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Blue Shield has parting gift for Schwarzenegger

By Josh Richman
Monday, January 3rd, 2011 at 3:21 pm in Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most prolific political fundraiser ever to serve as California’s governor, got one last contribution in the final few days of his tenure: Blue Shield of California gave $15,000 Thursday to the governor’s officeholder committee.

State law allows officeholder accounts to be used in paying for an officeholder’s political activities – things such as constituent communications or costs associated with carrying out the officeholder’s official duties – during their time in office.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission’s regulations require that Schwarzenegger close his within 90 days of leaving office. Until then he can spend its money only on paying outstanding expenses; repaying contributions to those who gave them; making donations to bona fide charitable, educational, civic, religious, or similar tax-exempt, nonprofit groups so long as it’ll have no material financial effect on him; or paying for professional services for the committee’s administration.

So why did Blue Shield of California ante up again as the governor had one foot out the door?

“I regret to inform you that we are declining to comment at this time,” Blue Shield of California spokeswoman Mary Taing said today, about 90 minutes after saying she was “tracking down the right person to talk to.”

Schwarzenegger came to power in 2003’s gubernatorial recall election in part by portraying then-Gov. Gray Davis as a paragon of “pay to play” politics who let political contributions guide his policy, yet he soon far outstripped Davis in fundraising prowess.

Blue Shield of California has been supportive of Schwarzenegger for years, giving generously to his campaigns and committees. CEO Bruce Bodaken attended the October ceremony in which Schwarzenegger signed into law a pair of bills to create the nation’s first health benefit exchange under the national health reforms enacted last March. “You have demonstrated extraordinary leadership on health reform and again today you’ve shown great vision and courage in signing this legislation,” Bodaken said to the governor that day.

Schwarzenegger’s officeholder account has received more than $900,000 in contributions since the start of 2006. Among the bigger recipients of the committee’s spending in 2009-2010 were famed Republican speechwriter Landon Parvin ($116,900); Intuitive Technology Solutions, a Gilroy-based event design and production company ($82,150); and various staffers’ travel expenses for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a border governors’ conference and other events.

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