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Meg Chair Pete Wilson Trashed ‘Whores’ in Congress

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

After their candidate hid out for more than a week after the illegal housekeeper story broke wide open, the Armies of eMeg opened fire on Twitter Saturday, wondering where Jerry Brown was in the wake of the revelation that someone in his campaign office suggested calling Whitman a “whore” for selling out to the LA cops union.

“Still in hiding, @JerryBrown2010 skips his own “Day of Action” & refuses to take accountability. http://bit.ly/9bsDsM #cagov about 3 hours ago via web” tweeted sarapompei.

“@JerryBrown2010 last seen entering witness relocation program under new name Monsieur “Rayon de Lune” Details: http://bit.ly/9bsDsM #cagov about 3 hours ago via Seesmic twhirl,” said Murphy4MegNews and murphymike.

Rob Stutzman and Tucker Bounds chimed in, too. The hunt was on. And Team Krusty, after issuing an apology to Whitman and anyone in the known universe who might have been offended, was saying absolutely nothing in response to eMeg’s Wash-Your-Mouth-Out Campaign for Clean Speech.

But then, one of our faithful Calbuzzers – someone not tied to either governor’s campaign — sent us a Feb. 3, 1995 story from the San Francisco Examiner, recounting former Gov. Pete Wilson’s buoyant return to Sacramento after a five-day visit to Washington as he geared up to run for president.

Wilson, who as every schoolboy knows, is now Whitman’s campaign chairman, back then made national headlines with his critique of Congress, where he had served as a senator. Wrote Brand Ex-man Tupper Hull:

After learning that a federal judge had ruled California might be liable for up to $500 million in damages over its issuance of IOUs during a budget crisis in 1992, Wilson lashed out at Congress for having approved the Depression-era Fair Labor Practices Act.

“I don’t blame the judge; he is interpreting the law,” Wilson said during a speech before the National Association of Wholesalers Wednesday. “I blame the Congress for being such whores to public employees unions that they would pass that kind of legislation.”

Even in 1995, best we can recall, Congress included both men and women. We’re just sayin’.

More on whores: To offer a bit more context on the subject, we can report exclusively that a Google search of “political whore” yields 13,400 results, including links to sites called politicalwhore.com and politicalwhores.org , plus recent stories in which liberal Florida Rep. Alan Grayson called a top ranking federal reserve official a “K Street whore,” and conservative talk show host Jim Quinn termed the National Organization for Women (which endorsed Brown in the wake of his campaign’s slander about eMeg) the “National Organization of  Whores.” Let’s not forget P.J. O’Rourke’s classic political study, “A Parliament of Whores.”

As Sensitive New Age Digital Era guys, however, we cannot presume to opine one way or the other on the soundness of the views expressed in our own comments column by Calbuzzer Adelaides Lament, who self-describes as “a female and feminist” and who raises an interesting point:

…I’m offended by Meg’s vapors over the “can we call her a whore?” remark.

She can’t have it both ways. If she’s going to pass out every time somebody utters a bad word – or god forbid a sexist one – she’d spend all her time in Sacramento on the fainting couch.

Yes, selling out to the police officers union in a back room deal could well be referred to as “being in bed with” or even “whoring yourself out to” the union in trade for an endorsement.

If Meg really wants to be governor she’d be better off growing a pair and throwing away the smelling salts. Those boys in Sacto play rough.

Indeed they do, and a Calbuzz investigation suggests that they’ve been doing so at least since the days of Ronald Reagan’s governorship.

“How Ronald Reagan Governed California” an article in the January 17, 1975 edition of the National Review, no less a conservative publication, even suggests that the Gipper on occasion found some amusement in such matters. Recounting tense, high-level negotiations in 1971 over welfare reform between Reagan and then-Speaker Bob Moretti, the piece reports what happened when the talks at one point broke down:

An impasse was reached and one of the legislators, whose self-appointed role was to maintain an atmosphere that would encourage compromise, called for a recess and sent for food and drink. Warmed by his own hospitality and trying to put the situation in perspective, he commented: “It’s too bad the people elect an ideologue like Reagan. They should stick with political whores, like me.” His candor broke the ice and negotiations were resumed…

As journalists, of course, we long have been accustomed to being smeared and assailed in a whorish manner for, as the ironist Pierce Thorne has noted:

Journalists are like whores; as high as their ideals may be, they still have to resort to tricks to make money.

All of which goes to show that context is everything in political speech. And as Ronald Reagan knew, a sense of humor never hurts either.

LA Cops Flog a Bad Transcript: One more note on the “whore” incident. Calbuzz has in its hot hands a “certified copy” of the transcript of the  conversation that was taped by the answering machine at the offices of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, dated Sept. 21. It was transcribed by Lori Odell Kennedy of Kennedy Court Reporters Inc. We’re not sure how Ms Kennedy and the LAPPL (which has endorsed Whitman) came to the conclusion they did, but in this allegedly “certified” transcript, the person who speaks the words “What about saying she’s a whore,” is said to be J.B. (Jerry Brown). But anyone who listens to the recording can plainly hear that the speaker was NOT Brown.

One other problem: on the tape (and in the transcript), Brown says, “My first ad goes up tonight.” That would place the conversation on Sept. 6 or 7, not Sept. 21. Which would mean the cops had the tape for nearly a month before it was released. Wonder what they did with it?

BTW, we hear the LA Times wasn’t the only media outlet it was given to. Apparently Fox News also had the tape and passed on the story. But the real question Calbuzz has is this: Would the LA cops union intentionally put out a bad transcript trying to finger Brown for the comment? Hmmm.

Brown Hustling to Stem Damage from Whoregate

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

The made-for-the-tabloids fracas triggered by an unidentified associate of Jerry Brown’s who called Meg Whitman a “whore” demonstrates a fundamental dynamic of California’s campaign for governor: it’s Krusty’s race to lose, and he’s entirely capable of doing just that.

At a time when Team eMeg was clearly on the defensive, having stumbled badly in their handling of disclosures about her employment of an illegal immigrant, the incredibly stupid, unforced error by Team Jerry provides Republican Whitman a gift-horse opportunity to slow the momentum his campaign had begun to build and to stay within striking distance of the Democratic front-runner. [For a good time, click on Miss Adelaide above]

As a policy matter, the point Brown’s aide sought to make about Whitman — during a free-wheeling strategy discussion that was embarrassingly revealed after Krusty failed to ring off a call to the L.A. police union and the private conversation was captured on the organization’s voicemail — was well-taken:

While eMeg likes to cast herself as a reformer taking on the political status quo, it was she, not Brown, who cut a sweetheart deal with the cops to exempt them from her proposal to roll back pension benefits for public employees, in exchange for the endorsement of the union. This may undercut Whitman’s ability to use the slander effectively: if she brings it up, her quid pro quo with the cops comes to light. As Steve Lopez of the By God L.A. Times put it Friday: Whitman is not a whore, but a hypocrite.

As a political matter, however, the substantive issue was largely overshadowed by the ruckus over the Brown adviser’s choice of language.

In a race between two male candidates, referring to your rival as a “whore” who does the bidding of special interests would be unlikely to attract much attention. In a race against a woman, however, the characterization sounds sexist and demeaning, regardless that it was spoken in a supposedly private conversation and twisted out of context by Whitman and her allies.

While the cable and chat shows on TV fed on the story like sharks on fresh meat on Friday, the impact of the insult when broadcast is weakened because they routinely bleep the word “whore.”

However, appearances and perception matter hugely because one of the central arguments of Brown’s campaign is that  “character matters.” Even if there’s little evidence that the incident will move voters, it surely has the capacity to sully Brown’s image.

