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Byline: Jim Hinch and Ronald Campbell
SANTA ANA, Calif. _ To keep their boss from going blind, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's team of professional fund-raisers hit on an elegantly simple idea: a stack of cards.
Before Schwarzenegger makes his entrance at one of the many fund-raisers he has held since assuming office, aides hand out about 80 cards entitling eager donors to a photo with the governor _ thus limiting the blinding flashbulb pops Schwarzenegger endures before wading into crowds who pay thousands of dollars apiece for a few precious minutes with the most powerful man in California.
The cards are a small but telling symbol of the unparalleled sophistication and success of Schwarzenegger's fund-raising apparatus, an apparatus guided by a governor who promised voters he was rich enough to stride into Sacramento and sweep away its special-interest money politics.
Since announcing his candidacy in August, Schwarzenegger has raised $28,323,000 from most of California's largest special interests _ corporations, utilities, insurers, HMOs and countless other organizations that do business with the state or are affected by its regulations.
The total _ equivalent to $127,000 for every day of his short political career _ is larger than the general-fund budget of the city of Seal Beach and enough to send 396 students to the University of California, Irvine, for four years, all expenses paid.
In his first four months after taking office, Schwarzenegger raised $10.3 million to pay off campaign debts and promote his agenda _ more than 10 times as much as the $832,000 Gov. Gray Davis raised in the four months after his 2000 …