Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has rung up legal bills of more than a half million dollars to defend himself and campaign aides in libel cases related to groping allegations made during the 2003 recall election, according to records released Monday.
Schwarzenegger and two campaign aides are fighting a libel lawsuit in London brought by a former British television host who claims she was groped by Schwarzenegger and later defamed by campaign staff when they commented about the incident.
Campaign finance records show Schwarzenegger paid about $116,000 last year to prominent British attorney Keith Schilling to defend him. The attorney is still owed more than $150,000.
Records also show Schwarzenegger has paid or still owes a total of nearly $260,000 to attorneys who helped settle a separate libel suit brought by a movie stuntwoman who claimed Schwarzenegger’s campaign lied about another groping incident.
Records show the governor is spending money donated to his Californians for Schwarzenegger committee, which he organized to support his election in the recall campaign.
“The only fees paid by CFS (Californians for Schwarzenegger) related to the campaign and the two libel cases,” said Schwarzenegger’s attorney, Martin Singer. “I have many, many other issues involving Arnold Schwarzenegger that are not paid for by CFS.”
California law allows an officeholder to use campaign contributions to defend the candidate or aides against legal action stemming from campaign activity, said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies.