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Union-Led Group Halts Ads Attacking Whitman in California Race

A union-funded group that spent almost $9 million on negative advertising targeting Meg Whitman, the Republican running for governor in California, has suspended its campaign, designed to help Democrat Jerry Brown.

The ads were halted because Brown, the state attorney general, has kept competitive with Whitman, a billionaire who has dug into her personal fortune to finance her campaign, according to members of the group.

“Our goal was to make sure Jerry Brown was in this campaign through Labor Day, and that is what we accomplished,” Courtni Pugh, the director of California Working Families for Jerry Brown, said yesterday on conference call with reporters.

The group raised money from unions such as the California Professional Firefighters as well as the Democratic Governors Association, the California Secretary of State’s website shows. It spent $7 million on television spots and $1 million on Web advertising, said its consultant, Roger Salazar. One ad accused Whitman of raising fees and creating “huge losses from failed mergers” while chief executive officer of EBay Inc.

“It’s rock-solid proof that there is seamless coordination between what is essentially the same political organization: Jerry Brown and the government unions that control him,” Andrea Rivera, a Whitman campaign spokeswoman, said by e-mail.

A Brown campaign spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said the former governor’s organization had no contact with the union-led group and had no comment on the decision to pull the ads.

Preventing 2006 Replay

Pugh, with the Service Employees International Union, and other representatives of the group said their goal was to prevent a collapse in support for the Democrat similar to 2006.

In that campaign, Democratic candidate Philip Angelides lost an early summer lead in voter surveys to Republican incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger. Term limits precluded Schwarzenegger from running for re-election this year.

Brown has raised $19.4 million for his campaign this year through Aug. 2 and spent about $633,000, the California Secretary of State’s website shows. Whitman’s campaign has raised $80.3 million and spent $80.8 million in the same period. She contributed $72 million of that herself.

Whitman is supported by 48 percent of likely voters in the November election, an 8 percentage-point lead over Brown, according to a survey by Rasmussen Reports released on Aug. 26. A poll released July 7 by Field Research Corp. showed the two candidates in a “virtual tie.”

“On a return-on-investment basis, she hasn’t done well,” said Lou Paulson, president of the California Professional Firefighters and one of the leaders of the Working Families group.

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