Mindful of the potential political impact, Krusty on Friday quickly rolled out the endorsement of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women. Even leaders of that solidly pro-Democrat group, however, finessed their comments to acknowledge the insult implicit in the offending word.

“It’s an inappropriate use of sexist language,” NOW president Patty Bellasalma told Calbuzz, when we asked if there would a political backlash among women voters, “but it’s not an inappropriate characterization of what Meg Whitman did…She carved out a two tier system and accepted 100% police pensions in order to get their endorsement and a $450,000 independent expenditure.”

Bellasalma insisted to us that NOW’s endorsement was made “a few days ago,” adding that “we didn’t run around and get an endorsement in response to the news.” But she acknowledged that, “the timing is obviously somewhat advantageous to the Brown campaign and we’re in favor of that.”

Brown, like Democrats across the state, counts on a significant gender gap to deliver a strong majority of female voters. In an effort to cut this advantage, however, the Whitman camp immediately seized on the comment to portray Brown as disdainful of women in general.

“The use of the term ‘whore’ is an insult to both Meg Whitman and to the women of California,” said eMeg spokeshuman Sarah Pompei. “This is an appalling and unforgivable smear against Meg Whitman. At the very least Mr. Brown tacitly approved this despicable slur and he himself may have used the term at least once on this recording.”

For their part, Krusty’s allies and spinners insist the controversy will not have lasting impact.

“Women are a pretty intelligent electorate,” Ballasalma said. “Women vote on the substance, not on political tag lines.” Democratic pollster Paul Maslin, who is unaffiliated with the Brown campaign, was more blunt: “Whore schmore,” he said, predicting no substantial effect on voters.

Beyond the gender question, however, this is clearly a distraction for Brown’s campaign and allowed the Whitman camp to change the subject from the issue that has dominated the campaign for the past two weeks: her employment for nine years of an undocumented worker named Nicky Diaz, who has publicly denounced the Republican for treating her “like garbage.”

Also, anyone who listens to the tape of the call (which the police union fed to the LA Times) cannot help but be struck by the frat house tone and texture of the discussion among Brown’s top advisers, whose voices and arguments are a cacophony of  churlish crosstalk.

While this may be of interest only to political junkies and insiders, it also reinforces the perception of Brown’s overall lack of discipline, coming after he was forced to clean up two previous loose-lipped, foot-shooting episodes.

A few months ago, he compared Whitman’s campaign to the Nazi propaganda machine of Joseph Goebbels, drawing criticism from some Jewish groups; later, he snarked publicly about Bill Clinton’s honesty and sexual dalliances, at a time when top Democrats were negotiating for the ex-president to endorse Brown.

Sterling Clifford, Brown’s spokeshuman, said the atmosphere inside the Brown campaign is no different than any other political office he worked in: “You shouldn’t take a weird recording as an indication of what life is like in our office.”

Brown allies also argued that while the illegal immigrant saga reinforced an existing narrative about Whitman as a super-wealthy business executive isolated from the concerns of ordinary people, the “whore” controversy underscores no story line except Gandalf’s continuing ineptitude with technology and inability to use the damn phone properly.

Pompei of the Whitman campaign did not respond to a request for additional comments.

CapWeek Kudos; Whores v Klutzes; Lou’s Illegals

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Capitol Weekly preserves integrity: HT  to Anthony York of Capitol Weekly for taking a pass on a survey, done by Orange County Republican pollster Adam Probolsky, that York had intended to release through his respected web site. Turns out the Democratic pollster he had paired with Probolsky – Ben Tulchin of San Francisco, — had significant methodological problems with Probolsky’s survey and York didn’t want to risk his site’s good name with a bad poll.

While just about every pollster in the known universe has recently found the race with Jerry Brown up 5 or more points over Meg Whitman, Probolsky turned in a survey with a virtual dead heat: Brown 41% and Whitman 39%. The survey was taken Sept. 30-Oct 4 among 752 registered voters.

