SACRAMENTO CA — Two groups complained Wednesday to California’s campaign watchdog agency about a television commercial funded by the California Chamber of Commerce that attacks Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown.
The ad and an accompanying Web site say Brown, the state’s current attorney general, raised spending as governor from 1975 to 1983 and opposed Proposition 13, which limited property tax increases.
"California’s lost 1 million jobs. We’re $200 billion in debt, and Jerry Brown has a 35-year record of higher spending and increased taxes," says the ad, which the chamber said in a news release will air "throughout virtually all of California in the coming weeks."
The California Democratic Party and the Santa Monica-based group Consumer Watchdog complained Wednesday to the Fair Political Practices Commission, arguing that the ad violated California elections law.
The groups say the ad, which was not paid for by the chamber’s political action committee, is intended to defeat Brown and therefore should be subject to disclosure rules about who paid for it. They also say it’s costing the chamber more than $1 million.
They also note that Republican candidate Meg Whitman’s campaign manager, former Gov. Pete Wilson, is on the chamber’s board.
Chamber President Allan Zaremberg said in a news release that the ad is intended to raise critical issues in this year’s governor’s race.
Sarah Pompei, a spokeswoman for Whitman, said in a statement that she did not know whether Wilson was aware of the ad, but because the ad is issue-oriented, "it wouldn’t matter if he knew about it or not."
The chamber’s commercial and Web site acknowledge that the job losses to which it refers have occurred since 2007 long after Brown was governor and while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who received the chamber’s endorsement, was in office.
While Brown did oppose Proposition 13, which was approved by about two-thirds of voters in 1978, so did Wilson and the California Taxpayers Association. The chamber did not support it. They all supported an alternative measure for a split-roll tax with lower taxes for owner-occupied homes.
The chamber ad fails to point out that the organization took the same position for which it is now criticizing Brown. After the vote, Brown declared himself a "born-again tax cutter."
Chamber spokeswoman Denise Davis did not return a telephone call from The Associated Press Wednesday. In an e-mail, she said the complaints "are without merit and our attorneys will respond."
Davis told The Sacramento Bee that the chamber’s board of directors approved funding for issue advocacy ads, although she was unsure whether board members had seen this specific ad.
In a letter to Zaremberg Wednesday, four board members asked him to take the ads off the air immediately.
"We, as members of the Cal Chamber Board of Directors, did not authorize the funding of attack ads on individual candidates and frankly, do not want the Cal Chamber to be using our member dues for these kinds of actions," wrote George Kieffer, Kevin Ratner, Robert Simonds and Cindy Starrett.
The heads of the University of California and California State University also sit on the chamber’s board and said they were unaware of the ad before it aired.