SACRAMENTO -- Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced a proposal Thursday to limit fund-raising and make government more open, and immediately used the plan to criticize his rivals.
Schwarzenegger's plan included four major elements:
* A ban on fund-raising by state officials during the budgeting process.
* Fuller disclosure of campaign contributions.
* A constitutional amendment to allow three retired judges selected by lottery to draw the boundaries of legislative districts.
"We need to throw open the doors and windows of government," Schwarzenegger said as he stood in front of a locomotive inside the California State Railroad Museum.
For the Schwarzenegger campaign, the site served as a backdrop to the recall provision's original purpose: breaking up railroad control of the state government. "There's no such thing as democracy in the dark," Schwarzenegger said.
At a news conference that followed his announcement, Schwarzenegger -- for the first time in the campaign -- criticized his chief Republican rival, state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), for taking campaign contributions from Indian tribes, which are funding one of his television ads.
Schwarzenegger's plan and subsequent attacks represent a distinct new tone for a campaign that has been slow to roll out policy proposals and reluctant to criticize rivals, in part at the insistence of his wife, Maria Shriver.
Thursday's announcements seemed to bear the markings of campaign strategist Mike Murphy -- who is close to Shriver -- and Sacramento political consultants who have been arguing for a more assertive tone.
Referring to the Republican senator from Arizona who has led efforts to control political spending nationally, GOP strategist Dan Schnur said, "It sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger has been drinking a cup of John McCain Kool-Aid." Schnur is a top advisor to businessman Peter V. Ueberroth, who has dropped out of the race.
The proposal, Schnur said, "allows Schwarzenegger to showcase two of his strengths. First, he gets to be the outsider who gets to clean up Sacramento. It also reinforces his policy credentials. The more time he spends outlining policy proposals for reforming government and the less time he spends on Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey, the better off he's going to be."
Schwarzenegger's proposals drew lukewarm praise from across the political spectrum. Critics point out that he is a multimillionaire who has given more than $3 million to his own campaign. Schwarzenegger also has raised money aggressively, holding as many as three fund-raisers a day. Any limits on fund-raising, critics noted, are more likely to hurt less wealthy candidates than to hurt him.
"Schwarzenegger's proposals would certainly benefit candidates like himself, who are wealthy and don't have a need to raise significant funds," said Paul Ryan, political reform director for the Center for Governmental Studies.
He called some of the proposals "more bark than bite." But at the same time, he praised Schwarzenegger's proposals to put legislative redistricting in the hands of judges and expand the Sunshine Act through a constitutional amendment.
That amendment was sponsored in part by the state Senate's ornery Democratic leader, John Burton, who greeted Schwarzenegger's embrace of his proposal with incredulity. "He's taking a stand on an issue," Burton said sarcastically.
Burton dismissed as unrealistic a Schwarzenegger pledge Thursday to not sign any bill that has not received a full public hearing in both the Assembly and Senate. Sometimes, he said, bills need to be passed rapidly.
Anti-tax activist Ted Costa, the original proponent of the recall, praised Schwarzenegger's plan, though he warned that his own efforts to take redistricting away from legislators had been blocked by the courts. "I'm impressed that Arnold Schwarzenegger has come up with a plan for government reform," he said.
Campaign officials conceded that some of the proposals were unlikely to pass the Legislature. In that case, Schwarzenegger suggested -- and aides confirmed -- that he could use his personal fortune in the initiative process to get things done.
Former Secretary of State Bill Jones, a Schwarzenegger advisor who helped announce the plan, said the actor's history as a successful salesman of an after-school initiative and of his movies would help him push the plan forward. "I think going over the top of the Legislature will be the key to his success," he said.
THE RECALL CAMPAIGN