation that can have a tremendous impact on state policy.”
Even so, the calendars are noticeably incomplete even in detailing Schwarzenegger’s officially plotted day. It lists attendees of some meetings, but not all. It calls some meetings “private” while listing the parties — from groups of Democratic legislators on June 1, to a June 30 meeting with “Unit 8 Bargaining Unit, State Firefighters Union” — without saying what they were about.
In other areas, its vagueness denies Schwarzenegger the ability to claim that the “special interest” lobbyists he has often derided since coming to Sacramento have not gained direct access to him. The calendar lists a June 16 meeting with “transportation stakeholders” and a Jan. 13 “workers’ compensation stakeholders” meeting without naming who attended either.
Schwarzenegger’s official schedule also lists 104 “private days” — mostly weekends and holidays during which his activities remain a mystery.
Political strategy meetings also were not included in the documents released Wednesday. Those meetings included weekly sessions the governor schedules with Mike Murphy, a nationally known GOP consultant who worked for Schwarzenegger during the 2003 recall election that propelled him into office and during his two ballot campaigns this year.
Snee said anything that was not official state business was not included in the documents.
In a letter accompanying them, Siggins said the governor “believes that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in California.”
But he said “specific information in the governor’s schedules may be legitimately withheld” because of exceptions noted by the state Public Records Act or because “the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
Scheer criticized the rationale.
“To talk politics is to talk public policy, and politics affects any governor’s decisions,” he said.
Schwarzenegger swept into office pledging to open government, saying he had made so much money as an actor that no one could influence his decisions with campaign contributions or other benefits.
Schwarzenegger’s daybook shows him meeting with Republican luminaries from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to former Secretary of State George Shultz, foreign dignitaries such as Pakistani Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, state lawmakers of both parties and chief executives of major American companies.
The calendar shows meetings with business executives to be fairly common. For example, Schwarzenegger met April 14 with Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott; six days later, with Dave O’Reilly, CEO of Chevron Texaco; on May 18 with Bob Glynn, chief executive of Pacific Gas & Electric Co.; and on June 8 with Steve Burd, CEO of the Safeway grocery chain.
Schwarzenegger has become a frequent foe of labor and consumer groups who have argued he has only advanced the interests of big business. But Scheer noted that the governor’s schedule indicated he met nearly as frequently with labor groups as with CEOs.
The schedule also seems to portray Schwarzenegger taking in viewpoints of both sides on some issues. On Jan. 13, he met with Stanley Zax, chairman of Zenith Insurance, one of the nation’s largest workers’ compensation insurers; later that day, he met with two AFL-CIO union officials. Both were heavily entrenched in the policy battle over workers’ comp insurance changes passed by the Legislature and signed by Schwarzenegger earlier this year.
Zenith and Chevron made large contributions to Schwarzenegger’s California Recovery Fund during the year, records show.
The schedules are also notable for those not mentioned.
In September, as Schwarzenegger contemplated signing or vetoing hundreds of bills, consumer advocates with San Francisco-based The Utility Reform Network attempted to sit down with the governor to persuade him to sign legislation aimed at bringing more regulation over energy markets. TURN believed the much-discussed bill, authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, D- Los Angeles, would protect the state from future power price spikes.
“We hand-delivered letters to everyone we could that begged for a meeting, ” TURN lobbyist Lenny Goldberg said. “We believed he was getting a very narrow perspective from free-market ideologues, and we thought he should hear consumers’ perspectives. We were ignored.”
Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, saying it could add to the state’s power bills.
Siggins said two-week sets of Schwarzenegger’s schedules will be made available upon request in the future with an expected delay of 12-14 days.
John M. Hubbell, Mark Martin, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau