| Arnold Schwarzenegger
His earthly election team is packed with heavyweight economic and political advisers. Last week, Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to show that God will also be on his side as he bids to become the new governor of California.
With Warren Buffet, the second-richest man in the world, and George Shultz, a former secretary of state, safely on board, the actor turned would-be politician revealed that he donated almost one sixth of his $26.1 million income to charity in 2001 — with the Roman Catholic Church the biggest beneficiary.
Schwarzenegger’s generosity emerged in his most recent tax return, made public by his campaign team, which showed that he had also donated a house worth $2 million (£1.3 million) to the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles. The house was later sold to raise funds for the city’s cathedral.
Coupled with reports of more modest gifts to the parish church in Santa Monica, where he lives, and of his family’s involvement in local church affairs, the revelation was designed to boost his appeal among California’s hispanic Catholic voters — a crucial constituency representing about one quarter of the electorate.
His generosity was well-timed: the previous year he had given just 2.4 per cent of his earnings to charity, drawing reproaches from some Catholic commentators.
Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver, the niece of President Kennedy, regularly attend the fashionable St Monica’s church.
The church was used as the location for the 1944 film, Going My Way, which featured Bing Crosby’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Father ’Malley, and attracts a star-studded congregation of Catholic celebrities.
On Saturday, Schwarzenegger, who is standing as a Republican, was still ahead of 135 rival candidates — who range from Larry Flynt, publisher of the pornographic Hustler magazine, to Michael Jackson, an electrical engineer — in the “recall” election, likely to displace the Democratic governor Gray Davis in two months’ time.
His support has levelled out at about 25 per cent, however, and his strategists hope that his commitment to the Catholic Church will act as a counterbalance to his notoriety as the ruthless killing machine from the Terminator films.
Catholic voters have traditionally supported the Democratic Party, as have most of California’s Latino population, who make up a large proportion of the state’s Catholics. However, President George W Bush won a majority of Catholic votes in 2000, a precedent which Schwarzenegger’s strategists are attempting to exploit.
Richard Major, US correspondent for the Catholic magazine The Tablet, said: “As a conservative, gentile Zionist, Schwarzenegger plays well to the Christian Right, which is strong in Los Angeles. Catholics tend to be social conservatives, but often vote Democrat. But as the Bush election showed, when he carved out a majority of Catholics for the first time since the Depression, they now represent the most important shifting demographic for the vote.”
In all, the film actor turned political candidate donated cash and assets worth $4.2 million in 2001. Other beneficiaries included the Twin Towers Fund, set up to help victims of the World Trade Center attack, and two children’s charities. He has previously contributed to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which pursued Nazi war criminals, thus endearing himself to California’s Jewish voters.
However, Schwarzenegger’s support for abortion rights has made him enemies within the church he has so generously funded, with some local priests denouncing his run for office. “Schwarzenegger’s pro-abortion,” declared one,” and abortion is a no-no.”