Schwarzenegger Takes Heat over Magazine Contract

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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is under scrutiny for his multi-million dollar contract with a publisher of body-building magazines. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing revealed his financial connections to Flex and uscle and Fitness magazines. They advertise nutritional supplements and critics say that's a conflict of interest.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is being blasted for his multimillion-dollar contract with the publisher of bodybuilding magazines. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing revealed the large sum the governor is being paid to consult and write for Flex and Muscle & Fitness magazines. The magazines advertise nutritional supplements and critics say that's a conflict of interest. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO reporting:

Arnold Schwarzenegger avoided responding to the buzz over his multimillion-dollar gig with the muscle magazines. Instead, he was in LA yesterday to lobby against closing military bases in California.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): As governor, it's my job to always consider the effect of any action on our economy.

DEL BARCO: During his testimony, the government made no mention of his magazine contract as consultant, executive editor and monthly columnist. News reporters waiting outside were kept at bay behind a fence and half a parking lot away from Schwarzenegger as he came and left the meeting, but they didn't miss the opportunity to ask the question of the day...

Unidentified Woman: Governor, can you talk to us...

Unidentified Man: Governor, can you talk to us?

Unidentified Woman: ...about the million-dollar deal?

Unidentified Man: Governor!

Unidentified Woman: Governor, can you comment?

DEL BARCO: Schwarzenegger simply smiled and waved as he was whisked away in an SUV to the airport to fly off to Mexico for the annual Board of Governors Conference.

(Soundbite of vehicle)

DEL BARCO: He left behind two men wearing Schwarzenegger masks. Todd Warden, who says he works for the California Democratic Party, impersonated the governor he was protesting.

Mr. TODD WARDEN: (Imitating Schwarzenegger's accent) He vetoed legislation that helps the people of California and you take $8 million. I cannot believe it. He is not fantastic anymore.

DEL BARCO: Warden was referring to Schwarzenegger's veto last year of a bill cracking down on dietary supplements in California high school sports, supplements that advertise heavily in the fitness magazines in question. The governor's contract reportedly gives him 1 percent of the magazine's ad revenues.

State Senator JACKIE SPEIER (Democrat, California): The governor should announce that he is going to be a full-time governor and that he wants to stand above any potential risk or perception of a conflict of interest.

DEL BARCO: Democratic State Senator Jackie Speier sponsored the bill that would have banned dietary supplements and required high-school students to pledge not to use performance-enhancing drugs. Speier is now calling on the governor to cut his ties to the magazines immediately.

State Sen. SPEIER: When you're an actor and you do wild and crazy things, the public gives you a pass because there's an expectation that you have a non-traditional or unorthodox life, but when you are an elected official in this state, there is an expectation that you are going to play by the rules and that you are never going to place yourself in the position of having a conflict of interest.

DEL BARCO: American Media Inc., which publishes the bodybuilding magazines, also owns the National Enquirer, Star and other celebrity tabloids that have been notably glowing about Schwarzenegger. In Sacramento, his spokesman, Rob Stutzman, denied the governor has any legal conflict of interest with the company because he has no direct contact with advertisers. Besides, he says, the governor's position has never been a secret.

Mr. ROB STUTZMAN (Spokesman): The governor has longtime been an advocate for supplements. He believes and promotes in a healthy lifestyle and that's what he--he's used supplements throughout his life and he doesn't think they should be regulated by the government.

DEL BARCO: Stutzman noted that the seven-time Mr. Olympia bodybuilder doesn't take his allotted $175,000 governor's salary. Being a famous movie actor has made Schwarzenegger a very rich man.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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