As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

You Scratch My Back, I Won't Write About Your Affairs

Today's disclosure that my governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, received $8 million dollars from the publisher of Flex and Muscle & Fitness Magazines just two days before he was sworn into office, didn't raise a whole lot of eyebrows with me. I remembered the announcement that he would become both magazines' executive editor in early 2004. I wondered where the governor of the world's 5th-largest economy gets the time to do that, but state law allows elected officials to have outside jobs, and of course he should be paid for services rendered (though $8M is quite a bit for what is largely a figurehead PR role). That the deal is structured on ad revenue from nutritional supplements is a bit more troubling:

The contract pays Schwarzenegger 1% of the magazines' advertising revenue, much of which comes from makers of nutritional supplements. Last year, the governor vetoed legislation that would have imposed government regulations on the supplement industry.

But given Arnold's background, he would likely have vetoed that legislation whether he was cashing in on it or not. So to jump on him for profiting from his own legislation, while technically true, isn't as scandalous to me as others think. But then I read this nugget, buried in the article:

American Media, which also owns the National Enquirer, the Globe and the Star tabloids, made public the terms of Schwarzenegger's contract in a separate SEC filing Wednesday.

And then I remembered an op/ed by Laurence Lerner, the author of a forthcoming book on the governor (done with Schwarzenegger's cooperation). He connects the dots very nicely, even getting what amounts to an admission of guilt:

A little history: When Schwarzenegger first considered running against Gov. Gray Davis in 2002, he backed away after the National Enquirer ran a spate of articles on his sex life. One of the most sensational ran in April 2001 under the headline "Arnold's 7-Year Affair." It included photos of Schwarzenegger with a former television personality named Gigi Goyette, referred to by the tabloid as Schwarzenegger's "mistress." (Goyette told me that she had a once-yearly relationship with Schwarzenegger and denies that she was ever his mistress; Schwarzenegger declined to discuss Goyette with me on the record.)

The tabloid boasted in print that "Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated his plans to run for governor of California … because he didn't want even more scandals uncovered if he made a bid for public office!"

By the time he entered the 2003 recall election, the movie star had the tabloid problem solved.

The National Enquirer, the Globe and the Star are all owned by one company, American Media, headed by David Pecker. In July 2003, as Schwarzenegger was contemplating entering the recall election, he ushered Pecker into his massive office in Santa Monica, both participants have told me. The parameters of this get-together had been set by bodybuilding impresario Joe Weider, Schwarzenegger's longtime mentor. American Media had just purchased Weider's bodybuilding magazine empire, and Weider said he saw manifold benefits to both parties if the tabloids would stop doing articles about Schwarzenegger's past sex life.

Schwarzenegger says no deal was made that day.

But an interview with the governor for my book, "Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger," made it clear that no deal had to be made.

"There was no discussion about the National Enquirer," Schwarzenegger said. "I think it's common sense. Do you want to work with someone who you are attacking? You don't have to say anything. You don't have to be sleazy and make deals. It's human nature."

They call that a "gentleman's agreement." It keeps either side out of any legal culpability, while both sides achieve their ends. So what it amounts to is attaching Arnold's bankable name to the American Media empire (and, if elected, making sure their supplements get to market in California) in exchange for $8 million and backing off all the sex stories. I'd say both sides made out like bandits.

Obviously the upcoming special election will tell the tale, but it wouldn't surprise me now if Arnold didn't even run next year. Which is unbelievable given his popularity in 2003 and 2004. He'll find an excuse, of course: blaming the legislature, or saying "Maria wouldn't let me run again." But it's looking more and more like a one-and-done for the Terminator. And I don't think you'll hear any more about that Constitutional amendment allowing non-native citizens to run for President (which I'd support, by the way).