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Posts Tagged ‘latino voters’



Excloo: Inside Labor’s Bid to Boost Latino Turnout

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

A coalition of Southern California and Central Valley labor groups plans to spend $2.5 million over the next three weeks on a coordinated, Spanish language multi-media campaign to boost turnout among occasional Latino voters for the Nov. 2 election.

Led by Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, and former Speaker Fabian Nunez, the group has invited Spanish language news organizations to a press conference today to unveil details of the program, which includes TV advertising, a direct mail effort and a get-out-the-vote operation.

Based on the slogan “Martes (Tuesday), si, Arizona, no” the campaign uses the specter of Arizona’s controversial law targeting illegal immigrants as a pitch for Latinos to vote because “Los republicanos quieren traer la ley de Arizona a California” – Republicans want to bring Arizona’s law to California.

Although the group is operating independently of Jerry Brown’s campaign,  their effort strongly attacks his GOP rival Meg Whitman. One mail piece places her photo alongside shots of Sarah Palin and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer;  above a headline on another piece reads, “Meg Whitman ayudo a Sarah Palin y Sarah Palin* apoyo la ley de Arizona” – Whitman helped Palin, who supports Arizona’s law.

Another piece is a letter signed by labor leader Durazo that calls Brown “un verdadero amigo a nuestra communidad” – a true friend to our community – and says that Whitman has two faces – “tiene dos caras” and describes her as attacking immigrants in English while saying on Spanish television that she is a friend – “En la television Ingles ataca a los immigrantes. En la television espanol Whitman dice que ella es neustra amiga.”

The letter is to be folded around one of several holy cards – one of them features a photo of a young Brown walking with Cesar Chavez and another has an image of him speaking to Mother Teresa; each includes an inscription saying that “El democrata Jerry Brown ayudo” Chavez and Mother Teresa  – the Democrat helped the two Latino community icons.

The voter turnout campaign is being managed by consultant Richie Ross, who said it is based on focus group and polling research of “occasional Latino voters,” defined as those who did not vote in the 2006 election for governor, but did vote in the February 2008 Democratic primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

“That was the sweet spot,” Ross said. “We tried to pick a universe where we had a high chance of success and the numbers could make a difference.”

The campaign is being financed jointly by the L.A. labor group, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and political committees controlled by Nunez and by Democratic state Senator Dean Florez, who represents a large swath of the Central Valley. It targets 500,000 households, with a goal of bringing an additional 200,000 Latino voters to the polls.

Among the elements:

–A 30-second spot that cuts between images of protests against the Arizona law and campaign leaders Durazo and Nunez saying directly into the camera that Republicans are attacking schools and families, and that Latinos should vote to prevent Arizona-style legislation in California.

–A series of mail pieces, to include two posters, two postcards and Durazo’s letter with the holy cards inserted. One of the postcards shows a photo of a triumphant Whitman laughing with fists clenched and arms raised: “Nunca!” reads a large headline – Never! One of posters pictures Whitman, Palin and Brewer over a headline that reads, “Estas Republicanas estan unidas en contra de nosotros” – These Republican women are united against us.

–A labor-backed ground operation that includes phone banking and door-to-door organizing in L.A., San Diego, Imperial and Central Valley counties.

Latinos represent about one-third of California’s adult population, but only about 18 percent of likely voters, according to a study released last month by the Public Policy Institute of California. PPIC reported that about 65 percent are registered Democrats, 18 percent Republicans and 14 percent decline-to-state independents, and that about 75 percent live in Southern California or the Central Valley.

The labor group’s goal of bringing an additional 200,000 Latino voters to the polls, if successful, could represent as much as 3-4 percent of the November electorate, depending on overall turnout, a number that could be determinative in the tight Whitman-Brown race.

The 500,000 households were targeted after focus groups, conducted in June, that included second and third generation Latinos as well as more recently arrived citizens and that focused on discussions of the Arizona law. A poll, including 600 Latino respondents defined as occasional voters, followed in July.

As described by Ross, the findings showed that 93 percent of those surveyed had heard of the Arizona law, 86 percent opposed it and 73 percent believe a similar law can occur in California.

The research for the campaign was done months before the story broke about Nicky Diaz, Whitman’s undocumented housekeeper, and none of the campaign materials refer to that controversy.

“Nicky may convince some people to vote for Jerry Brown,” Ross said. “We’re just trying to convince them to get up and go vote that day.”

