Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday he will end his multimillion-dollar consulting deal with two fitness magazines amid criticism that the work was a conflict of interest.
The governor said he will relinquish his title as executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines and forego any compensation.
“I don’t want to be paid,” Schwarzenegger said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, adding that “the people have my full devotion.”
The governor was forced to defend his contract with the magazines after a securities disclosure filed this week showed he would be paid at least $1 million a year for five years to serve as a consultant.
“The decision is to discontinue the relationship we have now,” he said. “I will continue promoting body building and fighting obesity.”
Roots of conflict-of-interest accusation
Last year, Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have regulated the use of performance-enhancing substances in high school sports. That move led some lawmakers to accuse the governor of having a conflict of interest because he acted on legislation that could hurt the nutritional supplements industry while taking millions of dollars from magazines that rely on the industry’s advertising for profits.
The governor said the legislation was flawed because it did not clearly define supplements and failed to adequately address steroid use.
A similar bill is pending this year, and Schwarzenegger said Friday that he would be “more than happy” to consider the redrafted version.
“I want to do everything I can to get rid of the performance-enhancing (substances),” he said.
Schwarzenegger’s deal with a subsidiary of American Media Inc., Weider Publications, was disclosed in March 2004. But the amount he was being paid was not made public until the company filed documents Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
At the time of the 2004 announcement, Schwarzenegger said he would take a salary that was “petty compared to the movies.” The magazines also agreed to donate $250,000 a year to the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness.
Advocate for nutritional supplements
The governor has admitted using steroids during his days as a champion body builder, when the substances were legal, but has since denounced them. He has continued to promote nutritional supplements.
“Any food supplement you take, all those are natural and will help you have more energy and help with your performance,” the governor said. “No reason I thought to outlaw food supplements, something I’ve been on my whole life.”
He plans to continue writing columns for both magazines but will not be paid. He said he has no plans to return money from the consulting work “because we haven’t done anything wrong.”
California law allows elected officials to keep outside jobs, and Schwarzenegger does not accept his $175,000 annual salary from the state.
Schwarzenegger’s contract with the magazines said he would receive 1 percent of the publications’ advertising revenue each year for five years. The payment was to be no less than $1 million a year but could reach much higher.
The governor’s financial disclosure filings with the state showed only that he received an undisclosed amount from American Media, which also publishes The National Enquirer, Star and other celebrity tabloids.
A telephone call to American Media’s office in Boca Raton, Fla., went unanswered late Friday.
‘Perception is very powerful’
The SEC filing, which referred to Schwarzenegger only as “Mr. S,” also showed that American Media was paying $100,000 a year for five years to the Arnold Classic, an annual bodybuilding competition in Ohio.
That contribution may be discontinued because it is part of the severed contract. The donation to the governor’s fitness council will continue because it is governed by a separate agreement, Schwarzenegger’s office said.
The governor said Friday that he has had “an extraordinarily close personal and business relationship” with Weider Publications for more than 35 years and saw no reason to end it after he was elected governor in 2003.
“Sometimes there’s two different things — there’s reality and there’s perception, and perception is very powerful,” he said.