Retirement Roulette

Don't Gamble With My Pension

Schwarzenegger seeks to recast reform effort with new ad campaign

Initiative would limit use of public employee union dues on politics.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Amid sagging poll numbers and relentless criticism from Democrat-leaning interest groups, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to reclaim the high ground with a television ad campaign aimed at restoring public confidence in the governor and his reform proposals.

The new statewide ad, produced by media strategist Don Sipple, attempts to restore the governor's image as a populist reformer. After months of pounding by teachers, nurses and other unions caused his popularity to plummet, the new ad allows Schwarzenegger to shift away from his criticism of so-called "special interests" and focus on the Democratic-controlled legislature instead.

The ad shows Schwarzenegger wearing a white shirt and blue tie, telling a group of citizens in a coffee shop that for every dollar the state takes in, legislators spend $1.10.

"And they can't fix the problem because they created it," Schwarzenegger says as his table mates listen. "My reform agenda will bring back fiscal responsibility and accountability. You are the ones who pay taxes and foot the bills."

In January, Schwarzenegger unveiled an ambitious plan to overhaul the state's public pension system, redraw legislative boundaries, enact an automatic budget balancing mechanism, and make it harder for teachers to get tenure. He's since backed away from the pension plan but has pushed ahead with the other measures, vowing to call a special election if agreement on them could not be reached in the Legislature.

The new ad debuted Tuesday, days before a Friday deadline for gathering signatures to qualify the proposals for a Nov. 8 special election.

"There's clearly going to be a clash of ideas between the governor's reform agenda and the Sacramento status quo," said Todd Harris, a Schwarzenegger political adviser. "What's important is that the governor has a reform agenda that will get done, period."

Democrats said the ad was an effort to divert attention from the more controversial aspects of his reform initiatives.

"The ad is Arnold doing poll-driven sound bites," Democratic strategist Andrew Acosta said. "His credibility is shot, and Californians know he's broken his promises. They are rejecting both the message and the messenger at this point."

Enraged by Schwarzenegger's attacks on teachers, nurses and other unions, and his decision to withhold $2 billion from public schools, the California Teachers Union and a labor-backed coalition called the Alliance for a Better California have run ads accusing him of breaking his promises and favoring corporate interests over ordinary citizens.

Their latest ad takes aim at Schwarzenegger's proposed budget-balancing measure, which they say would cut education funding by $4 billion and result in deep cuts in local police and fire protection.

Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford University professor and specialist in political communications, said the message and the sheer volume of the anti-Schwarzenegger ads left the governor little choice but to retaliate.

"Their message has been clear: Can you trust this guy after making all these promises?" Iyengar said of the labor ads.

top of page

Powered by SCG - XHTML & CSS compliant.