P.S. Harold Meyerson has a good take on the importance of Latino turnout here.

*Department of Corrections: In an early version of this post, we mistakenly omitted the second use of Palin’s name in the Spanish text of the mailer, which confused the meaning of the sentence. The mailer reads: “Meg Whitman ayudo a Sarah Palin, y Sarah Palin apoyo la ley de Arizona.”  Translation: Meg Whitman helped Sarah Palin, who supports Arizona’s law. Sorry for the confusion.

Why Didn’t eMeg Sign Nicky’s Work Documents?

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Amid the still unanswered questions about Meg Whitman and l’affaire Nicky is why neither eMeg nor her husband, Griff Harsh, ever signed the employment eligibility document for their former housekeeper, as required by law.

Much attention has focused since the story broke on why Whitman-Harsh failed to pursue questions about the immigration status of their former maid, Nicky Diaz, after receiving a 2003 letter from the Social Security Administration noting a discrepancy with her social security number.

However, their handling of the legal form they were required to complete at the time they first hired Diaz, three years earlier, suggests even greater negligence in their exercise of due diligence, or lack of same, in employing her.

Under the terms of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers are required to complete and retain an I-9, formally known as an Employment Eligibility Verification Form, in order to “verify the identity and employment authorization of each person” they hire, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau.

Part one of the form is to be filled out by the employee, and includes her name and address, plus signature attesting to her citizenship or legal immigration status.

Part two is to be filled out by the employer, who is required to record the title, number, issuing authority and expiration date of several identification documents provided by the employee, after personally examining them to establish to their satisfaction that the person is eligible to work in the U.S.

The employer also is required to record the date the employee began work and to sign, under penalty of perjury, a statement “that the above-listed documents appear to be genuine…and that, to the best of my knowledge the employee is authorized to work in the United States.”

When the Whitman campaign last week released a photocopy of the I-9 form for Diaz, the employee section was completely filled out – including Diaz’s signature falsely attesting to her legal eligibility to work. However, the employer section was not: details of the driver’s license presented by Diaz were recorded (in whose handwriting is unclear) but those of the Social Security card she was using were not. Also missing was the start date for her employment and a signature attesting that either Ms Whitman or Dr. Harsh, a neurosurgeon, had examined the documents and believed them to be in order.

Gregory Siskind, founder of Siskind-Susser, one of the largest immigration law firms in the country, examined the documents at the request of Talking Points Memo:

Looking at this, it is very unusual to see the documents that nothing is signed, there’s no dating on it — so there’s no indication that anyone actually looked at the documents,. That’s what the whole point is of the certification, that an employer is supposed to say I looked at these documents, they appear to be genuine.

Siskind elaborated on the matter on his Immigration Law and Policy blog.

Because the form is not signed or dated by the employer, it is far from clear that the employer even examined the documents presented. Keep in mind that Abercrombie & Fitch got a $1 million fine this week for violations of just this sort.

Incidentally, even if Whitman’s nanny agency handled the I-9, that doesn’t let her off the hook for violations in completing the form. The nanny agency was not the employer – just the agent and so Whitman and her husband are still liable for employer violations.

There appear to be paperwork violations. There could also be liability for “knowingly” employing someone illegally if the facts show that despite the presentation of a bogus social security card, the employer had independent knowledge or “constructive” knowledge that a worker was out of status. Certainly the fact that the I-9 was never signed by the employer means that the defense of saying that you looked at the documents presented and they appeared valid is not going to be readily available.

At her press conference last week, eMeg was asked why she hadn’t signed the Diaz documents. She replied, a) “I don’t know whether we signed them or not” and b) that she didn’t know “whether we were required to or not.”

You have questions, Calbuzz has answers: a) They didn’t and b) They were.

Memories of Glo-ri-a: Calbuzz first met celeb lawyer Gloria Allred during another governor’s race twenty years ago, when she was supporting Dianne Feinstein against Pete Wilson and threw a big fundraiser for Difi at her penthouse condo in Pacific Palisades.

Conscientious to a fault in our reporting, then as now, we showed up a little early, in search of some color to weave into what otherwise was shaping up as a thoroughly dozy yarn. When we introduced ourselves, Allred was friendly and gracious, if a little harried by the bustling preparations.

We asked her how many guests were coming, and she gave this memorable response: “I’ve got 250 people and 25 celebrities,” she said.

