Whether or not you think Meg Whitman’s shoddy voting record alone disqualifies her to be governor of California, the more fundamental issue in the controversy is whether she’s telling the truth about it.
As Whitman embarked on a media damage control tour, including an interview with AP Tuesday and a scheduled appearance with KGO’s Ronn Owens today, significant questions remained unanswered over her shifting versions of reality about her voting record.
Specifically, why did she make statements, in a speech to the Republican state convention on Feb. 21, 2009, that were — and there’s no other way to put this — untrue?
In that speech to hundreds of delegates, Whitman a) falsely claimed that she had been registered to vote since 1998 and b) set forth an elaborate, 81-word explanation for why she chose to register as an independent at that time – in support of her false claim.
“As you may have read, I’ve been a registered “decline to state” voter since 1998. As the CEO of a public company, with an enormous community of users and employees covering every imaginable political persuasion, I purposely made the decision to register DTS. I felt it was the right thing to do given my role at eBay. Once my eBay tenure was coming to an end and I became more involved with (Mitt Romney’s) campaign, I changed my registration back to Republican.
As the world now knows, thanks to Andrew McIntosh’s investigative Sac Bee report, Whitman never registered — as a Decline to State, a Republican or anything else — until 2002.
At a press conference on Saturday, Whitman was asked directly about the discrepancy between the statements in her February speech and the documentary record.
REPORTER: …you were registered in 1998, and there’s no record of that. Are you inferring that you did? The Bee reported after you were not registered at all before 2002.
WHITMAN: So when I came back to California, I registered in 2002, so I don’t know where that came from, but I registered in 2002 when I came back to California, so thank you for that.” (emphasis ours).
You don’t know where it came from? Try checking here, Your Megness.
Whitman managed to slip the punch on that key question, because the press was in full bay and didn’t follow up, although her flack later tried to reconcile February and the facts by telling a reporter, “She misspoke, and it was wrong.”
But an 81-word passage in the prepared text of a formal speech to a state party convention can’t simply be dismissed as an off-hand misstatement. So why did she say what she said back in February? There are only three explanations that we can think of:
1. A staff person put the statement in her speech, unbeknownst to her, and she simply read the text as written.
2. She delusionally believed at the time that she did register in 1998 and that she had done so as DTS – even though she had not registered, let alone DTS.
3. She knew it wasn’t true but said it anyway.
We asked press secretary Sarah Pompei again yesterday for an explanation of how Whitman came to make false statements in a major speech at a political convention.The best she could come up with was, “I wasn’t there” and “there was an error.” We’ll say.
Calbuzz hopes that when eMeg appears on his show today, our old friend Ronn Owens will press her about which of these explanations is true, and not settle for the “I made a mistake” claptrap she’s been peddling since the Bee story broke.
Jerry Puts Toe in Water: To the surprise of no one, Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Tuesday he’s filing paperwork for with the Secretary of State for a “Brown for Governor 2010 Exploratory Committee.” This means that instead of raising funds under the limits that apply to the attorney general — $6,500 per person/per election, Crusty can now raise under limits for governor, which allow $25,900 per person/per election.
Of course, under the old limits, Brown already had stashed about $7 million on hand compared to about $1 million on hand for Prince Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, his Democratic primary foe. Quipped Brown adviser Steve Glazer: “Now we’re operating under the Gavin Newsom limits.”
Giving Brown plenty of room for a eMeg-style “official announcement” tour, Glazer added, “if he decides to run, I don’t expect him to make a decision until next year.”
Brown’s move to form a committee comes a week before Bill Clinton arrives in L.A. to give Newsom his formal blessing and headline a big fundraiser for the San Francisco mayor. Coincidence? You be the judge.
Elephant gives birth to mouse: The Commission on the 21st Century Economy – or what Gov. Schwarzmuscle likes to call the “tax commission” – dropped its recommendations Tuesday, with support from only nine of its 14 members. There were some key players who didn’t sign on, including Bill Hauck of the California Business Roundtable, renowned tax expert Richard Pomp and ex-Assembly budget guru Fred Keeley.
Gerald Parsky, the Southern California investor and GOP bigwig who chaired the commission, brought along to a Sacto press conference John Cogan, senior fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution at Stanford, and Chris Edley, longtime Democrat and dean of the Boalt Hall School of Law. It was easy to see why Cogan was happy with the commission’s report; what was unclear, and went unanswered was this question for Edley: what did the liberals get out of this?
Once Edley bought into the notion that any plan from the Parsky panel had to be “revenue neutral,” he was playing on the conservative’s turf. He had nothing to negotiate, nothing to win, and wound up playing the role of lap dog for the Boskin Wing of the commission. (But maybe if Schwarzenegger gets an opening on the California Supreme Court…)
In the world outside the Capitol press conference room, the plan drew immediate fire from all quarters.
Allan Zremberg of the California Chamber said, “the recommendation today from some members of the Commission on the 21st Century Economy is fatally flawed,” while California Labor Federation chief Art Pulaski called it “a profound disappointment, offering no solutions to better support our state’s middle class” and the California Tax Reform Association chimed in here, calling the report a “failure.” If you really want an eyeful of critique, from a blue chip economist whose bona fides are longer than a Calbuzz rant, read what Richard Pomp had to say about the recommendations.
When Big Bad Dan Walters pointed out to Parsky that both the Chamber and the labor federation were opposed to the commission’s call to flatten the income tax, eliminate the corporate income tax and the state sales tax and establish a value-added type Business Net Receipts Tax, Parsky’s response dripped with condescension: “Tax policy is very complicated.”
What a wanker.
For all the lip service to bipartisanship and above-the-fray patina of the Parsky panel, its grubby political motives were laid bare by a question from our old friend George Skelton of the ByGodLATimes.
George asked why, when all the other taxes were considered, the panel had not addressed the most obvious one – the property tax – by at least recommending taxing business and industrial property at market rate?
Parsky danced around an answer until Edley finally admitted that the idea was politically a non-starter for conservatives. So much for high-minded, independence and fortitude.