Chronicle’s Schwarzenegger Flak Launches Hit Piece on Angelides

by Randy Shaw on March 17, 2006

One day after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to secure Republican support for putting his public infrastructure bond on the June ballot, the San Francisco Chronicle sought to divert attention from this leadership failure by launching an attack on the Governor’s likely Democratic challenger, Phil Angelides. Not surprisingly, the attack was written by Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci, whose pro-Schwarzenegger puff pieces have become a staple of the Chronicle’s Re-elect the Governor campaign. Marinucci’s latest assault on Angelides was so dishonest and misleading that warning labels should be posted around town stating that reading the Chronicle’s Marinucci is hazardous to the truth.

On Thursday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a crushing political defeat when his fellow Republicans refused to approve the massive public infrastructure bond for the June ballot. The bond was the centerpiece of the Governor’s State of the State speech this year, and the Chronicle had previously headlined the Governor’s proposal as offering a “bold agenda” for California.

But the Governor could not even get fellow Republicans to follow his lead. The LA Times story on the bond’s failure (“Schwarzenegger Bond Issue Not on June Ballot”) noted that it had been “stymied by Republican resistance,” showing that the weakened Governor can no longer even display “leadership” over his own party members.

Not surprisingly, the San Francisco Chronicle covered the bond story in a way designed to insulate Schwarzenegger from his failure of political leadership. The Chronicle story (“Bond measure fails to make the ballot”) focused on the Senate’s failure to vote on the plan, emphasizing the “confusing infighting” among legislators.

Hasn’t the Chronicle argued that Arnold has the dazzling leadership skills necessary to cut through such infighting? Reading the Chronicle story, one would think the Governor was barely involved with a proposal that he previously claimed represented his agenda for California.

But the Chronicle was not content to simply avoid blaming Arnold for a lack of leadership. The paper had to simultaneously launch an outrageous attack on Arnold’s likely competitor in November, Treasurer Phil Angelides.

And when a hatchet job to help Schwarzenegger is needed, who would the Chronicle call upon but their resident Arnold flak, Carla Marinucci.

I’ve written extensively on Marinucci’s zeal to rehabilitate the Governor and put down Phil Angelides ( See and, but yesterday, with the Governor’s agenda in ruins, her editors apparently felt that a new misleading attack on Angelides by Marinucci was particularly needed.
Marinucci’s story (“Angelides’ past tactic to tap corporate funds now under scrutiny”) is a classic example of political propaganda. The thesis of the piece is that Angelides has no business criticizing the Governor for operating an “all you can eat special interest buffet” in Sacramento when a decade ago –and these are Marinucci’s words- Angelides “ was the maitre d’ of such buffets himself.”

Marinucci backs this claim by noting that Angelides “solicited donations from big tobacco and oil and energy firms,” justifying the fundraising as “the kind of thing corporations in California ought to do.”

But there’s a problem with Marinucci’s analysis. Arnold has raised millions from special interests while serving as California’s Governor— Angelides did his fundraising as a private citizen.

There’s quite a difference between a Governor raising money from the special interests whose operations he oversees and a private fundraiser who has no authority or influence over potential donors.

In other words, Governor Schwarzenegger can punish those who do not respond to his solicitations, while rewarding those who do. This makes his funding requests part of a “pay to play” approach.

In contrast, as a private citizen Phil Angelides had no ability to punish or reward potential donors. In fact, even Marinucci does not claim that Angelides has engaged in any questionable fundraising while serving as StateTreasurer.

With Arnold’s popularity in decline, and without a June bond issue that he could use to reconnect with voters, the new strategy of the Chronicle’s pro- Schwarzenegger editors is clear: have Marinucci switch from boosting Arnold to tearing down his likely opponent, without allowing facts to get in her way.

Marinucci wants voters to identify Angelides as a hypocrite, someone as beholden to special interests as the current Governor. She is being assisted by Angelides’ Democratic rival, Steve Westly, whose campaign manager called Angelides a hypocrite in yesterday’s story.

Who is Westly’s campaign manager? Garry South, who was the brains behind inveterate fundraiser and former Governor Gray Davis. Now there’s a credible source on fundraising reform!

The Chronicle’s relentless attacks on Angelides are having an impact, as Marinucci’s hit pieces run as new stories, rather than as opinion pieces on the editorial page. Many readers do not know her long history of biased reporting about the Governor, nor might they consider that a San Francisco-based newspaper would be going all out to support a Governor who has vetoed gay marriage and otherwise acted adversely to the city’s interests.

The Chronicle would like nothing more than having Schwarzenegger’s former ally, Steve Westly, as his opponent in November. South is enjoying the Chronicle’s campaign against Angelides, but the same biased journalism will be targeted at Westly should he upset Angelides in the June primary.

As a public service, Beyond Chron is considering producing stickers announcing that “Reading Carla Marinucci is hazardous to the truth.” The Hearst Corporation’s pro-Arnold propaganda does not figure into campaign contribution statements, so we must come up with alternative ways to expose its zealously pro-Schwarzenneger news coverage.

Let us know what you think of this idea.

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