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Whitman demands TV stations remove teachers union ad [Updated]

September 14, 2010 |  5:52 pm

Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign has issued a threat to television stations across the state, demanding a new ad from the California Teachers Assn. be removed. Whitman's campaign claims the ad, unveiled Friday, may contain "slanderous or libelous statements" about the candidate.

An attorney for Whitman's campaign threatened stations with legal action Friday. "The spot is a lie," wrote Thomas W. Hiltachk. "As you know, your station can be held libel for slanderous or libelous statements made by a non-candidate sponsor of political advertising."

Some stations have pulled the ad. Others told PolitCal they are still evaluating the claims made by Whitman's attorneys and will run the ad in the meantime.

"Whitman says we should cut another $7 billion from our schools. Teacher layoffs, 100K more. 33 percent larger class sizes and even more cuts to arts and music programs that deny our kids a well-rounded education," the ad states. "Tell Meg Whitman that cutting Education to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy is wrong for our schools and California's future."

Whitman dedicates two pages of her policy pamphlet to K-12 education. She makes no mention of state funding, but vows to "direct more money to the classroom" and proposes a handful of policy proposals involving charter schools and rewarding outstanding teachers.

[Updated: 4:00 p.m.] CTA spokeswoman Sandra Jackson said the union extrapolated the $7 billion education cut from Whitman's own plan, which, according to Jackson, includes state budget cuts of $15 billion.  In her policy pamphlet, Whitman does point to "the budget, where $15 billion of spending reductions can ultimately be realized," but those plans do not include any cuts to education. Whitman claims reducing the state workforce by 40,000, "harnessing the power of modern technology" and a reducing the number of state lawyers will help the state eliminate $15 billion in spending.

Whitman has proposed eliminating the state capital gains tax and taxes on factory equipment as well as increasing a number of business tax credits.

The state capital gains tax has fluctuated wildly over the last several years, bringing in anywhere from $3.2 billion to $11.7 billion in annual state revenues.

Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford said that "Whitman has offered so many shifting and contradictory budget 'plans' the only thing we know for sure is that she wants a $12-billion capital gains tax cut for the super-wealthy like her," he said.

Whitman's campaign alleges that the CTA ad is libelous. "The false allegation that Meg Whitman has said the school budgets should be cut and 100,000 teachers laid off is defamatory," Hiltachk wrote. "It is harmful to her reputation as a strong supporter of education reform in her candidacy for governor."

This is not the first time Whitman's lawyers have sprung into action during this campaign. In February, Hiltachk filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission against a union-backed group supporting Brown's campaign. The group later amended its campaign paperwork to comply with the issues raised in Hiltachk's letter.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento