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Education leaders California Chamber of Commerce board to protest Whitman endorsement [Updated]

September 3, 2010 | 12:29 pm

[Updated at 4:40 p.m.] The president of University of California and the chancellor of the California community college system has resigned in protest from the California Chamber of Commerce board of directors after the organization backed Meg Whitman's bid for governor.

Jack Scott, a former Democratic state senator from Pasadena who was appointed as chancellor by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced his resignation in a letter to chamber President Allan Zaremberg after the endorsement vote Friday.

"Although it would have been my preference to remain on the board, in light of the Chamber’s action today to engage in electioneering, remaining on the board is no longer possible," Scott wrote in the letter. "As I expressed to the board during the Chamber’s open meeting, I do not believe the board is using sound judgment by catapulting the California Chamber of Commerce into the center of a fierce political contest for California’s next governor. It is a constructive act when the Chamber weighs in on matters of public policy that impacts California businesses, but it is destructive to the Chamber’s core mission and the businesses it represents when it becomes a partisan operation."

[Updated at 4:40 p.m.] Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, also suspended his membership on the chamber board last week in anticipation of Friday's vote.

"As the president of a public university, I cannot take sides in electoral politics," Yudof wrote in a letter to chamber president Allan Zaremerg. "I must preserve my politically agnostic status." Yudof said, "it is my hope that in December, the board will find a way to create a category of non-voting, ex officio members, which I would be pleased, if asked, to join."

Charles Reed, Chancellor of the California State University system, also sits on the chamber board. He did not attend Friday's meeting.

The chamber has traditionally stayed out of partisan politics, even though the group is often seen as Republican-friendly. In 2003, the chamber backed Schwarzenegger with its first endorsement for governor in its 112-year history.

Earlier this year, the chamber was forced to withdraw an ad that many members saw as critical of Jerry Brown. Zaremberg claimed the ad was a nonpartisan "issue ad" but agreed to take it down after pressure from chamber members.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

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