Posts Tagged ‘attack ads’



Chamber Yanks Attack on Brown; Fish Odor Lingers

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Under fire from board members, Attorney General Jerry Brown and editorial writers, California Chamber of Commerce CEO Allan Zaremberg on Thursday decided to cut short the TV ad campaign attack he produced and financed with $1.3 million from the Chamber’s coffers.

With University of California President Mark Yudof raising a stink (but relative silence from CSU and community college chancellors Charlie Reed and Jack Scott)*, with at least four Chamber board members in open revolt, with the Sacramento Bee labeling Zaremberg’s ad campaign a “cannonball of dishonesty,” and with the Attorney General and his former businesswoman wife lighting up board members, Zaremberg beat a hasty retreat.

Aren’t you glad Calbuzz blew the whistle on all this?

We have no idea what Zaremberg thought he was doing when he got authorization from his board to do issue ads and then produced and bought TV time for an attack ad that blames Brown for Proposition 13, a $200 billion deficit, spiraling taxation and the decline of civilization as we know it. We don’t know because the chicken-livered Chamber CEO won’t even come to the phone when we call.

He did speak to the Chronicle and to  Capitol Weekly, telling them: “We’re ready to move on to the next phase of our paid media campaign . . . We believe we’ve accomplished what we tried to accomplish with the first ad, which is bring attention to these important issues. We probably got a little more attention than we expected.”

What?  “Accomplished what we tried to accomplish with the first ad?” You gotta be kidding?

“California is facing serious challenges, and the voters deserve honesty from candidates and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce,” Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer said. “This ad was misleading, the funding is a mystery and it should never have been aired. We’re pleased the ad is down, and we hope the Chamber will return to a more constructive role in public affairs.”

Calbuzz checked with ad traffic managers at stations in Sacramento and Los Angeles who said, indeed, orders have been received to replace “Enough Is Enough” — the attack ad — with an ad titled “Plan,” which they had not yet seen.

We also heard that while the Chamber board had only approved issue ads in general, Zaremberg’s executive committee approved the specific ad. But we were unable to reach the chair of that committee, Larree M. Renda, executive vice president, chief strategist and administrative officer of  Safeway Inc. Wonder how happy Safeway is with Zaremberg, now?

Late Thursday, Tucker Bounds of the Meg Whitman campaign put out a statement alleging that Brown had “spent the last several days directly telephoning the top executives of companies who sit on the California Chamber of Commerce board to threaten both labor unrest from his allies and direct regulatory action from his office.”

Bounds offered no individual names and campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei could not either. But their pal and fellow Republican partisan Chip Hanlon, over at Red County, said Brown had threatened labor unrest and other investigations in conversations with executives from Safeway and the Bank of America.

If true, of course, this would represent a serious misuse of power by the Attorney General of California. But according to Brown’s spokesman Sterling Clifford, who said he was within earshot of all the calls the Browns made to Chamber board members, “It is frankly and flatly false. It’s a face-saving, desperate statement of a campaign whose allies attempted to circumvent campaign finance law and were uncovered.”

If we hear from some Chamber members that Brown was stupid enough to threaten them, we’ll be among the first to call for him to be held to account. In the meantime, here’s what’s bothering at us about all this: something’s fishy over at the Cal Chamber.

Why hide who the donors are who financed the ad? That’s what Zaremberg did by having the Chamber produce and place the ad instead of running the operation through the Chamber’s Political Action Committee, which would have to disclose the donors.

The Chamber can argue that’s because this was an “issue ad” — not a political ad — which may be legally true but practically specious.  Even if it was legally an issue ad because it never called for viewers to vote for or against anyone, this was an attack ad — pure and simple.

Why was the ad — which decries job losses in California — produced at Interface Media Group in Washington, DC, and why was it placed by Mentzer Media of Townsend, MD? Who made the ad? Who financed it? Did anyone at the Chamber get a commission or a fee?

Can someone explain this transaction? Does the Chamber board want to know?

* Update, 3:40 p.m. The following is a joint statement from California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed, and University of California President Mark Yudof:

While our campuses are forums for free and unfettered discussion of ideas, as leaders of California’s three public higher education systems we do not engage in partisan politics and we have some concerns about the advertisement recently released by the California Chamber of Commerce.

Though we serve on the Chamber’s 100-plus member board, we were not consulted about this advertisement and were not aware of it prior to it becoming public. We each have independently expressed our concerns to the Chamber, and it is our understanding that the ad has been pulled.

