Special interest groups can't buy a multi-millionaire like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), as he has claimed since his recall election campaign in 2003. But charities can use tax-deductible donations to pick up the tab on his private jet jaunts and stays in top tier hotels, the Los Angeles Times reports
Arnold Schwarzenegger, a millionaire many times over, bills much of his overseas travel to an obscure nonprofit group that can qualify its secret donors for full tax deductions, just as if they were giving to skid row shelters or the United Way.
Whether journeying to China, Japan or last week's destinations â Austria, England and France â Schwarzenegger typically flies on top-of-the-line private jets like the plush Gulfstream models and has booked hotel suites that can run thousands of dollars a night.
What could be questionable about this set up?
By giving to the foundation, donors avoid having their identities made public, because charities are not governed by the disclosure rules that apply to campaign contributions. And they can donate unlimited amounts to the nonprofit, which is not subject to contribution ceilings the way campaign accounts are.
Most of the international trips have been "trade missions," meant to help boost the state's economy. It sounds reasonable, but critics told the Times they are little more than "junkets designed to boost his international profile."
Corporate executives sometimes get to tag along on the privately-chartered jet trips too. But that won't influence the governor, because it's all one big secret:
Foundation backers have said that because the group doesn't disclose the names of donors, Schwarzenegger would not know if his corporate travel-mates helped pay for a trip and thus could not be influenced by their donations.