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Mar 28, 2006 - 03:00 PM

Who's Filling the Chamber's Pot?

by Carmen Balber
Papers report that the gov released his first official re-election ad yesterday, but anyone who watches television saw what looked a lot like two other Schwarzenegger campaign ads over the last two weeks. Those Arnold ads are funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and don't have the normal campaign ad disclosures.

That's because the Chamber says it's promoting issues, not Arnold, and claims it's therefore exempt from campaign finance rules. It refuses to disclose who paid for the pro-Arnold ads, or even how much they cost. Funneling campaign cash through another committee gives the gov's biggest donors a chance to give far above the $22,300 limit, and keep their large donations anonymous.

The Chamber has tried this money laundering scheme before.

In 2004, the U.S. Chamber gave $1.5 million to fund an attack ad against a Democratic candidate in Washington state. The committee claimed it was running issue ads and refused to reveal the Chamber was its donor. A Washington state court ruled that the ad clearly advocated the defeat of the candidate, and finally forced the disclosure.

As the Sac Bee noted yesterday, the scripts of the official Schwarzenegger campaign ad and the Chamber's cuts are eerily similar. Just as in Washington, the only "issue" in the Chamber's California ads is Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election.

The U.S. Chamber's record of running candidate ads masquerading as issue advocacy should be enough to prompt California's ethics authorities to launch an investigation into their project. And the governor who promised to bring sunshine to Sacramento should demand the Chamber come clean.

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