We value our inclusion on the Chamber board, which provides an opportunity to interact with business leaders on issues that are of vital importance to the future of California. This is a dialogue that has been of great benefit to higher education, the business community and the state as a whole. We hope Chamber leadership will understand and address our need not to be drawn into partisan politics through participation in the Chamber.

AB32 is Popular; Gunning for Campbell and Brown

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Loyal Calbuzzers know that we have argued repeatedly that betting against the environmental impulses of the California voter is risky business and the latest Field Research Corp. data on AB32 — the pioneering measure to control greenhouse gases — confirms that argument.

Nearly six in 10 voters (58%) said they favor the 2006 California law “that requires the state to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming by about 17 percent over the next 10 years.”

Nearly seven in 10 voters (69%) agreed that the state “can reduce greenhouse gases and expand jobs and economic prosperity at the same time.” That, however, was down from 74% in 2008 and 83% in 2007 — a reflection of the effects of recession.

Still, the numbers underscore the strategic problem GOP front-runner Meg Whitman has created for herself in the governor’s race by saying she would suspend AB32 and, in more recent remarks, suggesting she would jettison the law altogether, in the name of saving and expanding jobs.

Republicans oppose AB32 64-32% and conservatives oppose it 66-30%. But non-partisans support it 61-35% and moderates support the measure 64-31%. And among Democrats and liberals — forget about it: 73-23% and 84-12% respectively. (The data are from a Field Research Corp. survey of 503 registered voters March 9-15 with a margin of error of +/- 4.5%.)

So taking a stand against AB32 might help Whitman among conservative Republican primary voters — although it’s not clear she attracts them vis a vis Steve Poizner with this position. But her position will be a serious problem for her among the moderate Democratic and independent voters she would need to attract in November if she hopes to beat Democrat Jerry Brown.

Not only does Whitman continue to cite a study supporting her position that has been thoroughly debunked and repudiated, but she opens herself to Brown’s argument — as he laid it out to Calbuzz — that she is “dead wrong on the importance of reducing carbon pollution” for the sake of the environment in general and for “the lungs of little children in Southern California” in particular. Ouch.

Dudley faces danger: While the new LAT/USC poll showed that Tom Campbell remains the nominal front-runner in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the political landscape in the last two months of the campaign looks very treacherous for him for three key reasons:

1-The National Organization for Marriage, a leader in the fight to pass Proposition 8, has targeted Campbell. The group has announced it is spending $300,000 on ads that call attention to his opposition to Prop. 8 and support for same-sex marriage, positions that are sharply at odds with most Republicans. The same group played a role in helping Scott Brown win Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and in driving Democrat Dede Soczzafava in last year’s big special congressional election in New York.

Campbell, whose moderate views on social issues have given him trouble among conservatives in the past, has been in whistle-past-the-graveyard mode for months, insisting that the state of the economy will totally overshadow controversies like gay marriage in 2010. But the LAT poll showed that Republicans oppose it 62-to-28; the anti-gay marriage group has put out results of a poll they commissioned which supposedly shows only 2 percent of GOP voters know of his position on the issue. Even discounting the likely bias in the survey, that’s a helluva hill to climb.

2-The LAT poll shows that Carly Fiorina, Campbell’s chief rival, now holds a tiny lead, 30-to-28, among self described conservatives (who oppose gay marriage 70-to-22). While statistically insignificant, the finding is still a bad omen for Campbell, who holds at least a small lead among  virtually every other category of voter in the survey.

3-Campbell’s first-quarter fund-raising was less than stellar. Having announced a primary goal of $7 million, Dudley managed to raise only $1.6 million in the first quarter, which put him way behind Fiorina – who had $2.5 million in the bank as of December 31 – even before she reports her own first-quarter numbers. Given the advantage she holds in having her own money to spend, it’s not hard to imagine him getting buried under a barrage of negative ads in the next 60 days.

Meanwhile, on the attack ad front: University of California President Mark Yudof, a member of the California Chamber of Commerce Board, when asked whether he approves or disapproves of the attack ad on Brown produced by Chamber CEO Allan Zeremberg (but sold in advance to the board as issue advocacy), at first replied through a spokesman:

“President Yudof was not aware of this ad and did not participate in its approval. As a leader of a public university, he is non-partisan. He is looking into the circumstances surrounding the advertisement.”