It’s an easy stipulation that Allred ranks high among the 90th percentiles of all time obnoxious people and shameless media hounds but, just to play devil’s advocate for a minute, it’s also true that, as a class,  aggressively intense and successful lawyers generally aren’t remembered for their sweetness and self-effacing personalities.

As anyone who’s been through bitter, expensive and/or prolonged litigation understands quite clearly – and we expect that many of her contemptuous  media critics have not had that life-altering experience – an attorney’s entire job is to be a major asshole, the bigger the better if she’s representing you. So tsk-tsking the shamelessness of Allred’s high-profile legal performance art is like criticizing lemons for being sour.

In that regard, we recommend the profile by our old friend Howard Mintz, who offers a fairer and fuller portrait of Allred from the seasoned perspective of a long-time legal eagle reporter.

The 69-year-old Allred’s tactics may make legal purists cringe, and she’s been called every name in the book — from “disgusting” by the wife of actor Rob Lowe, whom she sued on behalf of a former nanny claiming sexual harassment, to “shrill feminist attorney” in a depiction on “The Simpsons.”

But, as Whitman has discovered, Allred is a formidable foe. And despite the fact that her cases often make her clients instant celebrities of their own and force her targets to write fat checks to settle, she does tend to represent the underdog, such as the aggrieved mistress, the harassed woman in the workplace or, in this week’s case, an illegal immigrant housekeeper named Nicandra Diaz Santillan.

“You may love her, you may hate her, but she gets your attention,” said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola University law professor. “She stirs the pot.”

Tin foil hat brigade: Bill Whalen usually offers a smart and level-headed center-right perspective on California politics, so we were chagrined to see him join the ranks of the Col. Mustard with a candlestick in the conservatory conspiracy theorists (General Jerry with a machete  in the kitchen?) in search of some nefarious plot behind the Nicky revelations.

Here’s a clue fellas: If you’re looking for the real culprit, we suggest you start by taking a good hard look at this Meg Whitman person. Mum’s the word.

Polling outfall from Maidgate: Rasmussen, whom we don’t put much stock in because they use robo calls (and their party distribution, at 40%D and 36%R, is 3-to-5 points too Republican), now has the race at 49-44% for Brown. But we’re aware of two private polls, with more realistic D-to-R spreads of 7 and 8 points, that have  Brown ahead by 9 and 10 points. Worse, for eMeg — and we can only testify that this is what a couple of big-time clients believe to be true — these polls found the spread among Latinos to be 64-23% for Brown in one survey and 67-16% in the other. If that’s true, as Meg likes to say, among Latinos, she’s now down to paid staffers and blood relatives (having already lost extended family).

Sabado Gigante! Jerry Smacks Meg in Fresno Brawl

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

In the very first seconds of the Univision debate with Jerry Brown in Fresno on Saturday, Meg Whitman clearly defined the political stakes:

“The Latino vote is incredibly important to this election,” she said. “I cannot win the governor’s race without the Latino vote.”

It cannot be known until the November election, of course, whether eMeg’s debate performance succeeded in helping to make her candidacy a serious option for Hispanic voters. The early returns in the Calbuzz Why Wait for the Voters Electoral Count, however, show decisively that she didn’t get the job done.

After three days of stories filled with charges about her callous treatment of an undocumented Mexican native who worked in her home for nine years, Whitman’s challenge in the historic, broadcast-in-Spanish debate was to demonstrate that she can connect with the hopes and aspirations of Latinos.

Whitman gave solid, conservative answers on most of the issues. But, despite her own opening statement about the crucial importance of this voting bloc (which we think she overstates), she said almost nothing to suggest to Latinos that she would be there for them any more than she was for Nicky Diaz, whom she booted to the curb when she learned her housekeeper was an illegal immigrant.

“Why did you not show compassion for this longtime employee?” asked the  moderator, Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas, setting the stage for the money moments of the debate, which will probably be replayed, oh, no more than  12 or 13 million times between now and November 2. [Here's the clip]

“This is a very sad situation,” Whitman replied, first describing her own hurt feelings because Diaz in her recent press conference called her “Ms. Whitman” and not “Meg” as she had for all those years.

“The real tragedy here is Nicky,” she added. “After Nov. 2, no one’s going to be watching out for Nicky Diaz.”

