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Innocuous letter or gubernatorial prank? [Updated]

October 27, 2009 |  5:36 pm

It reads like an innocuous letter from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, explaining why he vetoed a wonky piece of legislation that would have made changes to “infrastructure financing districts.”

But hidden in Schwarzenegger’s text is another message: an obscene phrase apparently directed at the bill’s author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who ridiculed the governor earlier this month. The phrase, “F--- You,”  is spelled out by the first letter of seven consecutive lines along the left margin.

Schwarzenegger has been a prankster at least since his bodybuilding days, when he persuaded competitors that they should eat huge amounts of food -- ice cream, ground nutshells and salt, for example -- that made them sick, according to two of his biographers.

The veto message about the Ammiano bill was issued Oct. 11, four days after the lawmaker jeered Schwarzenegger – using his own obscene phrase -- when the Republican governor spontaneously popped in at a Democratic fundraiser being held near another event he was attending.
It says AB 1176’s proposed revisions to rules on developing the San Francisco waterfront were unnecessary. The coded message was reported by the San Francisco Bay Guardian on its website  today.

“My goodness, what a coincidence that it would say something along the left-hand margin,” said the governor’s spokesman, Aaron McLear. “But I suppose when you do so many vetoes, something like this is bound to happen.”

McLear said words including “ear,” “poet” and “soap” can be found by reading down the side of other veto messages Schwarzenegger issued this month.

Overall, Schwarzenegger vetoed six of the eight bills written by Ammiano that made it to his desk, according to the governor’s office.

Updated at 6:05 p.m.: Quintin Mecke, a spokesman for Ammiano, said AB 1176 would have expanded financing options to help the Port of San Francisco make improvements to a pier.

“Kudos to the governor for his creative use of coincidence,” said Mecke. “But I think as much as you have to have a sense of humor in politics, it’s unfortunate that this comes at the expense of the Port of San Francisco.”

-- Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento