SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown abruptly booted a doctor from a state advisory panel after she appeared in industry-funded television ads slamming a proposed tobacco tax to fund cancer research.
Elk Grove physician La Donna Porter starred in a recent spot for the No on Proposition 29 campaign. In it, she warned viewers that the anti-smoking measure would create a huge new bureaucracy that could send tax dollars out of state.
The June ballot measure championed by cycling legend and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong would add a $1 tax on each pack of cigarette to raise money for cancer research projects, smoking-reduction programs and tobacco law enforcement.
It also could mean major losses for tobacco companies, which are bankrolling the campaign against Proposition 29.
The Democratic governor decided Thursday to remove Porter and five other appointees to the committee that identifies toxicants, all of whom were appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.
Health advocates had raised concerns about Porter's position on a panel meant to identify chemicals known to cause developmental or reproductive harm, given that she also appeared in anti-tobacco tax campaign ads in 2006, and in ads opposing regulation of the water pollutant perchlorate.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom also wrote his boss directly to ask for her removal.
"Tobacco has proven to be toxic to both children's and reproductive health, and state taxpayers can no longer rely upon Dr. Porter as the final word on issues of children's health," Newsom wrote Wednesday.
Brown's press secretary Gil Duran declined to say whether the governor's decision came in response to complaints from health advocates. The governor's office said only that Brown decided to make his own appointments to the California Proposition 65 Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee, and added that governor has not taken a public stand on Proposition 29.
A person who answered the phone at Porter's home Friday said the doctor declined to comment.
In a statement previously provided by the campaign, however, Porter said she had not been paid to appear in the latest industry-funded ad and was volunteering for the campaign.
"My views on Prop. 29 are no different than many others — including those in the medical profession — who have read the initiative and have come to the same conclusions that the measure is flawed," she said.
The tobacco companies and anti-tax groups that oppose the initiative had raised nearly $39.8 million as of May 7, while Armstrong and his supporters had raised $4.9 million.
Armstrong, whose Livestrong Foundation has contributed $1.5 million to support the initiative in California, was set to appear Friday at a Los Angeles hospital with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and representatives from the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Heart Association to promote the measure.
Anti-smoking groups praised the governor's decision but questioned why Porter had remained on the committee until Thursday.
"Clearly to have left her on there would have been a black eye for the administration. It would have been bigger news if she hadn't been removed," said Stanton Glantz, a tobacco researcher who directs the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.