Then she turned directly to Brown and (to the astonishment and delight of Camp Krusty) attacked:

“Jerry, you know you should be ashamed. You and your surrogates put her deportation at risk. You put her out there. You should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz at the altar of your political ambitions.”

In that instant, Calbuzz had a deeply profound thought: OMG!!

For reasons that remain unclear, eMeg used her spotlight moment to point a finger of blame at Brown, with absolutely no evidence, for exposing her hiring and long-term employment of an undocumented housekeeper, Which  big-brain  adviser thought that was a good idea? Perhaps the same one who suggested she not mention the matter back in June 2009, when she could have disposed of the issue with a couple of page 8 stories, if that.

When he had a chance to respond a moment later, Brown, whose greatest strength as a debater is the counter-punch, denied he had anything to do with the Diaz affair and let fly.

“Don’t run for governor if you can’t stand up on your own two feet and say, ‘Hey I made a mistake, I’m sorry, let’s go on from here…

“You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions but you don’t take accountability. You can’t be a leader unless you’re willing to stand on your own two feet and say, ‘yup, I made a mistake and I’m going on from here.’”

Ouch.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse for eMeg after that. In an exchange likely to resonate with Latino parents, she defended her proposal to ban illegal immigrants from California higher ed institutions in answering a question from a young woman who said she was an honors student  at Fresno State University:

“Here is the challenge we face: Our resources are scarce. We are in terrible economic times and slots have been eliminated at the California State University system—I think they’re down by 40,000 students. Same is true at the … the University of California system. Programs have been cut, and California citizens have been denied admission to these universities and I don’t think it’s fair to bar and eliminate the ability of California citizens to attend higher universities and favor undocumenteds.”

“Undocumenteds”? Really? And was she really arguing that this bright young Latina was hogging a place that some deserving white kid should have had?

Brown, who was very aggressive throughout, jumped on that answer as well. He said he would sign legislation, known as the state Dream Act, to make it  easier for illegal immigrants to obtain financial aid from California’s public universities and colleges – a bill Gov. Schwarzenegger recently vetoed.

“Ms. Whitman goes beyond opposing the Dream Act. She wants to kick you out of the school because you are not documented, and that is wrong—morally and humanly.”

We wondered why he didn’t mention that former Gov. Pete Wilson is chairman of her campaign. At least she didn’t suggest she’d round ‘em all up and deport them. Or did she?

“Illegal immigration is just that, it is illegal,” she said. “And we need to make sure we have the workers that the economy needs to grow and thrive,” Whitman said. “We live in a rule of law. There is a judicial process, and we have to abide by that. So I think the best thing that I can do to help the Latino community in California is as first and foremost, as I said, jobs.”

Brown countered that it’s wrong to bring workers in to fill labor shortages and then herd them home.

“This is about human beings. And you don’t bring in temporary workers and then when you’ve used them up, you send them back. … You don’t just bring in semi-serfs and say, ‘Do our dirty work,’ and then we’re finished with you like an orange and just throw it away. That’s after you’ve squeezed it. That’s not right.”

On “path to citizenship” alone, Whitman dug in against a position that 90% of Latinos (and Brown) support.

And it was notable that when Meg later accused Jerry of not being “accountable” for Oakland schools when he was mayor of that city, there was a low, rippling laugh throughout the audience, whose members had been admonished not to say anything.

The Univision alleged simulcast translation into English was so poorly engineered, there won’t likely be too many TV clips in English. But in Spanish, watch out. Latinos who had been flirting with Whitman are likely, Calbuzz thinks, to default to the guy who marched with Cesar Chavez and dated Linda Rondstadt.

We can hear the conversation around the kitchen table: “Maybe he’s un poco loco, but at least he doesn’t accuse the help of stealing the mail.”

A couple of other key points:

Water - Whitman had her best moments when she and Brown were asked about their plans for increasing state water deliveries, a crucial issue for Central Valley residents.

She strongly endorsed the $11 billion water bond measure that the governor and Legislature agreed on last year, but which they removed from the ballot because they feared recession-weary voters would defeat it; although she criticized some “pork” she said was in the measure, she showed a good grasp of the issue and sympathy for the economic hardships of the valley.

By contrast, Brown offered a head-scratching answer about how Kern County was to blame for the defeat of a 1982 Peripheral Canal initiative plan he had sponsored. Brown was historically and politically accurate: the giant Kern County agribusiness conglomerates J.G. Boswell and Salyer Land Co. helped defeat the canal plan by financing the opposition to it, in a strange bedfellow alliance with environmentalists that was driven by their own, narrow economic interests. But it wasn’t much of an answer for the 99% of the viewers who neglected to brush up on the history of California water politics before the debate.

