Schwarzenegger denies conflict of interest claim

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The Independent US

California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is at the centre of a row over an alleged conflict of interest after he confirmed that he was being paid millions of dollars by two body-building magazines.

As "executive editor", the former actor is being paid more than $8m (£4.5m) over five years by the magazines, which draw much of their advertising incomes from the makers of nutritional supplements. Last year, Mr Schwarzenegger used his veto power as governor to block legislation that would have imposed government regulations on the supplement industry.

"This is one of the most egregious apparent conflicts of interest that I have seen," said Larry Noble of the Centre for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based political watchdog. "He is being paid to promote the interests of the magazine. His job is to promote the interests of the people of California."

Mr Schwarzenegger's office confirmed that he was being paid the money after the magazines, Muscle & Fitness and Flex, made filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to the filings by the magazines' parent company, American Media, Mr Schwarzenegger signed a contract to "further the business objectives" of the magazines on 15 November 2003 - just two days before he was sworn in as governor of the Golden State.

Stuart Zakim, a spokesman for American Media, which bought the magazines from Weider Publications two years ago, said: "Having Arnold as executive editor of both magazines has enormous value and brings credibility to the publications."

Mr Schwarzenegger's office has argued that there is no conflict of interest. A spokesman, Rob Stutzman, told Reuters: "My reply is, so what, what's the harm? We've been clear ever since he's become governor that he still would have outside income. He reports that income under state law in a form filed on an annual basis."

The contract with Mr Schwarzenegger says he is not required to work for the magazines during normal working hours on business days. But it is clear that it is in the governor's interest for the magazines to do as well as possible: the contract states that Mr Schwarzenegger's company, Oak Productions, will receive 1 per cent of all advertising revenue. It adds that "in no event" will payment be less than $1m a year.

The two magazines, founded by the longtime body-building promoter and Mr Schwarzenegger's mentor Joe Weider, are full of advertisements for performance-enhancing supplements. The Los Angeles Times reported that the 257-page August issue of Muscle & Fitness contains 110 pages of advertisements for supplements ranging from creatine ethyl ester to anabolic/androgenic "absorption technology".

The governor used his regular column in the June issue of Muscle & Fitness to defend the supplement industry and vowed to oppose any effort to restrict sales of the products in California. An article in the August edition added that Mr Schwarzenegger had "lent his support" to a new lobbying group established to promote nutritional supplements. "The governor also made it clear that he will remain a phone call away as the coalition progresses," the magazine said.

Last year, the governor vetoed a bill by a state senator that would have required sports coaches to take a course in performance-enhancing supplements, created a list of banned substances for school sports and barred supplement manufacturers from sponsoring school events.