California labor unions launch anti-Whitman campaign |

California labor unions launch anti-Whitman campaign

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California labor unions on Monday launched what they said would be an aggressive campaign against former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor.

California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski said the unions will focus on exposing what he described as Whitman’s Wall Street agenda. The labor federation will be joined by unions representing teachers and nurses, among others.

“As we have learned more about Meg Whitman’s policies and proposals, it has become clear to us she would pose a serious threat to millions of California workers,” Pulaski said in a call with reporters.

Pulaski said labor leaders are starting earlier than ever in the governor’s race because Whitman, a billionaire, expects to spend $150 million on her campaign. He declined to specify how much the unions plan to spend but said it will involve 25,000 volunteers who will make phone calls, knock on doors and mail hundreds of thousands of fliers.

The unions said Whitman’s corporate philosophy will hurt working families by cutting jobs and lowering taxes on the rich.

Whitman, Pulaski said, “shares a philosophy that what’s good for Wall Street must be good for everybody. Most everybody has had to learn the hard way that that’s a bogus policy.”

Questions about Whitman’s ties to investment bank Goldman Sachs were raised earlier this month in an article by the San Francisco Chronicle and the nonprofit California Watch. The report detailed her history as an investor, board member and recipient of both insider stock deals and campaign donations.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Goldman Sachs with fraud, alleging the investment bank misled investors about a product related to subprime mortgages. Goldman didn’t fully disclose that the product was created in part by a hedge fund manager who was betting on its failure, according to the complaint.

Whitman’s campaign responded to the union’s effort by noting that Democrat Jerry Brown, who is seeking a second tenure as California governor, has his own Goldman ties.

The campaign cited a story by the Los Angeles Times noting that Brown was mayor of Oakland when the city renegotiated a complicated financing deal with Goldman Sachs in 2003. That was just before Brown’s sister, former state treasurer Kathleen Brown, began serving as West Coast head of municipal finance at Goldman.

Oakland officials had agreed to a so-called “interest rate swap” with Goldman to provide stability in paying interest on debt. When the city refinanced its bonds in 2005, officials agreed to a fixed interest rate. Since then, interest rates have fallen and the deal has worked out better for Goldman than the city.

“Jerry Brown is the only candidate in this race who renewed a big money deal for Wall Street that’s costing California taxpayers millions of dollars while Goldman Sachs is continuing to pocket the cash,” Whitman’s spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, said in a statement. “The entrenched labor unions are hopelessly trying to make this an issue, because Jerry Brown can’t.”

Brown’s campaign spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said Brown never voted on the Goldman issue in Oakland. Brown holds no stock or investments in Goldman Sachs, he said.

“The Whitman campaign has yet again failed to get their facts right,” Clifford said. “It’s an attempt by Meg Whitman to avoid taking responsibility for her actions.”

Pulaski, the labor leader, said there’s no comparison because Whitman was part of the leadership on Wall Street that made costly decisions for the working class while Brown’s focused on creating jobs.

Whitman left Goldman’s board in 2002 after serving 15 months. She was singled out in a congressional probe of IPO “spinning,” where firms allegedly traded access to IPOs in exchange for bond business. She later settled a shareholder lawsuit related to the profits she and other executives made from buying IPOs.

The move is now banned.

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