Taxes - Brown repeatedly hammered Whitman for her support of repealing the state capital gains tax. As he did in the UC Davis debate earlier in the week, he not only called it a gift for “billionaires and millionaires” but also criticized it as a budget-buster, saying it would increase the state’s deficit by $5 billion.

Whitman responded  again by characterizing the capital gains tax as a job-killing obstacle to business development, but after days of being hunkered down in crisis mode, bludgeoned by the controversy over her former housekeeper, eMeg’s answers lacked the spirit and spark they had in her previous encounter with Brown.

AP has a good round-up of other issues here.

Bottom line: Whitman took a huge risk in turning on Brown and attacking him – without a shred of evidence – for being behind the Nicky Diaz story. He staggered her with his roundhouse right response and, although she rallied a little in the debate’s final moments, she never really recovered.   Looking tired and drawn, she mostly seemed to be going through the motions. A clear victory for Brown.

PS — Our video reporter, intern Jennifer Fey, trekked to Fresno and offered this nifty take from a student’s point of view.

Jerry’s New Ads; Meyer on Meg; R = eMeg Squared

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

With Team Whitman furiously trying to spin away the story about Meg Whitman’s undocumented housekeeper and both sides preparing for today’s Univision debate in Fresno, Jerry Brown unloaded two new ads designed to keep Whitman on defense.

One is a positive saying Brown balanced budgets without raising taxes and took on Wall Street banks, mortgage scammers and public officials. “Knowledge and know-how that works for you” is the slogan — a subtle suggestion that he has it and she doesn’t.

The negative ad is far more compelling, saying the “real Meg Whitman” was caught reaping millions for insider stock deals when she was on the board of Goldman Sachs, using the words “conflict of interest” and “corrupt,” charging that she paid herself $120 million while laying off 10% of eBay’s workforce, and asking, “Shouldn’t character matter?”

As Calbuzz noted Friday, demonstrating character is exactly Whitman’s challenge, after it was revealed she had employed an illegal immigrant in her home for years — knowingly or not — before she started talking tough about cracking down on them. And with his pals in the SEIU on the air with an ad speaking to that issue, Brown attacked Whitman as a greedy Wall Street predator.

Whitman’s response was fast and furious. Said spokesperson Andrea Jones Rivera:

“This ad is an outright lie. Meg’s salary was under a million dollars and it was approved by the eBay board of directors.* After swearing that voters would ‘always get the truth’, Jerry Brown has abandoned his promise in favor of a smear campaign that intentionally distorts the truth. In the ad, Jerry Brown goes so far as to cynically attack Meg’s brief service on the Goldman Sachs board, despite the fact that Brown’s own sister is currently a high ranking executive at Goldman Sachs. The truth is Meg Whitman was rated one of the top bosses and CEOs for her time at eBay and we will put her business record up against Jerry’s 40 year political career anytime.”

Meanwhile, Whitman continues to pummel Brown as a tax-and-spend liberal who opposed Proposition 13 and drove up unemployment and the state deficit. Surely that’s why Brown argues himself in his positive ad: “As Governor, I’ll cap government salaries and pensions. On the budget – we have to face reality. Make do with what we have, and no taxes without voter approval.”

Polling suggests voters appreciate Whitman’s business background but they aren’t sure they like her or that she’s got the skills and experience (“knowledge and know-how”) to command California government. On the other hand, they know Brown has what it takes to be governor and they like him pretty much; they’re just not sure they can trust him not to pick their pocket.

Although jobs, budgets, environment, water, education and public safety are kinds of issues governors actually must confront, the curbside political world is wondering today how eMeg’s housekeeper issue will come up in the Univision debate — with an expected audience of millions of Latinos — and what Whitman and Brown will say about it.

No doubt, Whitman would like to be asked why, after hammering on the issue of illegal immigration, did she not report Nicky Diaz to the authorities after learning that she was here without documentation. That way she can come across as sympathetic (although she has to be careful not to sound too condescending).

She likely would not like to be asked why she didn’t use a teensy weensy portion of her vast wealth to hire Diaz an immigration attorney or whether she actually said, “You never have seen me and I have never seen you,” as Diaz recounts the conversation. (Of course, denying it is calling Nicky a liar, so that’s tricky, too.)

