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Bad news for Meg Whitman -- this time coming from a donor pitch by Steve Cooley, her own party's candidate for attorney general.

A Cooley fundraising e-mail implies that Whitman will lose the gubernatorial race by stating that he is the "only Republican ahead in the polls and the only candidate strong enough to stand up to Jerry Brown and the Democratic establishment during the next four years."

Oops!

Kevin Spillane, Cooley spokesman, disavowed the solicitation today, saying it had been sent by a junior fundraising staffer without clearance and "does not reflect the views of Steve Cooley or the Cooley campaign."

Potential donors were asked to contribute at least $2,500 per ticket to watch a game between the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers in the owner's suite at ARCO Arena on Nov. 3, the day after California's election.

The solicitation suggested that donors would benefit from having Cooley rather than Democrat Kamala Harris overseeing enforcement of business regulations and writing titles and summaries for ballot initiatives.

"If you are OK with Kamala Harris, the San Francisco DA and Obama colleague, writing the ballot titles and summaries and steering business regulations for the next four years, then ignore this e-mail," it said.

By implying a political benefit to electing Cooley, the e-mail raises questions about the Republican's position during the campaign that he would serve not as a partisan but as the people's attorney, representing their views.

Brian Brokaw, Harris spokesman, likened the e-mail to hanging a "giant For Sale sign" over the office of attorney general, whose duties range from prosecuting crime to enforcing state regulations and protecting the environment.

"It's a totally partisan solicitation, but more importantly, it implies that the fundamental duties of the office can be influenced by fundraising," Brokaw said.

Spillane disagreed, saying there was nothing wrong with suggesting that Harris -- not Cooley -- would politicize the office. Both candidates are county district attorneys, Cooley in Los Angeles and Harris in San Francisco.

"Kamala Harris will politicize the title and summary process as well as enforcement of regulations because she's an ambitious, shameless politician who's committed to advancing her career," Spillane said.

Cooley does not plan to run for higher office and has a long history of nonpartisan county service, Spillane said.

Spillane said the fundraising solicitation was sent to a small group of people Tuesday in the Los Angeles and Sacramento areas.

The solicitation was e-mailed as a message by a key Cooley fundraiser, Renee Croce, and contained Croce's e-mail signature and return online address. Nonetheless, Spillane said, it was sent out by a junior staffer who is being "appropriately discliplined."

Spillane said a procedure exists for approving the distribution of fundraising solicitations, but "occasionally within the last days of the campaign, things will happen without proper clearance."



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