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CalChamber scraps anti-Brown ads

By Chris Rizo | Apr 9, 2010

Jerry Brown (D)

Allan Zaremberg

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-The California Chamber of Commerce on Thursday pulled television ads that the group was airing about Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brown.

CalChamber President Allan Zaremberg said the decision was made to jettison the ads, which criticized the attorney general's record on taxes and spending for the time he was California governor decades ago and the mayor of Oakland more recently.

The television ads, which will be replaced Friday, drew two complaints to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission and generated an angry response from at least four members of the CalChamber board of directors.

Board members George Kieffer, Kevin Ratner, Robert Simonds and Cindy Starrett warned Zaremberg in an April 7 letter that the ads would harm the Chamber.

"While we understand that the Chamber staff is justifying these ads as 'issue ads' pursuant to a board decision to conduct issue-oriented education efforts, to any reasonably minded person this is nothing more than a typical political attack ad," the letter said. "It undermines the Chamber's credibility to justify it as anything other than that."

In their letter, the directors noted that the 90-plus-member CalChamber board had not authorized attacks on Brown or any other political candidates.

Ethics complaints about the 30-second ad were filed Wednesday with the California Fair Political Practices Commission by Consumer Watchdog and the California Democratic Party. Consumer Watchdog complained that since the ad speaks against a candidate it should be subject to disclosure rules on independent expenditures.

The Santa Monica-based group and the Democratic Party's complaint raised the fact that Republican gubernatorial hopeful and GOP front-runner Meg Whitman's campaign chairman is former Gov. Pete Wilson, a member of the Chamber's board.

The groups noted that it would be illegal for the Chamber and the Whitman campaign to coordinate any independent expenditure effort.

The Chamber's ad, which was set to run statewide, highlighted Brown's original opposition to a Proposition 13 in 1978, which restricted property taxes and required a two-thirds vote for new taxes to be approved either by the public or the state Legislature.

"California has lost 1 million jobs, we're $200 billion in debt and Jerry Brown has a 35-year record of higher spending and taxes," the 33-second spot said. The ad notes that under his gubernatorial administration, state spending increased 163 percent. During his time as mayor, city spending in Oakland increased 60 percent and taxes increased.

Zaremberg said Thursday that he was "aware" that Brown contacted several members of the CalChamber board, urging them to press for the ad's discontinuance, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The newspaper reported also that unnamed sources said Brown's wife, Anne Gust, also made calls to Chamber members. Gust is a former chief counsel for clothing retailer The Gap Inc., based in San Francisco.

Brown is vying to succeed Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Brown, who was governor from 1975 to 1983, may seek another two terms because he held office before the state's term limits were enacted.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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