Whitman ads get low marks for accuracy

In the race for California governor, FactCheck.org looks into Meg Whitman's latest attack ad on Brown.

July 2, 2010 7:18:42 PM PDT
Republican Meg Whitman's running a lot of ads on Democrat Jerry Brown's four decades in politics. The ads make a lot of allegations, but do the facts back them up? It is getting a lot of airplay, but it's not getting high marks for accuracy.

Whitman's ad revolves around Brown's time in politics. The ad says, "In the 60s, Brown enters politics and later serves two terms as governor. His big spending turns a surplus into a $1 billion deficit."

FACT CHECK: That's misleading.

As we pointed out in a earlier FactCheck, Brown wasn't a big spender. California's deficit resulted from a deep national recession and Proposition 13 which Brown opposed.

The ad also says, "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."

FACT CHECK: This is semi-accurate.

It's accurate to say he appointed a liberal judge. Rose Byrd did oppose the death penalty, but the $7 billion in new taxes is not accurate. $2 billion came from an increase in the gas tax, which was supported by nearly half the Republicans in the Legislature.

The rest of Whitman's claim comes from a quarter-cent hike in the state sales tax which Brown proposed, but was not enacted.

The ad continues, "In the 80s he runs for Senate, but Californians say no. He lobbies for a corporate polluter and works to send California jobs to China."

FACT CHECK: This is misleading.

Brown was never a paid lobbyist for the biomedical firm that put him on the board. The ad rests on a single phone call Brown made to Congressman Henry Waxman who later complained that Brown had lobbied him, on behalf of the medical firm's founder, but the call had nothing to do with pollution.

And as for working to send jobs to China, Brown did go to China in the late 80s but denied a San Francisco Examiner report that he was there scouting a factory for the biomedical firm and there's been no hard evidence to prove it.

The ad goes on to say, "The 90s saw Jerry run as a presidential candidate against Bill Clinton. Clinton: 'You know, he reinvents himself every year or two.'"

FACT CHECK: This part of the ad is accurate.

After that bruising presidential primary, Brown and Clinton have yet to reconcile.

The ad says, "And in the 2000s, Jerry was mayor of Oakland where he taxed everything from garbage to cable TV. Crime soared and he damaged the school system so badly the state had to take it over. Another failure."

FACT CHECK: The ad falsely claims that crime soared in Oakland. The number of crimes actually went down by more than 13 percent.

It's also false that Brown damaged the school system. As mayor, he had almost no control over the school district budget problems that preceded his term as mayor and that led to the state take over.

ABC7's partners at FactCheck.org have a lot more detail on this FactCheck.

ABC7 will fact check Jerry Brown's ads just as soon as they start.


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