Los Angeles, CA — Consumer Watchdog has filed a complaint with the state’s political watchdog calling for disclosure of the donors behind the Chamber of Commerce’s recent anti-Jerry Brown advertising.
The letter can be found here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/LTR_FPPC_CoC4710.pdf
“The Chamber of Commerce is clearly electioneering and it must not be allowed to be a shield for big unpopular corporations that want to evade campaign finance laws and hide their advocacy for and against candidates for office.“ said Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court. “The public would look very differently upon this advertising if it knew that Goldman Sachs or Anthem Blue Cross were paying for it.”
In a complaint filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer group pointed out that the timing and wording of the advertising “can lead to no other conclusion than the advertisement is made to influence the election of a candidate for the governor's office, Jerry Brown.”
Consumer Watchdog wrote:
“The claims in the advertising do not relate at all to Jerry Brown’s current duties in the Attorney General’s office. The ‘call to action’ at the end of the advertisement, for Brown to oppose taxes, is little more than window dressing because the Attorney General has no control over tax increases. The claim is clearly targeted at candidate Brown, not the Attorney General.
“Moreover, the Chairperson of the campaign of Brown's chief rival, Meg Whitman, is Pete Wilson, who is an influential member of the Board of Directors of the California Chamber of Commerce. An investigation of former Governor Wilson's role in approving, encouraging or even discussing this advertising effort is in order because such communication would likely constitute coordination between the Chamber and Whitman campaign. FPCC regulation 18550.1(b)(2) establishes a presumption that an ad is coordination when it is made ‘by or through an agent’ of the candidate.”
The complaint said, “Given the dangerous precedent being established here, of the Chamber being able to spend money against candidates without having to disclose the source of those contributions, we urge the FPPC to inspect any funding solicitations by the Chamber of Commerce for this advertising campaign. If the funding was sought based on a call for direct express advocacy, then the donors must be disclosed.”
The Chamber of Commerce claims that its anti-Brown advertisement is "issue advocacy," which is nonpartisan, public education about an issue that does not suggest voters should vote for or against a particular candidate. Issue advocacy can be conducted without the rigorous campaign disclosure requirements of "express advocacy," which is meant to influence an election. A simple reading of the text of the ad is unmistakably aimed at trying to influence voters' views about candidate Jerry Brown in the context of the gubernatorial election.
The ad says:
"California has lost one million jobs… We're $200 billion in debt… And Jerry Brown has a 35 year record of higher spending and taxes. Governor Brown opposed Prop 13 — Spending increased 163%. He turned a budget surplus into a massive deficit. Mayor Brown — Taxes went up. Spending increased 60%, and jobs vanished. Go to EnoughSpending.com to tell Brown enough is enough on higher taxes and spending."
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Consumer Watchdog is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org