GOP candidates seek investigation into secret tapes

Chris Rizo Nov. 12, 2009, 1:52am

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California's three Republican gubernatorial candidates are calling on state Attorney General Jerry Brown to appoint an independent prosecutor to head an investigation into the secret taping of conversations by a Brown aide.

For its, part, Brown's office said this week that the office's former spokesman, Scott Gerber, did not break any laws when he tape recorded five calls with journalists, including writers from The Associated Press, The San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times.

California is one of 12 states that require notification of all parties before a phone call is taped. The law is outlined in California Penal Code Section 632.

But Brown, who is considering a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year, ought to investigate the matter more closely, said the GOP candidates: former EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman, former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

"The attorney general's most solemn duty is to enforce the law and demonstrate the courage to prosecute those who break the law regardless of their political party or personal relationships," Poizner said. "There are concerns as to whether Attorney General Brown has failed to exercise those duties during this recent controversy and the best course of action would be a third party investigation determining all the facts of this matter."

The Whitman campaign had this to say; "Simply put, Jerry Brown should not be investigating his own office for wrongdoing. This should be done by an outside party. It's no wonder Californians have lost confidence in Sacramento politicians."

Campbell, a former Stanford law professor, said the secret taping of reporter conversations is a "very serious matter that could have a chilling effect on press freedoms."

Already, an independent investigation into the matter has been called for by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based public interest group Consumer Watchdog and the California Republican Lawyers Association.

Gerber admitted to recording an interview this month with The San Francisco Chronicle's seasoned political reporter Carla Marinucci, who interviewed Brown for a story about criticisms of revisions he made to the ballot summary of a proposed measure on car insurance rates.

After the story was published on the newspaper's Web site, the Chronicle reported that Gerber contacted an editor at the newspaper to complain and e-mailed the editor a transcript of the conversation.

Gerber, 33, is a former spokesman for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

The scandal has been widely reported in the media. The controversy comes as Brown, 71, is considering a run for governor, a post he held from 1975 to 1983.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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