Alan Ehrenhalt is a former executive editor of GOVERNING.E-mail: email@example.com
I haven't looked at any financial statements from Arnold Schwarzenegger or Michael Bloomberg lately, so I don't know just how rich either of them is. But I can't help noticing, as Bloomberg campaigns for re-election in New York City and Arnold for passage of the California ballot measures, that they've seemed to treat money in precisely opposite ways during their brief political careers.
Bloomberg has self-financed both of his campaigns, made an issue of his independence from special interests, and generally behaved in ways that have reinforced his image as a man who, whatever faults he may have, can't be bought.
Arnold set out to win the same reputation, as a rich man free of the interests, and generally succeeded during his campaign for governor two years ago. But from the moment he took office, he has projected himself as a man just as consumed with money as a politician who didn't have any would be. From his lucrative deal with the publisher of the National Enquirer to his virtually incessant schedule of fund-raisers, Schwarzenegger has all but undone the image of financial altruism he started out with.
I bring this up in part because, at this moment, Bloomberg seems to be headed for an easy re-election, while Arnold appears likely to lose on most of the ballot issues he's spent the year promoting. There are many explanations for this. But their divergent approaches to money, and the public perceptions those have created, must have something to do with it.
I also mention it because I'm genuinely puzzled about why Schwarzenegger has let this happen. I concede that he's not quite as rich as Bloomberg, and that politics in California costs more than politics in New York City. But surely Arnold had enough in the bank to maintain himself above the level of campaign finance sleaze. If he had done so, as Bloomberg has, he might be poised for a triumph next month instead of an embarrassment.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.