A group of California Democratic strategists have debuted several radio ads charging that Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is using her personal wealth to avoid traditional campaign scrutiny.
In a news conference, members of the Level the Playing Field 2010 group charged Whitman with avoiding both tough questions from reporters and releasing information like her tax returns.
Whitman, former CEO of eBay, has spent about $20 million of her own money on her campaign thus far, according to state filing records.
A Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday shows Whitman running even with attorney general and former governor Jerry Brown. Brown, a Democrat, is widely considered a candidate, although he has not formally entered the race. Whitman has a strong lead against her Republican primary rival, State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, according to the poll.
Level the Playing Field strategist Ace Smith, who has advised Brown on previous campaigns, said Whitman is "subverting the democratic process" and using her money "as a shield or a barrier between her and the voters."
Smith and fellow strategist Chris Lehane sprinkled this morning's news conference with liberal references to monarchies, saying Whitman is imperious and has "crowned herself governor." They painted a picture of Whitman flying around California in a private jet, limiting her appearances to groups of major donors and executives of large corporations.
Level the Playing Field plans to spend about $250,000 a month in radio ads in the coming months and have secured commitments for close to $1 million from various Democratic sources, according to Lehane.
The radio ads ask listeners to "help level the field against Meg's millions," and call for her to release her tax returns.
A disclaimer on the radio spots says the ad "was not authored by a candidate or a committee contributed to by a candidate."
Without a formal declaration from Brown, the Democratic Party has no major candidate officially running for governor. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped out of the race in October. The deadline for candidates to formally enter the statewide race is March 12.
While Brown is not yet a candidate, Level the Playing Field group members today described him as committed to the needs of the middle class and said Whitman is on pace to outspend him 10 to 1.