It files a public records request with attorney general’s office seeking documents

By Steven Harmon
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 07/20/2010 04:04:27 PM PDT
Updated: 07/20/2010 07:12:30 PM PDT

SACRAMENTO — Meg Whitman’s campaign, suspicious that Jerry Brown is using his office as attorney general for campaign purposes, filed a Public Records Act request seeking documentation that they hope would prove it.

The request, filed late Monday with the attorney general’s office by Mark Bogetich, a Whitman campaign consultant, seeks what could amount to thousands of pages of employment information on communications staffers dating back to the 2005-06 fiscal year, before Brown was elected as attorney general.

“The Brown campaign is using the attorney general’s office to keep himself in the spotlight,” said Sarah Pompei, spokeswoman for Whitman, the Republican gubernatorial candidate. “This is very serious. There should be absolute certainty that taxpayer-financed resources are not being used to bolster his political image.”

The request asks for:

# An annual accounting of employees, their total payroll and the total office budget for every year since fiscal year 2005-2006;

# Details — “at minimum dates and descriptions” — of all expenditures by communications personnel;

# Information on what state-owned vehicles were used by the press staff, including the make and model, monthly lease payments, repairs, maintenance records and gas purchases;

# Travel expense claim forms, invoices, receipts, billing statements, as well as calendars and schedules, of press staff from Jan. 1, 2007, when Brown began, until now.

Sterling Clifford, Brown’s spokesman, called the request a political ploy.

“They just want to suggest publicly that Jerry Brown is misusing his office,” Clifford said. “They want to level the accusation. Obviously we don’t have anything because there isn’t anything. Frankly, he almost never travels with his press corps.”

Brown had to answer a similar charge of using his office for political purposes, raised by Republicans in 1974 when he was secretary of state and running for governor. He said then: “I think that’s nonsense. If that principle were to be taken seriously, a secretary of state, or attorney general or governor could never run for re-election without resigning.”

Brown has been active as attorney general, perhaps more so in the past six and a half months than in previous years. His press shop has produced 90 news releases, an average of one every 2.22 days. In 2009, it produced 136 news releases over a full year, an average of one every 2.68 days. In 2008, it produced 99 news releases, one every 3.68 days. In his first year, 2007, when his press shop was undergoing transition and not fully staffed, it produced 77 news releases, one every 4.7 days.

There is a fine line between campaigning and acting as an elected official. That line is breached when state resources — such as phone lines, vehicles or money — are used for campaign purposes. Often, to avoid conflicts, staffers take vacation time or personal time to do campaign work.

Up against Whitman’s $100 million campaign, Brown has had to find ways to counter her dominance on the airwaves while he waits for the fall, when he plans to start spending what is now a $23 million war chest. Announcing multibillion dollar settlements with Countrywide or holding news conferences on statewide crackdowns on violent gangs has been a way to stay in the news without spending campaign money.

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