“We wanted a bipartisan poll but we didn’t have bipartisan sign-off,” said York. “This is Adam’s poll. They (Tulchin and Probolsky) couldn’t agree, so we didn’t want to put it out.”

Said Tulchin: “The results that Adam found were based on a sample that I felt was too conservative and too Caucasian and did not accurately represent a statewide sample.   As a result, I could not endorse the poll, so Adam decided to release it on his own.”

What particularly bothered Tulchin was not Probolsky’s projection of a 54.7% turnout, which Ben thought was “a bit conservative but not beyond the realm of possibility.” Rather, the survey under-represents Latinos and blacks, with just  12.8% Latino voters and 2.9% black, instead of 14-15% Latinos and at least 4% blacks, as expected.

“These are critical demographic groups,” Tulchin said.  “To undercount them in a survey has a direct impact on the poll results for the governor’s race.” Probolsky’s poll, he added, with a more conservative and Caucasian turnout model, resembled a Whitman campaign poll “that showed Brown with a slight lead and Gloria Allred with a 92% name ID, which is not very credible.”

As if to prove the point, guess who sent around the Probolsky poll to reporters on Thursday? And thank you for that, Ms. Pompei.

PS: In earlier versions of this post we had a picture of the wrong Anthony York up. Sorry for our stupid misgoogletake.

Gandalf vs. Technology, Round 32: Confronted with the complex and sophisticated 21st century challenge of hanging up the phone, Jerry Brown has failed miserably, the estimable Seema Mehta is reporting Thursday night, thus  setting off another kerfuffle in the governor’s race.

The 72-year old — and-getting-older-by-the-minute — Democratic nominee appears to have left a voicemail message at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Protective League last month, expressing frustration that the cop group planned to endorse eMeg after Krusty refused to exempt law enforcement from his call for reforming public employee pension plans — this after Ms. I’ll-tackle-the-status-quo agreed to enable the police union’s rules-are-different-for-us demands.

Whereupon Brown, the chief law enforcement official of the most populous state in the union, proved unequal to the task of HANGING UP THE TELEPHONE, thereby managing to leave on the cop union’s voice recorder the full, unadulterated contents of an ensuing, full and frank discussion of the political implications of the matter, during which one of Jerry Kid’s referred to eMeg as a “whore.”

No doubt, they meant it in the nicest possible way.

At press time, Team Brown’s Steve Glazer was apologizing profusely to Herself and the usual “anyone who may have been offended” suspects, while the volcanic Sarah Pompei  of Team Whitman was declaring the sexist slur “unforgivable and despicable.” Film at 11.

Next up: Jerry tries to navigate indoor plumbing.

Must read of the week: No word yet if the Legions of eMeg Communications Corps has turned to the task of e-blast, multiple platform dissemination of the cover story in the upcoming issue of The Nation, but if they haven’t, they really should.

In one of the toughest investigative takedowns in memory of a public figure who really had it coming, Isabel Macdonald rips the phony mask of self-righteousness from the immigrant-bashing Lou Dobbs, late of CNN, and in the process makes Our Meg look like a total piker in the employer of undocumented workers category.

Dobbs, who made himself rich and famous by blathering race-baiting demagoguery on cable TV, for quite some time has been living large in two huge and luxurious estates which support the major jones that his 22-year old daughter has for champion show jumper horses.

Turns out his truly sweet set-up is sustained by the labor of illegal immigrants, whom he never tired of bashing on his now-canceled program of self-described “fearless reporting and commentary.” In a piece aptly, if not subtly, titled “Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite,” Macdonald writes:

But with his relentless diatribes against “illegals” and their employers, Dobbs is casting stones from a house—make that an estate—of glass. Based on a yearlong investigation, including interviews with five immigrants who worked without papers on his properties, The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute have found that Dobbs has relied for years on undocumented labor for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his 22-year-old daughter, Hillary, a champion show jumper…

Since he left CNN last November, after Latino groups mounted a protest campaign against his inflammatory rhetoric, Dobbs has continued to advocate an enforcement-first approach to immigration, emphasizing, as he did in a March 2010 interview on Univision, that “the illegal employer is the central issue in this entire mess!”

