Campaign Notebook: Brown goes Negative, Whitman goes big

Steve Glazer telegraphed where the campaign was headed – into the gutter. Glazer was in Sacramento this week to unveil Brown’s second and third ad of the campaign season – the first that mentioned his Republican rival, Meg Whitman. That’s a nice way of saying they were Brown’s first negative ads of the campaign. And from Glazer’s comments Tuesday, it’s clear he believes the next seven weeks will have their share of mudslinging.

The concession came as Glazer took issue with a new FoxNews poll that showed Whitman with a slight lead. In that poll, 25 percent of those surveyed were self-identified decline-to-state voters. Independent voters make up about 20 percent of the state’s voter registration, and Glazer said the high number in independents surveyed was proof that the poll’s methodology was not an accurate representation of who will come to the polls in November.

“Normally, in a race like this, (independent voters) are the first to be turned off,” he said.

So what exactly did he mean by a race “like this?” He meant a nasty, negative campaign.

Glazer hemmed and hawed a bit when asked about his comment at the press conference, but did little to disavow reporters of the allusion he had made. The not-so-subtle message is that this race is going to get nasty, and fast. Of course, the Brown campaign cries self-defense, noting Whitman has spent more than $25 million on ads since winning the June primary. By their calculation, 70 percent of Whitman’s ads since that time have been negative attacks on Brown.

While the first negative Brown spot, which sticks a Pinocchio nose on Whitman’s face, won’t earn many points for originality, it is a harbinger of things to come.
Where’s Jimminy Cricket when you need him?

Brown Unveils Budget Plan

Once again, Jerry Brown has quietly unveiled a major policy proposal without so much as a press release – or even a tweet. This time, it’s Brown’s vision for the state budget that has stealthily materialized in the bowels of his campaign website.

The eight-page proposal has some platitudes and generalities, as well as some details about Brown’s proposals for wrestling with the state’s ongoing budget problems.

 Brown says he will “propose some structural revisions to the budget process that will keep spending under control,” but does not detail what those revisions might be. “I have a long and well-deserved reputation for being cheap,”Brown writes in the introduction to his proposal.

 In places, Brown sounds downright Republican in his proposals. He calls for changes to the California Environmental Quality Act  and says he will  “reign in regulatory excess … I would target for review those rules that are slowing down projects, proving to be onerous or otherwise impeding economic growth,” he writes.

Some of Brown’s proposals echo calls made by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Brown wants a budget surplus fund to help the state cope with economic downturns. And he wants to reconvene a state tax commission like the one created by Schwarzenegger, to review and reform “California’s complicated tax structure.” Brown also said he wants to “stop leaving federal money on the table” – a Schwarzenegger theme since he dubbed himself “The Collectinator” during his first campaign for governor in 2003.

Brown does have some details in his proposal.  He says he will seek the courts’ assistance to “penalize state leaders (both legislative and executive) if they don’t pass a budget on time.” He also called for the release of elderly and terminally ill prison inmates to help reduce prison costs.

He calls for “a zero-based budgeting approach” – essentially starting from scratch every year instead of the current system, which bases future budgets on the past year’s spending,
Whitman becomes biggest-spending candidate on a single campaign in U.S. history

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman gave her campaign another $15 million Tuesday. The latest contribution brings Whitman’s personal spending in the race to $119 million, shattering the record for most money ever spent by one political candidate on a single election in American history.

Whitman’s latest cash infusion comes just one month after writing a $13-million check to her campaign last month.

Whitman has now surpassed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the most prolific spender on any one campaign. Bloomberg spent $109 million on his 2009 reelection as mayor of New York.

Whitman demands TV stations remove teachers union ad

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 said  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, 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.

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 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.

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