My Evening With Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger And A Few Of His Rich Friends
Have I ever told you about the evening in 2005
when I had dinner with
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Me and a hundred other people, that is.
The fundraiser, held at real estate
Stockton, California mansion, gave me a close up look at how
patronage works—not that I didn`t fully understand it before
I walked through the front door.
By this time, you`re probably asking yourself
how a lowly
English as a Second Language instructor toiling in obscurity
Lodi Adult School received an invitation to participate in a
ritzy gala on behalf of the governor of the union`s largest
I certainly wasn`t invited because someone
thought I qualified as a candidate for a generous donation. Not
only didn`t I have any money, I didn`t even own any appropriate
clothing to wear!
Here`s how it happened.
One day a wealthy acquaintance complained
to me that Spanos was leaning on him to fork over $5,000 a plate
for two tickets to a Schwarzenegger fundraiser. Because of my
friend`s long-standing personal association with Spanos, he
couldn`t turn down the request.
But, my friend went on to explain, he
dreaded the idea of schmoozing all night.
“Give me the tickets and I`ll go in your
place,” I said.
And with that, I was off to hobnob with the
When they asked me how I earned a living, I
teach ESL.” Although I got curious stares, no one was
rude enough to follow up with: “What are you doing here?”
Shortly after Schwarzenegger arrived—about a
half an hour late—our group was broken up into two. The
extremely well-heeled went into the large dining room where the
governor spoke about California`s prosperity and how, in order
to keep the state thriving, his
re-election was essential. Lesser lights like me got
shuffled off to a smaller room where everyone (except me) spoke
Schwarzenegger`s outstanding leadership.
Of course, even though Schwarzenegger had
promised during the
Gray Davis election that he had
plenty of his own money, he was not embarrassed that night
to ask the flush to open their wallets.
What I didn`t realize at the time, but is
crystal-clear today, is that those assembled
and real estate developers, through their predatory
minority mortgage lending policies—already
progress in 2005— were on the verge of bringing California
The evening`s honoree, Schwarzenegger,
served as the great enabler for California`s collapse. And our
host, Spanos, played at least a minor part albeit unwittingly.
Because Spanos is the
immigrant success story so wildly coveted by the MainStream
Media, Spanos provided the perfect role model for the
Schwarzenegger banking connection, especially as it involved
unqualified Hispanic borrowers.
In 1951, with his young wife Faye and their
infant child, Spanos took a risk and left his father`s bakery
business, borrowed $800 and purchased a truck to sell sandwiches
San Joaquin Valley`s migrant
With Faye`s assistance, Spanos transformed
his first venture into a food services business that soon became
so lucrative that he invested his profits in real estate.
By 1960, Spanos had formed A.G. Spanos
Construction that eventually became the country`s top-ranked
housing construction company. Today Spanos is chairman of eight
companies, collectively known as
A.G. Spanos Companies.
Spanos` personal achievements may have been a
factor in influencing other developers and Schwarzenegger that
no-money-down loans made mostly to Hispanics would work out
Ironically Stockton, where Spanos was born and
thrived, is today the
country`s foreclosure capital.
Yet the confluence of Schwarzenegger, Spanos,
estate developers and bankers—all of whom profited so
enormously during the housing boom—is breathtaking.
According to filings on record at with the
Secretary of State, through 2008 the real estate and finance
rank numbers one and two as the most magnanimous
contributors to Schwarzenegger, totaling $21 and $14 million
The complete top twenty donors` list includes
many prominent Minority Meltdown Mortgage players, for example
To date, Spanos family members and his
various companies are, in the aggregate, Schwarzenegger`s
second-highest contributors, having given just under $3 million.
Furthermore, Spanos enthusiastically
home ownership advocate, former President George W. Bush.
Via A.G. Spanos Companies and legally laundered through
Progress for America, Spanos gave a total of more than $5
million in campaign donations since 2004 to
Schwarzenegger and Bush.
Critics of Progress
for America`s influence on Bush
describe the organization as functioning “like
an unofficial extension of the White House, advancing the
president`s policies alongside the Republican National
One of Bush`s key
domestic “policies”— no matter its risks— was
minority home ownership.
As is all too typical
with politicians, Schwarzenegger has found religion—after the
bottom fell out.
In September 2008, Schwarzenegger
legislation to protect California homeowners and homebuyers
and help (or so he shamelessly claimed) establish a safer, more
responsible lending environment by increasing accountability
among lenders and preventing their abusive practices.
“All Californians deserve the
opportunity to achieve the American dream of homeownership and
this legislation will help homebuyers realize that dream in the
aftermath of the housing crisis. I am pleased to sign
legislation that protects consumers and creates a responsible
and accountable lending environment that will encourage
homeownership in our state.”
Signs Mortgage Legislation to Protect California Homeowners and
Imperial Valley News, September 20, 2008]
You will have to dig deep into
history`s archives to find a more offensive comment uttered by
an elected political official.
What Schwarzenegger failed to
mention during his paean to “the American dream of
homeownership” is that banks
aren`t lending to anyone. No new “dreams”
will be realized anytime soon.
And if you—
own a California home and want to sell it, your “dream”
has turned into a nightmare for the same reason:
federal stimulus money went into the banking system but it
came back out.
I personally would consider myself lucky if I
home for its purchase price twenty years ago.
Except for Schwarzenegger, who`s
playing out his gubernatorial string, I have no idea what`s
become of my fat-cat dinner companions from a few years back. We
didn`t exchange business cards.
I`ve also moved on to a new
but undesirable, headache-filled and not particularly lucrative
Well, as the age-old saying
goes, life is an adventure. But must it be such a painful one?
him] is a California native
who recently fled the state because of over-immigration,
over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He
has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the
growth rate stable. A
long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School,
Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It
currently appears in the