Schadenfreude – sometimes it’s better than sex.

Update: Dobbs vs. Macdonald on MSNBC.

Testing 1, 2, 3: Nate Silver, the NYT’s boy genius of political polling and  statistical computational matters, has reset the betting line in his 538 blog and now makes Jerry Brown a 3-to-1 favorite to win the California governorship.

Written (or, far more likely, edited) into the most genteel Timespeak,  Silver’s item on the race notes that Krusty has become a 75 percent favorite after the column pegged him as the underdog just two weeks ago, and credits Nicky-gate as the reason for the switch:

Still, the allegations are obviously not helpful to Ms. Whitman, whose campaign has reacted with a certain lack of dexterity — with Ms. Whitman, for instance, having volunteered to take a polygraph test to rebut them. Such distractions may be relatively more difficult for a candidate like Ms. Whitman, who is running her first campaign for office, and who is used to writing her own script as the former chief executive of eBay.

Amid all the recent fuss about I-9′s and mileage payments for maids, we’d almost forgotten about last week’s quickly-retracted promise by eMeg to take a lie detector test to back up her story, but we’re glad Nate raised it since it resurfaced one of  our all-time favorite political quotes (h/t Bill Carrick).

Fritz Hollings, the ex-governor and former long-serving Senator from South Carolina, was once challenged by a soon-to-be-vanquished campaign rival to take a drug test. To which the famously blunt-spoken Hollings instantly replied: “I’ll take a drug test if you take an IQ test.”

Corporations are people too: Mega-kudos to Jack Dolan of the By God L.A. Times for digging out a truly outrageous $30 million sweetheart tax break deal in the Legislature’s compromise budget plan, a reeking piece of rancid fish festering deep inside the secretly negotiated spending plan for the financial benefit of one, and only one, rich and politically influential family.

The provision, which will allow the Humboldt Redwood Co. to deduct $20 million in old losses from future taxes, is also expected to cover penalties and interest for the firm co-owned by three sons of Donald G. Fisher, founder of the Gap and Banana Republic, said company Chairman Sandy Dean.

The tax break was inserted into the draft state spending plan during closed-door negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders, said people close to the talks. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the deal-making.

While Krusty is working overtime to make the world safe for children’s bouncy houses and eMeg is trembling with fury about a few poor people who may have dared to leave the state while on welfare, we’re still waiting for the howls of outrage from either one of them over this single interest rip-off for one of California’s best-connected families.

Breaking: Dolan busts them on another one.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: On the list of Citizen Kane-wannabes who thought it would be fun to own a newspaper, there is tremendous competition for the title of biggest chucklehead, but it’s tough to top the utter idiocy of Chicago greedhead Sam Zell, who’s still in the process of ruining a whole batch of them, as David Carr reports in painful detail.

eMeg’s Hefty Bag & Fun with Stocks and Money

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Team Whitman, trying desperately to dig eMeg out of the hole she carved into her campaign with her handling of Nicky Diaz, her undocumented housekeeper for nine years, sought to change the subject Wednesday by quoting ex-Republican congressman Michael Oxley of Ohio as saying he’s “outraged”  that Jerry Brown used his name in an anti-Whitman TV ad.

But (as you’ll read below) Oxley called “corrupt” the practice of “stock-spinning” that Whitman engaged in when she was CEO at eBay and he included her in his attack on the practice. So the effort to shift the conversation away from eMeg’s character deficit, as raised by her handling of her illegal housekeeper, fell flat.

Which leaves loud-mouth attorney Gloria Allred with the last word — for now, anyway — on the hiring and firing of her client, Diaz. Who says eMeg treated her “like garbage” — a comment Calbuzz editorial cartoonist Tom Meyer could not resist vamping on.

