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When a politician holds a news conference, invites a crowd and posts a sign that no cameras are allowed in the room, you have to figure the purpose of the event is something more than simply announcing news.

That was the case this afternoon, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's advance team staged an elaborate production to announce the signing of new Indian gaming compacts with six California tribes. The event was held on the stage of Sacramento's Veterans Memorial Auditorium, with chairs set up on the floor to accommodate several hundred spectators. As with the Academy Awards, care was taken to assure that every single seat was occupied. Those in the audience included gubernatorial appointees, lobbyists and campaign supporters. The press was herded to the back of the room.

The reason for the audience's presence was evident as soon as the event began, when an amplified voice from off-stage announced, "Please welcome the governor of California,
Arnold Schwarzenegger." The audience instantly rose and launched into a prolonged standing ovation. The compacts were signed on an oversized desk with the governor's seal in front, a desk that once belonged to Gov. Earl Warren,. At the back of the stage were oversized signs that said of Indian gaming compacts, "Promises Made, Promises Kept."

It had the appearance of more than just an exercise in ego-gratification, or the staging of an event that might look good on the evening television news. Schwarzenegger has pledged that he will aggressively campaign against two gambling-related initiatives on the November ballot, and today's event had the look of the production of a television campaign commercial.

All those people in the audience? In Hollywood, they call them extras.

95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at