The California Chamber of Commerce is apparently continuing its transition from a business association to a political lobbying organization for the Republican party. They are now funding vicious televised attack ads against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, implying that he is somehow responsible now that “California’s lost one million jobs” and the fact that “we’re 200 billion dollars in debt”
The Chamber broke a tradition of non-partisanship dating back more than 100 years when it endorsed Schwarzenegger in the 2003 recall election. For this, they were rewarded handsomely by the Schwarzenegger administration and were given unprecedented access and influence over our State government, to the detriment of almost everyone else – especially small business. The “job killer” label they put on any legislation they didn’t like, for example, for many years virtually guaranteed a Schwarzenegger veto.
According to several news reports, complaints have now been filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission that say the Chamber didn’t even fund this ad through its own political action committee- since that would have been subject to disclosure regulations, and instead paid for it through their membership dues, to the tune of more than one million dollars! They also noted that Republican candidate Meg Whitman’s campaign manager, former Gov. Pete Wilson, is on the chamber’s board.
The man responsible for turning the California Chamber of Commerce into this overtly partisan political organization is apparently their President and CEO: Allan Zaremberg, He was the Master of Ceremonies at the Republican Primary Gubernatorial Debate in Orange County last month, touting his take on “the importance of a business-friendly governor to California”.
He is also the head of the “California State Protocol Foundation” – a shadowy “non profit organization” has paid for millions of dollars’ worth of Schwarzenegger’s overseas travel and other bills racked up by his office, including the use of private jets. This group claims these payments allow the Governor to meet with foreign dignitaries, “thereby supporting business opportunities between California and their countries” but what they have really done is turn what should have been public interest trade missions into luxury junkets with blatant cronyism. More than anything, this organization has corrupted and perverted California’s international trade and economic development programs, and it is almost unbelievable that they have gotten away with it.
The ad now being run by the California Chamber is stunning in its dishonesty. For example, they attack Brown for having been against Proposition 13, the property tax initiative, not mentioning that they were also opposed to it at the time. The theme of the ad is “enough is enough” and that may very well be the way many in California feel about the California Chamber of Commerce.
Let’s hope the next Governor- who ever he or she is, from whatever party, will stop this bullying and political manipulation by the California Chamber of Commerce. The rest of us – especially small business, deserve a seat at the table on California business issues for a change. It seems to me that members of the California Chamber of Commerce should not only resign from this organization, they should also demand a full refund of their membership fees for as many years as they have been members. Regardless of their political party, I’m sure they didn’t sign on for this garbage.