Brown, the betting suggests, will keep his trap shut and let Whitman stew in her own juices unless Meg charges to his face that he was behind the whole episode. At which point, it’s hard to predict. He could cooly note that it was not he who hired an illegal immigrant to work in her house.  Or he could fire back at how outraged he is to be accused of the “politics of personal destruction.” We’ll know soon enough.

* Thank you Steve Harmon for this reportorial note: “Salaries are rarely the true measure of a CEO’s net worth in their rarified world of dividends, stocks and bonuses. Forbes Magazine, in September, 2008, and the New York Times, reported that Whitman received a $120.4 million, in salary, bonus and the value of her excercised options in her final year, despite eBay’s stock plummeting 49 percent.”

Meyer Carefully Evaluates Meg’s Skills

The slashing pen of Tom Meyer, world renowned editorial cartoonist and dressed-to-the-nines Calbuzzer extraordinaire today examines the deeper political implications of eMeg’s using the famous phrase, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” multiple times during her Tuesday night debate with Jerry Brown.

Us, we’re still wondering why Her Megness used the aphorism over and over and kept expecting a different result; like, maybe somebody might actually laugh when she repeated it, oh say, the 13th or 14th time. Must be that exquisite sense of comic timing she has to go with her wonderful ability to laugh at herself and her highly-developed sense of self-awareness.

All that aside, a wide-ranging Calbuzz investigation of more than 10 minutes worth of Googling reveals that there is not a single shred of citable evidence to support her attribution of the quote to Albert Einstein (not a big week for Meg and documentary evidence). There is , in fact, a considerable debate around the internets about the original source, with the current conventional wisdom crediting Rita Mae Brown, who actually did write it down in a book once. You could look it up.

And speaking of misusing hoary phrases: Calbuzz was appalled this week by the widespread misuse of the phrase “October surprise” to describe the bombshell news about Whitman’s housekeeper, which Gloria Allred dropped on the candidate’s head on Wednesday morning.

In his essential “Political Dictionary,” the late great William Safire traced the phrase back to the 1980 presidential election, when then Republican vice presidential candidate George Bush the Elder warned that President Jimmy Carter “is a politically tough fellow, he’ll do anything to get reelected, and let’s be prepared for some October surprise.”

Of course, it turned out that the surprise was on Carter, as the Iran hostage crisis that had bedeviled him for much of his term was instantly resolved when the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the release of the hostages shortly after Mr. Jimmy lost to Ronald Reagan. Safire continues:

By 1991, the noun phrase was being applied to any controversial or unpleasant event in October. (emphasis ours)

Let’s be blunt: The Allred-Nicky Diaz press conference triggering the Meg and the Maid drama took place on Wednesday, September 29; while it might qualify as a “September Shocker,” it most definitely was not an “October Surprise.”

And while we’re at it:  Let’s make it perfectly clear that eMeg’s big laugh line at the debate – making Jerry governor is like “putting Dracula in charge of a  blood bank” – is a total rip off from none other than…Jane Fonda. Hanoi Jane used the line in whacking Carter for his appointment of James Schlesinger as Energy Secretary about the same time that October became so surprising:

“Putting Schlesinger in charge of nuclear power is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank,” Jane Fonda orated to the cheering demonstrators at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Mega-kudos and H/T for that catch to Calbuzzer Debra Hall who, besides being brilliant, eagle-eyed and ever-alert, also has the buffest arms of any marketing consultant in California.

Polly Wolly Doodle: Our old friend Steve Lopez of the LA Times has cleverly lined up a polygraph expert, LA PI John Grogan, to give eMeg a polygraph test on whether she ever knew about that letter from the Social Security Administration. After saying she’d be glad to take a lie detector test, Meg backtracked and said she’d do it only if Jerry and Nicky would, too. But what the heck, Meg — this could be a great moment in gubernatorial leadership. All expenses paid!

Why Meg v Maid Saga Is a Big Deal: The Latino Vote

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

The latest dramatic chapter of the governor’s race, torn from the pages of eMeg’s Secret Diary, finds the campaign of one of the richest women in California threatened by the comments of one of the poorest.

Finally, a political story TV can understand.

