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Governor raises funds from donors interested in pending legislation

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger collected tens of thousands of dollars for his political causes in September from donors interested in some of the 700 bills that were sitting on his desk, and invited other past and potential contributors to a series of meet-and-greet events to raise money.

Since his first campaign for office, Schwarzenegger has pushed to outlaw elected officials, including the governor and lawmakers, from raising money during times of the year when they are making important decisions. However, lawmakers have not embraced the idea.

"We want political fundraising banned during the budget and at the end of the legislative session, and the last month of bill signing, so that the people can have confidence that politics in California is not about money in and favors out," Schwarzenegger said in 2007.

In September, while the bills were pending, the governor's fundraisers sent out notices inviting past and would-be donors to a series of five meetings with Schwarzenegger around the state starting Oct. 21 in Los Angeles and ending Nov. 3 in San Francisco. While the donors do not have to pay to attend, the purpose of the meeting was to set the stage for their financial support for the governor's political agenda over the next 18 months, which includes water issues, open primary elections and pension reform, according to an invitation obtained by The Times.

Schwarzenegger's California Dream Team, a political committee that supports his ballot measure campaign efforts, collected $115,000 from donors between Sept. 8, three days before the end of the legislative session, and Oct. 11, the deadline for him to sign and veto bills. Some of the donors paid lobbyists to influence the governor or the Legislature on some of those bills.

Those included Venoco, an oil company; the California Building Industry Assn., the California Optometric Assn., Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit educational company, and the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Assn., which represents mobile home park owners. The governor took the action supported by his donors on some bills, but not others.

The governor's aides say he supports a fundraising ban, but is following the law as it stands today. In any case, said spokeswoman Julie Soderlund, Schwarzenegger has demonstrated independence from political contributors "time and time again," and makes decisions "based on what he believes is best for the people of California."

--Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento

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