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The generations of Cesar: Not willing to let go of Whitman’s handling of Diaz or the immigration issue just yet, Brown’s labor cronies in the Service Employees International Union put together a spot, as part of their $5 million independent expenditure drive, featuring Dr. Christina Chavez, grand-niece of Cesar Chavez.

“When Jerry Brown was governor, he fought alongside my uncle Cesar Chavez to garner fair wages for workers,” Dr. Chavez says in Spanish. “And help open the doors for a generation of Latinos to gain access to education and be successful.

“I know because I am one of them. Now Republican Meg Whitman wants to ban undocumented students from attending college, taking away their opportunity to succeed. That’s why we need to vote for Jerry Brown for Governor, to make sure everyone has a right to a good education and better future.”

Whitman teed up the issue of keeping undocumented Latinos out of state colleges and universities herself at the Univision debate on Saturday. She responded to a question from an honors student and — being true to her platform –bravely told the young woman she was taking up a spot in a state school that rightfully belonged to a legal California citizen.

What did he say and when did he say it: Rising to the defense of eMeg, retired Congressman Oxley on Wednesday said:

I am outraged that Jerry Brown would stoop so low as to use my name and comments to attack Meg Whitman . . . My comments were taken out of context and never directed at Meg or any other individual . . . Jerry Brown has desperately resorted to using lies, distortions and distractions to prevent a real discussion of the issues facing California.

Wow, strong stuff. Except, here’s the problem: In a wide-ranging investigation, involving five minutes using the Google, Calbuzz found numerous MSM stories, including articles from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, where, as the investigative journalism group California Watch, summarized:

Then-Rep. Michael Oxley, an Ohio Republican who investigated the spinning scandal as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said in 2002 that it was obvious that Goldman was “making IPO shares available to those with investment banking business to offer.” He said Whitman and 20 other corporate executives, including Kenneth Lay of Enron, received IPOs as “an inducement or reward for investment banking business.”

Oxley called the practice “corrupt.” Months later, it was banned by the SEC.

The Wall Street Journal even published this handy little chart, put together by Oxley’s committee.

We’re just sayin’.

Fun with numbers: New campaign finance reports show that Whitman has picked up the pace of her round-the-clock spending rate since her last filing and has now lavished a 24/7 average of nearly $10,000 an hour since announcing her candidacy in February 2009.

eMeg’s total of $140 million through September 30 works out to $234,113 per day, for each of the 598 days she’s been campaigning (Memo to Meg from Griff: Should we have set aside some to pay Nicky’s mileage?), or $9,754.70 per hour; for those keeping score at home, this is a considerably brisker clip than she was maintaining in the earlier report, when she was only spending $203,767 per day, or $8,490.29 an hour.

But Our Meg is going to have to hustle between now and election day to break the magic $10K per hour barrier, which will require her to spend $303,030 a day – $12,626 an hour – to hit her number.

And you know the best thing about it? She’s doing it all for us, because she just won’t let California fail.

Add Meg money: Interesting take by Michael Mishak and Patrick McGreevy of the By God Los Angeles Times , who report that despite the unprecedented $119 million eMeg has forked out of her own pocket, she’s actually outraised Krusty in outside contributions, $10.7 to $9.5 million.

The several millions of Whitman’s outside fundraising from “donors with business before the state and corporate leaders,” the Timesmen smartly note, are “potentially undercutting her claim that her personal fortune makes her uniquely free of special-interest entanglements.”

Krusty meanwhile has so far spent about $11 million to date, a mere $40,393 a day – $1,683 an hour – if you date the start of his campaign to the beginning of this year.

He has about $22 million in the bank, compared to Meg’s $9.2 million, which would be a considerable advantage in any other year, but which doesn’t mean squat when Herself can just hit the drive-through ATM to pick up a couple of  large any old time she runs low on pocket change.

