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Business group reveals $1 million cash infusion to bash Brown, push ballot measure [Updated]

August 25, 2010 | 10:00 am
The Small Business Action Committee PAC has been busy of late, giving $800,000 to fight a ballot measure that would allow state lawmakers to pass a budget by a simple majority vote. The group is also supporting Proposition 26, which would make it harder to raise fees in the Legislature.

The SBAC also hit the airwaves earlier this month with an issue ad that allies of Jerry Brown said was a thinly veiled hit against the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

The group has spent $3 million on TV so far, according to media trackers from the Brown campaign.

While the group spent big money, the source of their donations was unknown.

The SBAPAC revealed Tuesday evening that it received more than $1 million from alcohol, tobacco and real estate groups. Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, donated $500,000. Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser, gave $200,000 and the Wine Institute chipped in another $50,000. Los Angeles-based Cypress Management Company gave the group $250,000.

[Updated: 11:54 a.m.] SBA's Joel Fox said the money in the PAC is used for ballot measure campaigns. The funding for the television ads comes out of the group's general budget, and there is no disclosure requirements for the donors to SBA's general budget, Fox said. 

The committee also has financed some $3 million in TV advertising, according to Brown’s campaign. But the sources of those donations have not been revealed.

The difference underscores the ad hoc nature of California’s campaign finance laws, where there are different standards for different kinds of political communication. Under current law, SBA does not have to disclose the source of the money being spent on the issue advertising.

Fox said as long as the ads are more than 45 days before Election Day, current law does not require the source of those donations to be disclosed.

“I’ve got two lawyers who have looked at all of this, and there are different rules for the PAC. This has all been lawyered to death,” Fox said.

Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford said the donations reveal the truth about "the obviously mis-titled Small Business Action Committee" but still don't reveal details about who is paying millions for the Brown ads to run on television statewide.

"Everyone knows that small businesses are the good guys in our economy when corporate America is best known for launching the worst recession in a generation. It's disappointing that they refuse to say who's paying for the false attack on Jerry Brown."

It stands to reason that alcohol and tobacco groups would join the fight to make fee increases more difficult. Sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco products are among the most commonly passed in the Legislature. There are efforts this year to increase levies on alcoholic beverages, but they are been opposed by Republicans in Sacramento.

--Anthony York in Sacramento
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