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Independent groups keep spending for Jerry Brown [Updated]

September 16, 2010 |  5:15 pm

Throughout the summer months, labor unions and other allies of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown banded together, spent millions of dollars and put ads on television to try to protect Brown against Meg Whitman's barrage of advertising as Brown held on to his political dollars.

Now that Brown is on the air with commercials of his own, some of Brown's labor allies have faded to the background. Others are running their own commercials, like the California Teachers' Assn.’s attack on Whitman's school spending plans that was the subject of a political and legal struggle between the union and the Whitman campaign this week.

One thing is clear: The labor money on Brown's behalf is not going away. Since Sept. 1, seven labor groups have spent more than $737,000 on Brown's behalf. That's according to contribution reports from the secretary of state's office. (This does not include the millions spent on on issue ads like the one the teachers association paid for.)

And there's more to come. Los Angeles powerbroker George Pla has formed a committee called Campaign for Civic Participation aimed at boosting Brown's candidacy. The committee has not reported receiving any money yet, and Pla did not return calls and e-mail seeking comment about what his group plans to do to help Brown get elected to a third term.

Pla is chairman of Cordoba Corp., a Los Angeles-based firm that provides engineering, construction management and transportation planning services. Pla has deep connections to much of the city's Latino power structure. Money raised and spent by independent expenditure committees is not subject to state campaign spending limits. Candidates for governor can receive maximum contributions of $25,900, but have the legal ability to spend as much of their own money as they choose on their own campaigns.

Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters, one of the groups helping Brown, says the role of independent expenditure committees has changed now that the Brown campaign is running a paid-media campaign.

"How do you stop the blitzkrieg of money from Meg Whitman? You do it by getting people to the polls," he said. "Our focus now is to get our message out to as many people as possible."

Labor unions have traditionally provided the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party. Paulson says his firefighters are coordinating with the California Labor Federation on a massive get-out-the-vote program that will kick into gear as soon as absentee ballots are sent out less than two weeks from now.

Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds said the " nonexistence" of a ground operation from the Brown campaign is proof that Brown is working hand in hand with union groups that by law annoy coordinate efforts with the candidate's campaign.

"Does anyone that follows this race honestly believe there is no coordination between Jerry Brown and these union campaigns?" asked Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds. "If not, Jerry would be investing in ground operations. But he's reliant whole-heartedly on organized labor to carry out the ground work for this campaign. "It is beyond any doubt that this is a coordinated effort with labor unions and entrenched interests to float Jerry Brown's free-ride campaign into a third term," he said.
[Updated: 5:47 p.m] Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford called those allegations ridiculous. 

"We have county coordinators in all 58 counties. We are heavily involved in the coordinated campaign through the (Democratic) Party and we've paid into that. "

Clifford said the Brown campaign has "our people everywhere targeting different groups of voters for this fall's campaign. "

Paulson denied there was any coordination with the labor efforts and the Brown campaign. But he said labor would work hard to get their members and other Democrats to the polls. "It's important for labor to be the voice of middle-class California," he said. Other groups that have spent money on Brown's behalf in the last two weeks include law enforcement, teachers and service employee unions. --Anthony York in Sacramento

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