| Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles. (Reuters)
Los Angeles, Aug. 11 (Reuters): Action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday said that whatever shortcomings he might have as potential governor of California, personal wealth is not among them — he made more than $50 million in two years.
Schwarzenegger’s tax returns, made public at a news conference, showed he earned $31 million in 2000 and paid more than $10 million in state and federal taxes. Income dipped slightly in 2001 to $26.1 million, with $9.3 million paid in taxes.
He also made charitable donations of close to $5 million in those two years, including $1.1 million to Proposition 49, the voter initiative that he successfully backed which increases funding for after-school programmes.
Asked if the Austrian-born star would be the richest California governor yet, campaign legal counsel Colleen McAndrews said his wealth far surpassed that of past governors Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson and of incumbent Gray Davis. “I don’t think any of them have had substantial wealth,” she said.
Most of Schwarzenegger’s income came from the film business.
The Terminator actor owns stock in, among other companies, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Coca Cola and Roto Rooter and has millions of dollars in municipal bonds and real estate investments.
In his campaign appearances in the run-up to the unprecedented recall vote on October 7, the Austrian-born Republican has insisted he is so rich that he cannot fall prey to special interests. If elected, his investments would be managed by a trust.
All 190-plus candidates seeking to replace Davis, a Democrat whose popularity has plummeted due to the state’s energy crisis two years ago and a burgeoning budget deficit now, were required to file financial disclosure statements. Other hopefuls like columnist Arianna Huffington, businessman Bill Simon and porn publisher Larry Flynt cited investments or holdings in the millions. Candidates for public office routinely make their tax returns public to show voters they have nothing to hide. Simon was criticised for being reluctant to do so when he ran and lost against Davis two years ago.
Schwarzenegger’s qualifications for the California job were the hot topic of Sunday talk shows.
Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior senator, told NBC’s Meet the Press she believed Davis could still win the vote now less than two months away.
“I think the governor has a good opportunity to defeat this recall,” said Feinstein, herself a Democrat. “My view is that this recall should be defeated. It’s bad for California.”
Former Republican Gov. Wilson, Davis’ predecessor, said on CBS’s Face the Nation he thought Davis would be recalled and that Schwarzenegger would be elected governor.
A Time/CNN poll released Saturday found Schwarzenegger would win 25 per cent of the vote if the election were held now, 10 points ahead of his closest competitor, the Democratic lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante. Former Democratic Gov. Brown, currently the mayor of Oakland, told CNN he opposed recalling Davis. Nonetheless, he said, “If Schwarzenegger has an answer to the (state's) revenue crisis and he can get the damn criminals off the streets of Oakland, hell, I may vote for him.”
Some politicians have questioned Schwarzenegger’s abilities due to his ducking of detailed questions about key issues. San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, a Democrat, predicted tough times ahead.