When pressed further by Calbuzz to say whether he approves or disapproves of the ad, Yudof said, again through a spokesman, “He did not and does not approve of it.”

We then found this on his Facebook page:

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed would only say — through his spokesman — “The chancellor was not consulted and did not see the ad. That type of political activity is not something the CSU or the chancellor are involved in.”

He would NOT say he disapproves of the ad, leaving Calbuzz to conclude that he must approve of it since the board he serves on approved the expenditure.

As for Community College Chancellor Jack Scott — also a Cal Chamber board member — we couldn’t even get a comment from his outfit. So we assume he, too, must approve of the attack on Brown as well.

Good luck keeping those jobs if Brown gets elected guys.

Meanwhile, The California Democratic Party announced it would be filing an FPPC complaint against Whitman on grounds that her chairman, Pete Wilson, participated in the decision to fund the TV ad which is alleged to be an illegal in-kind contribution.

“This sleazy attack ad is obviously being done at the behest of the Meg Whitman campaign,” said CPD Chairman John Burton. “Clearly, there is collusion taking place and the intent couldn’t be plainer: to circumvent California law with regard to in-kind contributions.”

Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog also fired off a complaint letter to the FPPC.

Brown’s campaign used the ad as an opportunity to appeal for money and then late in the day Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer called on the Chamber to withdraw its  ad after “numerous Chamber Board members denied giving authorization to create it or Chamber dues to put it on the air.”

Said Glazer’s release: “Under the guise of an issue ad, the Chamber falsely ties Brown to job losses and budget shortfalls from the past two years, when California was led by a Republican governor. ”

Addendum: Late Wednesday, the Brown campaign released a letter from four Chamber board members — George Kieffer, Kevin Rattner, Robert Simonds and Cindy Starrett — calling on Zaremberg to stop funding the ads and pull them off the air because “to any reasonably minded person this is nothing more than a typical political attack ad.”

The hard-working Torey Van Oot of the Sac Bee Minus has the story and a link to a pdf of the letter here.

Chamber’s Hypocritical Swing at Brown on Prop. 13

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

It’s not often in politics that an esteemed organization like the California Chamber of Commerce produces and finances a political ad that is as cynical and disingenuous as “Enough is Enough” — the Chamber’s attack on Attorney General Jerry Brown, masquerading as an “issues ad.”

“California’s lost one million jobs, we’re 200 billion dollars in debt and Jerry Brown has a 35-year record of higher spending and taxes,” the ad begins, as if these assertions are  related.  And that’s just the opener.

“Governor Brown opposed Prop. 13. Spending increased 163 percent. He turned a budget surplus into a massive deficit,” the ad continues, ignoring the inconvenient truth that former Governors George Deukmejian (Steve Poizner camp) and Pete Wilson (Meg Whitman camp) and the California Chamber of Commerce itself — and almost every major corporate entity in California — opposed Prop.13 at the time.

In other words, Allan Zaremberg’s executive committee at the Chamber — which got clearance from the Chamber board to do issue advocacy — has instead leaped into the governor’s race with both feet as a rank partisan opposed to Jerry Brown.

“It’s not an attack ad,” Zaremberg insisted to Calbuzz. “This is an issue ad.”

“We want to ensure that we integrate the issues that are critically important to our members and Californians into the election debate,” he said in a press release “The goal of these ads is to press the candidates to articulate how their views about taxing and spending are likely to impact our job climate in the future.”

To which Calbuzz says: Ah, horseshit. This is an attack ad. Watch it yourself.

What is galling about this is not that Zaremberg has decided to go to war with Brown — we frankly don’t have a dog in that fight. It’s the smarmy, hiding-behind-the-skirts pretense of principles that we find loathsome.

Meg Whitman’s campaign strategist, Mike Murphy, had no qualms about describing the ad. “Cal Chamber runs TV ad to remind voters of Jerry Brown’s 35 yr record of fiscal disaster. Large media buy. See it here: http://bit.ly/bZfS3A,” Murph tweeted.

If  Zaremberg wants to lead the Chamber into battle against the Attorney General, then  man up, go to the board — including the CEOs of the University of California, State Universities and Community Colleges — and get them to agree to open fire.

As for the truth of the ad, Brown’s people vehemently dispute virtually every statement. Their response can be found  . . .  oops, looks like Brown’s campaign brain trust has decided, for strategic reasons, not to post their rapid response. Huh? But you can find a partial defense of Brown at Calitics, written by the Oracle of Cruickshank himself.

