The Jerry Brown Issue Ad

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

I’m flying back to California today and have finally caught up with all the hard shots and false accusations made against the Small Business Action Committee and me because we started a legal issue advocacy campaign urging Attorney General Jerry Brown to concentrate on bringing jobs to California while not taking positions that discourage job creation.

Many of the reactions to the ad were predictable. Supporters of Brown, who have spent millions on his behalf, argued our ad should not even exist even though it clearly falls within the rules of issue advocacy. Reporters said that donors to the ad should be disclosed even though that is not required, and these same reporters defend not disclosing their sources at times and often for the same reason. More on that later.

Creating a business friendly California is the mission of SBAC. Putting up obstacles to job creation hurts business and we pointed out items in Brown’s record that discourages job growth. The Fair Political Practices Commission, at its most recent hearing, noted that raising issues involving candidates for office is appropriate under issue advocacy.

The reaction to the ad from Brown’s chief consultant, Steve Glazer, was telling. He suggested if the business donors behind the ad were revealed that would "taint" the ad’s message. That reaction is precisely the problem we are trying to confront. Glazer assumes business is a villain. Vilifying business does nothing but scare away business and make businesses want to set up shop elsewhere. It is not surprising that this week we learned that Utah is now poaching businesses in California.

A delicate balance has been created in the law to both allow for disclosure of political donations and protection of free speech without repercussions to the speakers. Issues raised before the campaigns are in full swing, marked by law at 45 days before an election, do not require disclosure and allow those who want to discuss issues without retribution to speak freely. California has a law that does require disclosure of donors who fund issue ads featuring candidates aired within 45 days of November 2, 2010.

The courts in this land have long protected political speech. Look no further than to this latest incident for a reason why this protection is necessary. The ad points out that the attorney general said he had 1100 lawyers on his staff and was looking for someone to sue. Why would any business that has a concern for the economy and job growth in this state want to put its name on a complaint when the man is twirling around lawyers like six-guns in the old west?

Threatening lawsuits against business hurts business growth and works against creating jobs.

As mentioned above, reporters defend a similar course of keeping sources protected from retribution by not disclosing them. Speaking the truth about an issue can displease politicians who have the power to punish through regulations, lawsuits, and other means.

Those trying to twist support for the SBAC newsletter/voter guide from the Whitman campaign as some kind of motivation for our issue ad are wrong. Contrary to what has been reported, SBAC endorsed Whitman before her campaign agreed to donate to help get out our newsletter/guide. I had asked the campaign to delay an announcement of the endorsement until I could tell the Poizner campaign in person, which I did after the conclusion of the Orange County Whitman-Poizner debate.

There is no connection between the Whitman action and the ad as there is no connection between my helping the Brown campaign and the ad.  I assisted campaign manager Steve Glazer by coming up with the exact quote for him from Howard Jarvis’s book about Jarvis voting for Jerry Brown in the 1978 governor’s race. The reference to that quote is now on Brown’s website. Do you think they should report me as an in-kind contribution? (Jarvis did not vote for Brown in his next election for the U.S. Senate.)

The issues raised in this ad are true. Brown’s positions hurt jobs and business. That is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently named Brown the worst attorney general in the United States from a business prospective. This ad asks the people of California to ask Brown to change positions to support more jobs.

The concern of riling the powers that be with a strong political statement is not new in this country. Issues can be raised while protecting from retribution those who raise the issues. The U.S. Supreme Court said so in the Buckley case in 1976 and has continued to do so ever since. But this tradition began with the beginning of the country: The colonists who dressed up as American Indians to throw tea into Boston Harbor to protest a tax on tea. Those colonists did not dress that way because they were going to a costume party.

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