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Trusting the governor: He trusts, wants to be trusted

For Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last two months have been all about trust.

Trust me, he said, during the Republican National Convention in New York. Though he’d taken more than $22 million for his campaign committees by then, he insisted he had no idea who gave the money.

He assured reporters he would never be influenced by the donors’ largesse, either.

Then he went home and began signing and vetoing bills precisely the way his donors wished. The state Chamber of Commerce, loaded with big-money Arnold backers, wanted him to veto bills raising the minimum wage and forcing planned big-box stores like Wal-mart and Home Depot to submit economic impact reports as well as environmental evaluations.

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Job-killers, the chamber called these bills. Job-killers, Schwarzenegger echoed, as he applied the desired vetoes.

But it’s not all about the governor asking Californians to trust him. He’s also demonstrated much greater trust in others - corporations and individuals - than any of his recent predecessors ever did.

Take convicted murderers. In his first 10 months as governor, Schwarzenegger approved parole for 48 convicts serving life terms for murder. Republican ex-Gov. Pete Wilson needed eight years to parole that many. The 48 were more than nine times as many as Democratic ex-Gov. Gray Davis released in his five years.

Schwarzenegger refused to be interviewed about this and other subjects, but a spokeswoman, Terri Carbaugh, said he “believes people can reform and be reformed. …" There’s that concept of trust again.

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The governor trusts the killers he’s releasing not to kill again. No other recent governor had similar trust for proven murderers.

He also trusts companies to pay workers fairly even when they don’t have to. Thus his veto of the minimum wage bill, which would have set the wage floor at $7.75 per hour. Others are not so trusting of either businesses or the governor.

“You can’t serve two masters,” the wage increase bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Lieber of Mountain View, observed to reporters. “You either side with corporate interests or the people. He sided with the corporate interests.”

Schwarzenegger also sides with the myriad companies backing Proposition 64, which would bar many lawsuits over unfair business practices and pollution. Again, he uses the “job-killer” mantra while joining companies like ExxonMobil, Safeway, Microsoft, Nike and a host of car dealers who have donated to the No on 64 campaign after losing or settling in consumer fraud or anti-pollution lawsuits.

This means Schwarzenegger trusts oil companies not to pollute water supplies the way Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and others did with their now-banned MTBE additive. The oil companies ponied up many millions to clean up their messes because of lawsuits, including some that couldn’t have been filed if Proposition 64 were in effect.

He trusts supermarkets like Safeway - compelled to stop re-dating old meat by another lawsuit of the type Proposition 64 would stymie - not to resume its old deceptive practices.

He signed into law a bill allowing women accused of serious crimes much greater leeway to claim they were coerced into action by abusive boyfriends or husbands. Plainly, the governor trusts these accused female criminals and their lawyers not to lie.

Plus, as Schwarzenegger revealed plans to veto bills that would let Californians buy discount drugs from Canadian pharmacies, he promised to “talk with” drug company executives about lowering their prices. So he trusts them to drop prices when they don’t have to.

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Of course, he trusted workers compensation insurance companies to lower premiums they charge after he won passage last spring of reforms cutting their costs. But they actually reduced premiums only a fraction as much as their costs have dropped. Plainly a case of misplaced trust.

Schwarzenegger also wants electric power deregulated almost completely, demonstrating he trusts the same generating firms whose criminal actions helped cause the energy crunch of the early 2000s won’t cheat again if given the chance.

Trust therefore must be a big part of Schwarzenegger’s makeup. Yet, he’s demonstrated he can’t always be trusted. Example: He told a radio talk show host on the air in August that he’d been so dedicated to his job he had yet to take a vacation. The host said nothing, but others noted the several weeks the governor spent in places like Hawaii and Idaho.

He told the voters he would never take campaign donations, and so far “never” means upwards of $22 million. He told the voters he would order an independent investigation of his admitted old habit of groping unwilling women, and then did not.

The question: If Schwarzenegger can’t always be trusted, what about his judgments on who the state of California and its people should trust?