With her public image sagging (even in her own, best case poll, Meg’s favorables are only even with her unfavorables) Team Whitman has rolled out a new positive ad that’s pretty good: “They say California can’t be governed anymore,” Whitman says, full face to the camera, “I say baloney.”

It’s one of the few ads in which she’s looked animated and authentic and, in the wake of the housekeeper, it’s a damn fine idea to be putting it out there; of course, we have no way of knowing how much it’s running in rotation with her negative spots, including a new attack on Gandalf, which is just another iteration of the big spending liberal line of attack the Armies of eMeg have been pushing for months, to little obvious effect.

Don’t take it from us: even the venerable Republican analyst Tony Quinn thinks Meg’s arguing the wrong case on economics. In a strong but little-noticed piece on Fox and Hounds a few weeks ago, Quinn wrote:

Meg Whitman is getting it wrong.  Her attacks on Jerry Brown are sporadic, unfocused and in many cases just downright untrue.  She is trying to define him as a traditional tax and spend liberal, but that dog won’t hunt…

In fact, Brown hoarded his big surplus and refused to spend it on property tax relief.  This set off the 1978 tax revolt culminating in Proposition 13.  But he also refused to spend it on roads, water projects, better schools – or anything associated with California’s population growth.

Whitman is in danger of missing the bigger picture of Jerry Brown’s years as governor, for it is Brown that began California’s long decline into the economic basket case we are today….

Small is beautiful, lower your expectations replaced the dream of a better life.  Well, now we know, small is not beautiful, small is small.  Expectations are certainly lowered for the millions who cannot find a job in a state that once led the world in economic growth…

Instead of mounting that more sophisticated and historically accurate case against Brown, however, eMeg’s Empire keeps playing the same old, generic Republican one-note symphony, in between puffing up with overdone outrage about every feature story about Brown that comes along.

Can it possibly be that the candidate is running her own campaign?

How Did the Armies of eMeg Blow the Nicky Story?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Two news items emerged yesterday to underscore some questions Calbuzz has puzzled over since last week’s revelations that Meg Whitman employed an undocumented housekeeper for nine years, fired her unceremoniously and never lifted a finger to help her resettle or become a legal resident.

1) An Ipsos Public Affairs Poll for Reuters found that nine in 10 people know about the incident and it makes a net 13% of voters less likely to support the billionaire Republican candidate for governor and, 2) The total amount of lost wages and expenses that the housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, is seeking to be paid is $6,210 – less than she pays her campaign manager every two weeks.

Here’s what we don’t get:

Why didn’t Whitman and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh IV, do something for Nicky? Why not spend $20,000 or so (or more, if need be) to hire her the best immigration attorney she could find to help her see what could be done to stay in the country or ease her return or whatever?

Why not offer her a year’s severance (about $18,000) or help her with re-settlement costs in Mexico? She was, in eMeg’s words, “a member of our extended family” (or as Meg said in one press conference, Freud never sleeping, “an extended member of our family”).

Okay, so Whitman and Harsh had to fire Diaz once they knew she was here illegally, if you buy their story. But they didn’t have to kick her to the curb. They might have avoided statements like this one from Nicky on Tuesday: “Meg, don’t say I was part of your family because you never treated me like I was.”

They could have tried to help her, which would have the advantage of being the right thing to do, would have made everyone feel better about themselves and – not insignificantly – would have demonstrated a measure of decency and compassion when the whole incident became public. Which leads to our second question:

Why – if as Whitman said last week,  she told her senior campaign advisers about the matter at the time — did she not disclose the whole thing publicly back in June or July of 2009?

Sure, she would have taken some guff from Steve Poizner and/or Tom Campbell, who were then challenging her for the GOP nomination. But everyone – everyone – would have understood how she could have wound up with an undocumented housekeeper.

That’s a common experience for many Californians of means and Whitman could have used herself as an example of how complicated the immigration issue is, and why we need a better system for employers to verify the status of people they hire (and make it believable).

