Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) resigned his lucrative position as executive editor of two fitness magazines Friday, bowing to concerns from legislators and watchdog groups that the part-time arrangement posed a serious conflict of interest.
"When I became governor I pledged to put the people of California front and center," the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician said in a statement released from his office. "I don't want there to be any question or doubt that the people have my full devotion."
Though Schwarzenegger's role as titular editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines has been public since he joined them in March 2004, records made public this week showing that he was in line to receive at least $5 million over five years from their publishing company caused a stir across the state.
Much of the advertising revenue for the magazines comes from the dietary supplement industry. Last year, the governor vetoed a bill that would have discouraged high school athletes from taking performance-enhancing supplements.
Schwarzenegger's staff denied on Thursday that there was anything illegal or unethical in the deal, saying his veto stemmed from his longtime belief that supplements are healthy and noting that his expected magazine salary paled next to the sums he earned in moviemaking and business ventures over the years.
Yet the arrangement was roundly criticized by a variety of political watchers across California, and the bill's sponsor called on the governor to sever his ties with the magazines and their Florida-based publisher, American Media.
Both magazines were founded by Joe Weider, a longtime friend and mentor of Schwarzenegger, who sold them to American Media in 2003. In his statement Friday, the governor noted he had a longtime relationship with the publications "given that body building and fitness have been central to my life."
Aides described the governor's role with the magazines -- dictating a monthly column and offering suggestions to the staff -- as one that took up no more time than a hobby.
According to American Media's filings with the SEC, Schwarzenegger's Oak Productions firm was to receive 1 percent of annual advertising revenue, though no less than $1 million a year. The estimates included in the agreement total $8.15 million through 2009.
Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley said Schwarzenegger had no choice but to cut his ties with the company at a time when he is trying to persuade voters to approve his "reform" measures in a special election and has been challenging Democrats as being beholden to special interests.
"This was a conflict of interest," Cain said. "There was a possibility he could have fought it legally, but the political costs would have been much too high."