BTW, the Chamber didn’t fund this ad through its political action committee which would have been subject to disclosure regulations. Instead it’s funding the ad  — reportedly more than a $1 million buy — on its own, complete with a phony front site.

P.S. The news that Peter Schurman, founding director of lefty MoveOn.org, has decided to challenge Brown in the Democratic primary can only benefit Crusty. With Meg Whitman bashing Brown as a statist commie, Schurman’s platform of sweeping tax increases gives the General a handy opportunity to position himself more visibly in the middle on budget issues.

Boon or boondoggle: A new Public Policy Institute of California study of illegal immigration, showing that a legalization program would have little impact on the economy, is significant for both policy and political reasons.

As a policy matter, it sharply conflicts with recent reports out of USC and UCLA, both of which predicted a huge boost to California’s economy from legalizing the state’s several million undocumented adult workers, at a time when the immigration debate has been renewed in Washington. As a political matter, it comes amid a campaign battle over immigration that has been raging for weeks between Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner in the Republican primary for governor.

The new PPIC report is based on an analysis of data compiled by the New Immigrant Survey, a joint project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and several universities. Among its key conclusions:

–There is little evidence for claims, such as those in the USC and UCLA reports, that legalization would help boost the economy by generating large amounts of new tax revenue.

–Charges that newly legalized immigrants would put a new burden on government through heavy reliance on welfare programs are also without much quantitative foundation.

–Newly legalized immigrants rarely move into better paying jobs because of their changed status and, for that reason, do not represent much competition for jobs with native-born workers.

Said researcher Laura Hill:

A legalization program is unlikely to lead to dramatic changes in the labor market. We wouldn’t expect it to significantly affect the job prospects of low-skilled workers in the short run – whether immigrant or native-born.

eMeg vs. The Commish: One conclusion that reasonable people (we name no names) can draw from the PPIC report is that all sides in the debate routinely overstate the effects of illegal immigration, an intriguing point given the rug-chewing hysterical froth that Poizner has worked himself into over the issue in the past several weeks.

Immigration barely registered as a concern for state voters in last month’s PPIC poll, but Poizner has been beating the drum on it because he knows that there’s an ideological passion gap on the issue, with Republicans and conservatives far more concerned than Democrats or independents, which suits his paddle-to-the-right primary bid just fine.

But some of the cross tab findings on immigration in the new L.A. Times/USC survey may give him pause.

It is true that by 2-to-1 margins, both Republicans and self-described conservatives support Poizner’s Prop. 187-like call to “turn off the magnets” and deny virtually all government services to illegals, one of the key issues he harps on.

But it’s also true that Republicans (65-to-29) and conservatives (61-to-33)  support a “path to legalization” as described in the LAT/USC poll, which makes them not much different than  Democrats and independents alike.

Poizner has been bashing eMeg for a statement she made last fall in favor of a “path to legalization” by accusing her of backing “amnesty,” a hot button word that does not truly describe the framework of a compromise plan being discussed in Washington , which calls for undocumented immigrants to pay fines and back taxes, perform community service, learn English and pass a background check, among other requirements.

This just in: The Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center will launch its latest effort to revive the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil project Wednesday, with a news conference, including local favorite Rep. Lois Capps, positioning the proposal for a new state drilling lease as a way to stop expanded oil drilling. Key question: will they release the text of the new agreement they’ve reached with PXP energy company, after getting beat up for keeping an earlier version secret?

Meyer’s Take on How eMeg Plans to Win Latinos

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Steve Poizner’s newest ad attacking Meg Whitman on the issue of immigration seems actually to have drawn blood, to judge from the speed and sensitivity with which Team eMeg felt compelled to respond. Sure, Steve is an opportunist who has changed his stance on the issue, but for the first time, he’s digging into Meg with this one.

We understand why La Opinion would write: “Steve Poizner now embodies the worst image of the demagoguery sowing fears of illegal immigration and tacitly promoting the vision of a California where schools and hospitals serve as immigration agents casting out children and the sick. That is what this message actually means.”

We just don’t understand how it serves eMeg’s interests to send around clips from the La Opinion editorial as if to suggest that she agrees with their world view. Not quite as cynical and opportunistic as Poizner’s about-face on the issue of illegal immigration. But almost.