Moreover, according to Political Consulting 101, this is standard operating procedure: control the bad news, put it out yourself, do it early to inoculate against a late hit. It borders on campaign consultant malpractice to have handled it as it was handled (unless, of course, Meg herself decided she would just keep the story a secret – ssshhh).

Whitman says she didn’t want to expose Nicky to the possibility of deportation. But had she actually done something to try to prevent that, or helped her in any way, she could have prevented the worst effects from what consultants always warn their clients: assume that everything that can come out will come out.

Calbuzz has tried to ask some of the consultants who were on Meg’s payroll back then – some for a quaint $25,000 a month – whether they knew about the housekeeper problem and what they advised. But nobody is returning our calls. We can’t figure out why.

Why did Whitman decide to attack Brown from a position of utter  weakness at the Univision debate, where the audience was overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking?

It was loopy enough that Whitman kept trying to get out ahead of Nicky’s attorney, the bombastic Gloria Allred, and kept getting blindsided by Allred’s disclosures. Everything was a smear and a lie and absolutely, 100% false. Until it turned out that it wasn’t. And Meg’s nose grew a little more.

All that aside, to turn to Brown on the stage in Fresno and wag a finger and charge him with sacrificing Nicky on the altar of his political ambition (such a line, you wouldn’t believe!) – what the hell was that?

Whitman knows Brown had nothing to do with Nicky’s hiring or firing and that there’s no evidence to support the charge that he had anything to do with the disclosure of her hiring and firing (if Brown had something he wanted to get out, the unpredictable loose cannon Allred would be right there at the waay bottom of his list of candidates).

But she made the aggressive debate charge as if she had some clear and compelling evidence that Brown had engaged in dirty tricks (spreading vicious truths?) when in fact she had bupkus.

So she very effectively led with her chin and Brown very effectively clocked her. Can’t stand on her own two feet, won’t take responsibility, no accountability, won’t crack down on herself. Brown could riff all day on this right-in-his-wheelhouse stuff.

How big is the impact of all this on Whitman’s campaign? Big. Already we’ve heard quantitative and qualitative reports about the bottom dropping out of Whitman’s support among Latinos. But it appears the effect may be wider.

The Ipsos survey, first reliable public poll to report findings regarding eMeg’s problem, in which Brown leads Whitman 50-43%, found that while about nine in 10 voters have heard about the story (and 9/10 of anything is huge in polling), 72% said it would make no difference in how they will vote.

But here’s the kicker: a net 13% of voters, including 11% of independents, said the incident would make them less likely to vote for Whitman. That’s one in 10 independents who are less likely to vote for Whitman because of this one incident.

The survey, conducted Oct. 2-4, included 448 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percentage points.

If anything, we think, it understates the impact of the affair, although the Whitman campaign argues otherwise in a polling memo sent out to news media contending:

The race is still “too-close to-call.”  Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are in a virtual tie among all the voters surveyed, with 43 percent for Brown and 41 percent for Whitman. The race is tied 30%-30% among the sub-set of voters who say they “strongly” support their choice and are unlikely to switch. Among the 85 percent of the sample we consider most likely to vote (based on past voting history, intensity of opinion, and demographic profile), the race is a dead heat at 44%-44%.

Brown continues to lead in the North and Whitman in the South. Whitman’s share of the Hispanic or Latino vote is still significant at 30 percent, compared to Brown’s 45 percent.

Whitman seems to have weathered the Gloria Allred attack, owing in no small measure to Allred’s negative image. Only 24 percent of California voters hold a favorable impression of Allred, while 68 percent have an unfavorable impression of her. By comparison. Brown and Whitman are seen in a better light. Brown’s favorable-unfavorable ratio is 51%-41% and Whitman’s is 44%-44%.

Putting aside the question of why they’re putting out a poll that shows their candidate losing, inquiring minds want to know: Is it remotely possible that 92% of voters have an opinion about Gloria Allred? Really?

We can’t wait for the data showing how she matches up one-on-one with Meg.