Arnold has his back
Rep. C.W. Bill Young got a little help from a celebrity friend and fellow Republican pol today: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger headlined a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser for the long-time Pinellas County congressman on Capitol Hill.
Turns out that Schwarzenegger, a former actor and body-building champion, has been pals with Young and his wife, Beverly, since 2003, when he visited Young while trying to convince Congress to restore $400-million the Bush administration had cut from after-school programs.
Young, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee at the time, was receptive to his cause. But what really got to Schwarzenegger was Mrs. Young's invitation for him to join her in visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"She held my hand and said, 'Before you leave to go back to California, can I take you out to the hospital, Walter Reed hospital?'" Schwarzenegger, who was in town for a National Governors Association meeting, told the crowd. "I said yes."
The Youngs have made visiting and helping wounded troops a favorite cause. Schwarzenegger commended them for their passion.
"And when they have a fund-raiser, of course I'm here," Schwarzenegger said. "Go all out for this man. Go all out. Whatever you've done today, double it."
The Youngs were just as complimentary. In introducing the governor, Mrs. Young said Schwarzenegger is always willing to call a wounded soldier to buck him up, and frequently joins her on tours of Walter Reed when he's in Washington. She recalled him telling one young man "that I am a hero in the movies, but you are a hero in real life."
Young, 77, of Indian Shores, has held his congressional seat for 37 years. This fall he faces another challenge from Samm Simpson of Dunedin, a Democrat who won 34 percent of the vote in 2006.
While he is often a reluctant fund-raiser, telling supporters that raising money is the worst part of his job, he can expect to have plenty of cash: Young is the top Republican on the appropriations subcomittee that oversees defense spending, and Monday's fund-raiser was packed with defense lobbyists and industry officials. As of Dec. 31, he had nearly $563,000 in his reelection account.
The luncheon drew about 150 people to the Capitol Club, a Republican institution a couple blocks south of the Capitol where Young typically holds one fund-raiser each election cycle. And the price of baked chicken breast, the chance to schmooze with Young and hear Schwarzenegger crack wise for about five minutes? That'd be $1,000 for individuals and $2,500 for political action committees.
Young said he normally doesn't put a price on his invitations, but with Schwarzenegger coming, "we didn't want it to get out of hand."