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Schwarzenegger touts California as an environmental model

WASHINGTON—Greenbacks and a greener world brought Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger back East this week, as he combines campaign fundraising with high-profile pitches for environmental protection.

Schwarzenegger is boosting his national profile by urging stronger action to combat global warming. In meetings with politicians, academics and the U.S. foreign policy elite, Schwarzenegger invokes California as the nation's environmental model.

"In California, we are doing everything we can to tip the balance in favor of the environment," Schwarzenegger said Wednesday afternoon at Georgetown University. "California is big. California is powerful, and what we do in California has an impact. We are sending the world a message."

It's the theme of the week, both globally and parochially.

Substantively, Schwarzenegger privately urged Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson this week to grant California a waiver needed to regulate greenhouse gases from cars and trucks. The governor invited Johnson to visit the state during an upcoming 90-day comment period.

Rhetorically, Schwarzenegger is beefing up his environmental credentials.

Schwarzenegger and Intel Corp. Chairman Craig Barrett delivered keynote speeches Wednesday at Georgetown's Newsweek Conference on Environmental Leadership. Not coincidentally, Newsweek magazine's 3.1 million subscribers saw a smiling Schwarzenegger holding up the Earth on the cover this week.

Intel was the other corporate sponsor of the daylong program. Schwarzenegger's role was confined to his 20-minute speech, in which he urged federal policymakers and Detroit automakers to take more aggressive action.

"What I'm saying to Michigan is, `Michigan, get off your butt and join us,'" Schwarzenegger told the enthusiastic crowd.

Thursday afternoon, the governor, whom Newsweek dubbed "the green giant," will bring this same environmental message to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. The 86-year-old organization attracts insiders who shape opinions and gravitate to government posts. It provides an appealing platform for a term-limited politician now stumping nationally for a "post-partisan" approach to governing.

With Schwarzenegger getting the full-bore celebrity treatment and showing his bipartisan ways by appearing alongside former California Democratic Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, other partisans had to snipe from afar.

"Schwarzenegger flies everywhere in a private jet (and) has a garage full of Hummers," said Bob Mulholland, a campaign adviser to the California Democratic Party, "so there's more greenhouse gases coming from his mouth than Schwarzenegger has actually reduced in the environment."

Schwarzenegger also scheduled a fundraising event in New York City following Thursday's speech. Schwarzenegger's campaign spokeswoman, Julie Soderlund, declined to say how much tickets cost, how much they expect to raise or where the event is being held. The event is part of a plan to retire a $2.4 million debt from last year's gubernatorial campaign.

Generally, these tickets come dear.

In the last several weeks, records show, Schwarzenegger's campaign has picked up $5,000 checks from contributors, including the auditing firms Deloitte Services and KPMG, Texas-based grocery executive Charles Butt and Henry Cisneros, the Democratic former secretary of housing and urban development.

One of Schwarzenegger's two home-state senators, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, is likewise focused on global warming as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The two did not huddle this week.

The senior Republican on Boxer's committee, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, remains skeptical about global warming claims, raising questions about what kind of legislation can be written.

"This issue is too important to our generation and future generations to allow distortions and media propaganda to derail the economic health of our nation," Inhofe declared in one of his last speeches on the topic.

Instead of either Boxer or Inhofe, Schwarzenegger met Wednesday with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The governor backs Feinstein's legislation, which would extend California's strict tailpipe emissions standards nationwide. Under the bill, automakers would have to cut tailpipe emissions by 30 percent from the 2002 levels by 2016.

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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