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Brown says Whitman's EBay compensation was 'really gross'

August 19, 2010 | 11:48 am

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has a standing date with radio station KGO-Am in San Francisco, but Thursday morning, the radio hosts were perplexed when they couldn’t find the attorney general for their weekly phone interview at 8:15 a.m.

Half an hour later, Brown appeared on the radio show and said he had been jogging.

"I forgot it was Thursday," Brown said.

The candidate spoke about furloughing state workers – he disagrees with the approach – and about two controversies bedeviling his candidacy in recent weeks: his use of state planes while campaigning on a platform of frugality, and the largess of his pension.

Brown said that he only used the plane a "handful" of times for official state business, and routinely gets a senior-citizen fare to fly coach on Southwest Airlines for campaign events and most state business. He contrasted that with Republican rival Meg Whitman’s constant use of private planes in her record-breaking bid to become the state’s next governor.

"That’s the kettle calling the pot black, so I don’t think it merits any more commentary than that," he said.

He also pushed back against claims that he would receive an overly generous state pension, noting that he vetoed a pay raise when he was governor three decades ago and that he successfully fought to cut his pay as attorney general by 18%.

"I have been in state service for a long time, and I am entitled to a pension now. I am not taking it, and I won’t take it when I am governor because when you are in the system, you are collecting. So I am not retired," he said. "And I will tell you this, if every state worker worked as long as I did, to the age of 72, the pension funds would have so much money, they could start lending it to China.”

He noted that Whitman was making $120 million annually during her final time at EBay, while the company’s stock was dropping and it laid off 10% of its workforce.

"That is really gross," he said.

The Whitman campaign accused Brown of being misleading about pensions and the state plane.

Although Brown is not currently taking a pension, he did take roughly $20,000 per year while he was mayor of Oakland.

Earlier, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said the plane use was limited to law-enforcement purposes, such as gang takedowns; on Thursday, Brown said he used it to speak at conferences. At least two trips involved conferences with connections to political donors, though a spokeswoman has said he was acting in his official capacity as attorney general.

"Not only can Jerry Brown not keep the days of the week straight, but he's also having trouble keeping his story straight," said Whitman spokesman Darrel Ng. "This is the type of maneuvering you get from a typical Sacramento politician, and no one should be surprised, because Jerry Brown has been avoiding accountability for 40 years.”

-- Seema Mehta in Los Angeles