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How does a Calif. governor drop $19Gs in one night -- in Philadelphia?

March 3, 2009 |  1:10 am

Democrat President-elect Barack Obama greets California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a governor's meeting in Philadelphia December 2 2008

Our sharp-eyed print news colleague, Patrick McGreevy, has an interesting story online tonight. He got ahold of the official report by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of all the gifts the big guy received last year.

Because the governor doesn't have much money himself, all kinds of sympathetic people and groups selflessly shower the former actor with presents to help the poor guy out. The gifts last year totaled a reported value in excess of $32,000, which may be more than you shelled out for Mardi Gras beads last week.

The gifts range from a Mongolian shield (how could any governor possibly survive without one of those?), a condor bust (naturally), antique dumbbells (no comment), an expensive watch and some high-priced wine from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who would like to have Arnold's job someday in the not-too-distant future.

Patrick's complete story is over here. But what struck us was one little -- well, not so little -- item down near the bottom.

Remember back in early December, when then-President-elect Obama urgently summoned the nation's governors to Philadelphia's well-kept Independence Hall for an important meeting that cable TV intoned was going to make history, for one day anyway, by talking about the country's troubled economy and crumbling infrastructure?

To show you how important a session it was, even Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin showed up, and in her own clothes too.

In fact, 48 of the state chief executives dutifully gathered for the well-covered affair that Obama squeezed in right after a morning gym session and before his flight back to Chicago. The 57-minute meeting didn't last as long as the Illinoisan's workout. But it looked great on TV, with lots of serious suits nodding and agreeing on the need for lots of money.

Well, among Gov. Schwarzenegger's reported gifts for 2008 was $19,251 donated by the California State Protocol Foundation, which is really a nonprofit front for the California Chamber of Commerce. See, that's the sign of a really fine actor. Why we suspect the term-limited cigar smoker's returning to filmdom come January 2011. The truly great actors always leave something to the audience's imagination.

In this case, we're trying to imagine how in the world someone(s) in public service in a troubled economic time of staggering state deficits could possibly blow $19,251 (even of someone else's money) on an overnight trip to sit in an audience for 57 minutes in Philadelphia?

In Philadelphia! It's not like Obama took up a collection to cover the back taxes of his Cabinet nominees.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Jeff Haynes / Reuters