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Chamber pours millions into insurance commissioner’s race

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The campaign for the Democrat running for insurance commissioner, Assemblyman Dave Jones, is crying foul over a nearly $2-million television advertising blitz by the California Chamber of Commerce in favor of Jones’ Republican opponent, Assemblyman Mike Villines.

The chamber ads, which are billed as a nonpartisan “issue advocacy and education” message, boil down to a ruse by the chamber, the Jones campaign says. They avoid having to disclose that the TV time was largely paid for by insurance companies, who would be regulated by Villines if he wins his race in November.

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The ads, which feature Chamber President Allan Zaremberg, praise Villines for supporting the chambers’ pro-business policies on economic development, taxes and government regulation. “The goal of these ads is to educate Californians on the importance of job protection and economic recovery,” Zaremberg said in a statement released by his office.

Parke Skelton, Jones’ campaign consultant, accused the chamber of “using the dodge of ‘issue advocacy’ ” because insurers don’t want to give money directly to Villines “because it’s the kiss of death in the insurance commissioner’s race.”

Villines spokeswoman Jennifer Gibbons called the Jones criticisms unfair and said that Villines is not coordinating his campaign with the chamber’s advertising. “Mike is a small-businessman,” she said. “He spent his entire legislative career trying to help the economy and create jobs.”

-- Marc Lifsher


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