Fact Check: Whitman ads vs. Brown ads

June 28, 2010 7:10:36 PM PDT
Meg Whitman is accusing Jerry Brown of one thing while Brown is bragging that he did just the opposite. So, what is the truth?

A TV ad from Meg Whitman's campaign claims that Jerry Brown spent his way into debt when he was governor, but a radio ad from Brown's supporters claims he raised the biggest surplus in state history during the same timeframe.

So, ABC7 has done a fact check.

The TV ad is from the Whitman campaign and attacks Jerry Brown's record.

"In the 60s, Brown enters politics and later serves two terms as governor. His big spending turns a surplus into a billion dollar deficit. Brown appoints liberal judges who fight the death penalty, supports billions in new taxes and leaves the state with record unemployment of 11 percent. Failure," the ad says.

It ad accuses Brown of big spending that turned a surplus into a $1 billion deficit.

FACT CHECK: That is misleading.

Brown did leave office with a deficit, but that was in the early 80s and the country was in a deep recession.

"I mean, there was a serious recession. That's what did Jimmy Carter in," says ABC7 political analyst professor Bruce Cain.

Cain says Whitman's suggestion Brown's big spending led to the deficit is just wrong.

"You're picking on a guy who famously lived a very Spartan lifestyle, who vetoed a lot of bills that the Democrats threw forward," he says,

So, blaming Brown for the deficit is not accurate. But, what about the radio ad from his supporters?

"As governor, Brown reduced taxes and built up the largest budget surplus in California history," it says.

FACT CHECK: That is also misleading.

The largest budget surplus came about because in the late70s California property values were going through the roof.

"They were reaping the benefit of the fact that everybody's assessment was going up regularly and that there was no capping on the property tax like we have under Prop 13," Cain says.

And, like the recession, Governor Brown did not have much of anything to do with building up the surplus.

Politically, what is going on with both claims has little to do with the facts. Whitman is attempting to define Brown on her terms, terms that will resonate with voters, and so far Professor Cain believes Jerry Brown is in trouble.

"She's going to keep spending all through the summer to define him the way she sees to her advantage and if he doesn't have the resources to at least start to answer that, it could be a real problem," he says.

The secretary of state's website shows that Brown's campaign has $20 million in its war chest. Cain believes Brown needs three times that amount to compete with Whitman.

Keep in mind that most voters do not remember Brown's record as governor. There is an entire generation of voters that had not been born.


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