Anti-Jerry Brown ad sparks ethics complaints against California Chamber of Commerce

The California Chamber of Commerce's new ad attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown's record on spending and taxes has sparked ethics complaints from two groups that say the 30-second spot runs afoul of the state's election laws.

The first complaint, which Consumer Watchdog filed Wednesday with the Fair Political Practices Commission, claims that the ad constitutes "express advocacy against a candidate for office" and should be subject to disclosure rules on independent expenditures.

The complaint also claims that because GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's campaign chairman, Pete Wilson, sits on the chamber's board of directors, any independent expenditure ad opposing Brown would constitute illegal coordination between the campaign and the chamber.

That claim is echoed in a complaint being filed by the California Democratic Party, which is accusing Wilson of colluding with the chamber to produce the ad. The party says the estimated $1 million ad buy would then violate in-kind contribution limits.

The ad does not mention Brown's candidacy, nor does it explicitly direct viewers to vote for or against him. A chamber spokeswoman said Tuesday that the ad is part of a larger issues-advocacy campaign and that the board had approved funding in general for such ads.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Wilson said the chamber did not consult with him about the ad attacking Brown or about running an issues-advocacy campaign.

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