John Phillips: Hey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, did you cheat on the people of California too?
Everyone in the world knows that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cheated on his wife and fathered a child out of wedlock with his maid –- what we don't know is if he also betrayed the people of California.
The media frenzy surrounding the affair, first reported in the Los Angeles Times, was so overwhelming that even the hosts of CNN's Headline News broke away from their endless milk-carton-like coverage of the missing person of the week to broadcast all the latest trashy details.
Yet despite the undying coverage, we still don't have an answer to the most relevant question to the people of California:
Was any of this damaging information ever used against Arnold when he was governor in exchange for special favors? More specifically, was any of this information used to persuade him into granting the commutation of Esteban Nunez?
It's a fair question to ask, and the people of California deserve an answer.
Let's review the facts:
The affair information was damaging to Arnold -– politically, professionally and personally.
By all accounts, Arnold allegedly began engaging in sexual relations with his maid prior to running for governor in the 2003 recall election of Gray Davis. Until leaving office, the California press corps was in the dark, Mrs. Terminator was clueless, and even the maid's husband says...
...he didn't know there was any hanky-panky going on.
The only two people who knew for sure were Arnold and the maid. But people talk, people see things, and if the Governator was supporting his secret love child financially, there was a paper trail that could be traced back to Brentwood. This was a juicy scandal, with all evidence pointing to one person. For the record, carbon-dating officially ruled Strom Thurmond out as the father.
If word were to leak out, it's safe to assume Arnold's marriage could've busted up, his political career would have been over and he'd have to fork over even more money to his secret girlfriend and love child.
Even worse, if the information were to fall into the wrong hands, it could be used as a Sword of Damocles –- hanging over the governor's head, ready to fall at a moment's notice.
This is the nightmare scenario.
If any politician were to know about Arnold's secret, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez would be the likeliest candidate.
When a guy or gal decides to run for high office, it's common practice for their political opponents to spend gobs of cash on 'opposition research' –- which is a polite way of saying digging through a candidate's trash looking for dirt. If you catch the competition in bed with a live boy or dead girl, or even behind the wheel of a non-hybrid SUV -– go ahead and start measuring the drapes because you're moving to Sacramento.
If you're looking for dirt on Arnold, you know exactly what trees to go barking up ... the ones in skirts.
Just before the 2003 special election, 16 different women came forward alleging that the former body builder sexually harassed and humiliated them over a 30-year period. In fact, the only person we can definitively say Arnold didn't grope during those three decades is Danny DeVito.
Everybody in the state knew that Arnold liked the ladies and their parts.
If the California Democratic Party spent thousands of dollars looking for skeletons in the closet of the former action star and didn't find out about his ongoing affair with his maid or secret love child, they need to take their researchers on "Judge Judy" and get their money back.
But if they did stumble on Arnold's secret, Democratic Party power brokers would have the keys to the kingdom...and in case you're wondering, throughout most of Arnold's tenure, the highest-ranking Democrat in the Golden State was liberal Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
Born in San Diego to Mexican parents, Fabian Nunez grew up in very humble conditions just over the border from Tijuana, Mexico. Using his street smarts and shrewd ability to cut a deal, the former labor leader was able to elevate himself, through the same Southern California Latino political machine that produced L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, all the way to the highest levels of California politics.
Many observers thought Nunez would be the next mayor of L.A. or U.S. senator from California...until everything came crashing down.
In October 2008, Fabian's son Esteban and some of his Sacramento buddies were involved in a drunken street brawl that resulted in the stabbing death of San Diego college student Luis Santos.
The younger Nunez was sure that his politically-connected and powerful father would be able to make his legal problems go away.
In documents obtained by LA Weekly, Esteban Nunez was quoted as assuring his pals that “he [Nunez] would take the rap for it,” and that “his dad [Fabian Nunez] would take care of it and get them off on self-defense.”
Only one problem...Fabian Nunez was termed out of office on November 30, 2008. Somebody else would have to “take care of it.”
Luckily for Esteban, Fabian had some favors to cash in.
After receiving written pleas of leniency from the likes of Mayor Villaraigosa, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, and Assemblymen Dario Frommer and Keven De Leon, the judge agreed to lower the bail for Nunez from $2 million to $1 million.
Eventually, the 21-year-old Nunez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon, and was sentenced to 16 years behind bars.
But, if you're thinking the conviction and sentencing would slow down Fabian's quest for the VIP lifestyle, you're wrong.
When translated to English apparently “Fabian Nunez” means “Monty Hall.”
On January 10, 2011, the L.A. Times reported that Fabian Nunez was caught giving a Kindle to an official at Mule Creek State Prison -– the facility where Esteban is serving his sentence. The official, who is also the point of contact with prisoner's families, was forced to return the gift to Nunez.
And then, there's what's behind door #3....
Inexplicably, on his last day in office, Gov. Schwarzenegger commuted Esteban Nunez's sentence from 16 to seven years in prison.
Without consulting the San Diego district attorney's office, the Santos family or anyone else, Arnold decided that Nunez deserved a get-out-of-jail-free card.
On its face, Arnold's decision makes no sense.
There is no question about Nunez's guilt -– he pleaded guilty, knowing the range of sentencing he would likely receive.
Arnold didn't change ideologically on criminal justice issues -– nobody else convicted of a similar crime received a commutation of their sentence.
And for the record, if an ostensibly tough-on-crime governor suddenly has an epiphany and thinks that manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon are no big deal, that's a transformation that would make Chaz Bono blush.
When asked for an explanation of the commutation by Newsweek magazine, Arnold arrogantly blurted, “Well hellooooo. I mean, of course you help a friend.”
So we're supposed to believe that Arnold is so loyal to a political crony that he's willing to risk his reputation, legacy and future prospects to do one a favor? I think we know how loyal he is...just ask Maria.
Uhhh, sorry Arnold, I get the papers.
At this point, we know that Fabian Nunez is willing to use the carrot to get his son out of trouble, what we don't know is if he's willing to use the stick too.
Arnold knows the answer.
Now the Santos family and the people of California deserve to know.
Arnold, the camera is pointed at you and the red light is on....what's the answer?
-- John Phillips
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Strangely enough, a man named John Phillips hosts “The John Phillips Show” on Talk Radio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, which can be heard weeknights from 6 to 10 p.m. Pacific. Outside Southern California, his show is available live online at KABC.com Also follow Phillips on Twitter @JohnnyDontLike
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Top photo: Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) make an appearance in 2008. Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times
Second photo: Maria Shriver and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Century Plaza Hotel in L.A. after his 2003 election. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times