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Chamber of Commerce ad attacking Brown angers some board members

April 7, 2010 |  7:24 pm

Some members of the California Chamber of Commerce board are up in arms over the influential business group's funding of a television commercial attacking Jerry Brown while calling it an "issues" ad on taxes and spending. The commercial briefly talks about the need to rein in spending and then goes on to blast Brown, the presumed Democratic nominee for governor, as being a big spender throughout his long political career.

In a letter Wednesday, four board members told chamber President and Chief Executive Allan Zaremberg that "to any reasonably minded person this is nothing more than a typical political attack ad. It undermines the chamber's credibility to justify it as anything other than that."

Denise Davis, a spokeswoman for the chamber, responded to an interview request from The Times with an e-mail saying, "We respect the views of all our members and appreciate their input."

The board members, George Kieffer, Kevin Ratner, Robert Simonds and Cindy Starrett, also said that the board hadn't authorized attacks on candidates and that they did not want dues to be used for such ads. In an interview, Kieffer, a Democrat, said chamber money has not been used that way in the past. Kieffer said he understood the ad purchase would cost more than $1 million over the coming week. "I just think the chamber made a mistake here," he said.

Brown's campaign, which provided The Times with a copy of the letter, issued a statement asking for the commercial to be discontinued. Brown, the state attorney general, faces a severe challenge in trying to compete with the spending of Republican front-runner Meg Whitman, who has already shelled out $46 million on the race through mid-March. A consumer group earlier Wednesday filed a complaint with the state agency that enforces campaign finance law saying, among other things, that the chamber was coordinating with the Whitman campaign, whose chairman, former Gov. Pete Wilson, is also on the group's board.

-- Michael Rothfeld