Schwarzenegger seeking big money from political donors

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is selling access to a pair of social soirees at his Brentwood mansion to deep-pocketed political donors willing to hand over at least $100,000 for his political fund.

Donors who cut six-figure checks will be able to sip cocktails with the celebrity governor and first lady Maria Shriver at their Southern California home this Thursday and dine again there early next month, according to the four-page fundraising invitation obtained by The Bee.

The events represent the kind of access to the state's chief executive that makes government watchdogs wary.

"These sums may be a small price (for donors) to pay in comparison with the potential benefit that they might derive," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.

Krumholz said such sizable contributors tend to be "individuals who will be looking to shore up their relationship in order to grease the skids for their legislative agenda."

Julie Soderlund, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, defended the events as "opportunities for people to hear about the governor's vision for the state," not for him to hear their agenda.

"The governor is absolutely not influenced by a contribution and totally driven on a policy front by what he believes is best for California," Soderlund said. "If you look at this governor's record, he's shown time and time again he's his own thinker."

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