SAN FRANCISCO Meg Whitman caught a glimpse of what could be her biggest enemy in the California governor's race -- organized labor -- when unions on Monday unveiled a campaign linking her to Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Wall Street "greed."
Promising their biggest fight in a governor's race with 25,000 union members calling and going door-to-door, the 2.1 million member California Labor Federation unveiled a Web site, www.wallstreetwhitman.com, which paints the former eBay Inc CEO and Goldman Sachs director as a creature of Wall Street.
Whitman, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in the most populous U.S. state, has heard barely a peep from Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, with whom she is neck-and-neck in the polls.
Her campaign has focused on her experience as a chief executive and plans to improve education and the economy.
Whitman, a billionaire, has said she is ready to spend $150 million on her campaign race, which would make it the most expensive political race ever outside a presidential contest.
Unions have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade, mostly on ballot measures, but have been waiting in this campaign.
Goldman is being targeted by investor and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuits alleging it hid vital information from investors in subprime-mortgage related securities. The most influential bank on Wall Street is fighting the accusations as public anger flares over the banking industry's role in the global financial meltdown.
Whitman was a Goldman director in 2001 and 2002, profited from special access to initial public offerings, which were legal at the time, and has investments managed by the bank.
Wall Street Whitman, the new Web site, appears modeled after the Wall Street Journal, with a feature story, "Whitman Uses Wall Street Tricks to Get Rich Quick," a picture of Whitman in front of a Wall St. street sign, and another of a bag of money labeled "profit."
The Whitman campaign retorted that Democrat Brown, whose sister works at Goldman, is the one with close ties to the bank. When Brown was mayor of Oakland the city had a financing deal with the bank, which is now losing money.
"Meg Whitman has come from Main Street at companies like eBay, Procter & Gamble, and Hasbro," said Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei.
The union campaign is not linked to Brown's campaign. A Brown spokesman said the candidate did not strike the financing deal or renew it, although he did decline to exit the deal, which would have cost about $19 million at the time.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said his membership was fighting mad. "They are angry at Wall Street CEOs who have been getting really, filthy rich," he told reporters on a conference call.
New computer programs allow the unions to focus efforts on individuals likely to be open to their message, allowing them to reach out to 1.5 million non-union members in areas of the state where unions are not as strong, Pulaski said.
(Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Mary Milliken and Todd Eastham)