SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - California's Democratic attorney general candidate Kamala Harris announced on Monday her campaign is taking legal action against an out-of-state Republican fundraising group.
Harris' campaign said in a statement that a "shadowy out-of-state group calling itself 'The Republican State Leadership Association'" began running a vicious ad attacking the San Francisco district attorney in her race against Republican Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley on Sunday.
Her campaign alleges the Virginia-based Republican State Leadership Committee is pumping more than $1 million in funds from tobacco, oil, insurance and pharmaceutical companies into television attack ads "in an attempt to buy the Attorney General's Office in California."
The Republican committee is headed up by Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee under President George W. Bush. Karl Rove, the chief political strategist in the George W. Bush White House, also is reportedly affiliated with the organization.
The group is backed by big business, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield; Reynolds Tobacco; Altria, the world's largest cigarette maker; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber has donated about $7.2 million over six years, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
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On Saturday, the Sacramento Bee reported the Republican group's TV buy is large -- more than $1 million.
The ad itself attacks Harris on the death penalty -- she has said it is unjust and immoral -- and a decision she made as a district attorney not to bring capital charges against a man who killed San Francisco Police Officer Isaac Espinoza in 2004.
The Bee noted the TV spot may be the first major foray by a national organization into a race for California attorney general.
Dan Morain, senior editor of the Bee, wrote, "The point it makes is clear: The person who holds the job of California attorney general matters, not just to Californians."
Harris' campaign officials, including campaign counsel James Sutton, held a news conference on Monday to discuss who exactly they believe is behind the "shadow group," as they're calling it, and to announce that they are taking action against the group.
Cooley's campaign has maintained their candidate will not be influenced by donors who help elect him, and that no one from his campaign was aware the Republican group was getting involved in the attorney general race.
The results of a survey performed by San Francisco-based David Binder Research earlier this month showed Harris, who has been endorsed by President Barack Obama, slightly ahead of her opponent, 30 percent to 27 percent.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at email@example.com.