Meanwhile, as California’s ongoing controversy over immigration — and its other-side-of-the-coin importance to Latino voters — becomes more salient in the governor’s race, here’s Tom Meyer’s take on eMeg’s strategy for winning over the backing of a portion of the electorate that is likely to account for 15% of the vote in November. (BTW, in case you missed it, you might want to refresh your memory about what ammo Attorney General Jerry Brown has on this issue and whether immigrant-bashing is likely to be a successful tactic.)

If you can’t make out what’s happening at the bottom of the cartoon, here’s a close-up of Whitman campaign chairman Pete Wilson wearing a Prop 187 button.

How Poizner Could Still Win; Memo to Joe Mathews

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Over coffee and muffins last Saturday morning, Stuart Stevens, Steve Poizner’s media strategist, predicted to a handful of California political reporters that this week’s Field Poll would show his guy further behind Meg Whitman than ever.

And, Stevens quickly added to the incredulity of the journalists, it would prove ultimately and totally irrelevant, after Poizner confounds conventional wisdom and defeats eMeg in the June 8 Republican primary for governor.

“Once Steve Poizner goes on the air,” the lean and laconic Washington-based consultant said, “the entire issue is going to be:  how does she reduce her rate of loss?”

With eMeg now smashing Poizner 63-to-14, according to the Field survey released Wednesday, Stevens’s two-part prediction has proven to be at least half right. What remains to be seen is whether the claim that his client is poised to pull off one of the biggest upsets in California political history turns out to be more than spin and smoke-blowing.

The basic assumption underlying Team Poizner’s stated confidence aligns with the Calbuzz argument that 2010 is – first, last and only – a change election. With this as a point of departure, their insistence that The Commish has eMeg right where he wants her proceeds on three key arguments:

1-Whitman’s massive, early TV buy is Christmas advertising in August.

Poizner strategists believe that Whitman’s huge current lead is extremely soft, built on name identification that she has built over several months of being the only candidate on the air.

But, they argue, she has peaked too soon and once Republican primary voters learn more about her – with a major assist from Poizner comparative ads – that support will quickly erode and all the movement and momentum will be on their side. “Campaigns have internal rhythms that are unalterable,” said Stevens. “You don’t have to win many days to win an election.”

2-Poizner, not Whitman, has the right message.

With his emphasis on sweeping tax cuts, a hard line on illegal immigration and expressed opposition to public financing of abortion, Poizner has not only staked out the ideological conservative ground in the Republican primary, his handlers argue, but also positioned himself as the candidate who most dramatically represents change.

Stevens argued that while  Whitman’s message has been largely biographical – she is the former, successful head of eBay who will bring her business skills to bear in Sacramento – and aimed at establishing her as a political outsider, she has not advanced the argument to define herself as an agent of change.  “We like the idea that Meg has become the effective incumbent in this race,” said Stevens, “and the campaign will become a referendum on the incumbent.” (NB: this conversation took place before this week’s release of eMeg’s 48-page plan of policy proposals).

3-Poizner has the resources to deliver his message.

While Team Whitman has adapted the military doctrine of overwhelming force to surge to an unprecedented early lead – creating the unlikely perception that Poizner is the poor guy in the race who needs to put on bake sales to fund his campaign – he has at least $19 million available for TV advertising, an amount that would seem extraordinary in any other year.

To the Poizner camp, the fact that Whitman has spent a considerable amount of money attacking him is evidence of a lack of confidence among eMeg’s strategists that she has the election in the bag. And they scoff at the argument, made repeatedly during last weekend’s GOP convention, that the party should unite behind her because, as Mitt Romney put it, she “is the only Republican who can be elected governor of California.”

“As Jack Germond used to say,” Stevens told reporters over breakfast last weekend, “’Those who depend on winnability seldom do.’”

Say it ain’t so, Joe: Joe Mathews’s take on California politics and government is usually smart and well-reasoned, but the argument underpinning his recent ad hominem attack on Calbuzz over at Fox and Hounds is all but incoherent.

Mathews bashes us for leading the months-long charge that resulted in Whitman finally becoming accessible to the press corps, on the grounds that what she said when she finally spoke to reporters wasn’t very interesting.

Here’s a hint about covering politics from a couple of “aging” reporters, Joe: What politicians say matters.

Whether it’s mush or the sharpest and most specific policy prescriptions, the words and arguments they use in campaigns are important signifiers of how they’ll govern, and part of the job of being a political reporter is to present those words and arguments to voters so they can make the decision.

Here’s another hint: Put aside your oh-so-world-weary condescension to those voters, get up off your ass and do some actual reporting instead of just sucking on your thumb all the time.