For Republican Meg Whitman, who employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny for nine years, the revelations on Wednesday by Nicky Diaz Santillan and her attorney, Gloria Allred, not only raise legal questions of what eMeg knew and when she knew it, but also serious political ones about her personal integrity, not to mention her efforts to court the state’s crucial bloc of Latino voters.

Team Whitman responded swiftly when word broke on TMZ that Allred had called a press conference with “explosive” allegations by the candidate’s former maid. Strategists did their best to a) preempt the presser by sliming Allred, one of L.A.’s most notorious celebrity lawyers and b) argue through the media about social security cards, employment applications and a host of other documents that they insisted prove conclusively that eMeg is pure as the driven snow in the matter.

At the end of the day, despite her team’s yeomen efforts at damage control, Whitman had been knocked way off message and was entangled in a gnarly web of charges and counter-charges, caught in the worst position for any political candidate: defensively explaining herself.

As a political matter, the most significant impact of the flap on the campaign will come, in still-undetermined magnitude, in Whitman’s multi-million dollar effort to take enough Latino votes away from Democrat Jerry Brown to help push her over the top on November 2.

With Whitman and Brown preparing to debate in Fresno Saturday, an event co-sponsored by Univision and set to be broadcast in Spanish and English, Democratic strategists organizing Latino voter registration and GOTV efforts were privately pleased over the expected political effect of the disclosures made by Allred and Diaz, eMeg’s former employee.

Calbuzz hears that a coalition of labor and Democratic organizations is planning a major demonstration in Fresno on Saturday and expects the Diaz matter to add considerable enthusiasm and profile to that effort:  “We’re going to dominate the scene,” said one strategist.

“It’s possible for her to win the 15 percent of the Latino vote that is Republican,” the source added with a smile, “although she’s now putting that in jeopardy.”

Coming one day after the first televised debate between Whitman and Brown, the surprising turn of events proved anew that 24 hours is a lifetime in politics. Here is a look at the key issues in the controversy.

The facts: There is no disagreement that Diaz was undocumented during the nine years she worked for Whitman, from spring of 2000 to late June, 2009: the key question is when did eMeg find out about it.

Meg says she was clueless about Nicky’s immigration status until her housekeeper informed her last year, on or about June 20 and she fired her June 29. That was some four months after Whitman had announced her candidacy for governor. (Diaz says [@1:25] she spoke with Whitman and Dr. Harsh on June 20. Harsh was furious and said, “I told you she was going to bring us trouble.” And on June 24, in a phone call, Whitman told her she could not help her with immigration.)

The maid says Meg had to know before 2009 that there was a problem. Among other things, Diaz and Allred said, the Whitmans received a letter from the Social Security Administration dated April 22, 2003 informing them that there was a discrepancy with the Social Security number Nicki had provided to the employment agency that sent her to eMeg; Diaz also alleges that several similar letters came later from Social Security but that the Whitmans threw them in the trash, where she saw them.

Whitman insists there was no such letter; Allred hinted broadly at her press conference that she has a copy but was not prepared to release it yet. Production of the document would put the lie to Whitman’s statement; Allred’s failure to produce it would be exculpatory for eMeg.

Another key issue on the documents released by the Whitman campaign in its effort to show that she is blameless in the matter: Neither the W-4 tax return nor the I-9 Immigration and Naturalization Service form [click on View Docs for the pdfs] for Diaz in 2000 was signed by either Whitman or her husband, in the line designated for employers.  The I-9 requires employers to sign the following statement:

I attest, under penalty of perjury,  that I have examined the document(s) presented by the above named employee, that the above-listed document(s) appear to be genuine and to relate to the employee named, that the employee began employment on (month/day/year) and that to the best of my knowledge the employee is eligible to work in the United States.

The problem for Meg: in written and direct statements by her and the campaign Wednesday, she said she relied on the social security card and drivers license that Diaz presented to confirm that she was in the country legally.

Why, then, didn’t Meg sign the statement affirming that belief? The Whitman campaign did not return calls seeking comment.

The optics: The video of Diaz sobbing and describing how she says she was treated badly by eMeg, shot in Allred’s office at the press conference, is very powerful stuff.

Whether you believe that Whitman knew for years that Diaz was illegal, or that she simply fired her as soon as she found out, it’s not hard to imagine clips of the emotional words and images of the domestic worker turning up in an independent expenditure committee ad for Brown (Diaz later repeated her statement in Spanish).

Recounting her recollection of the conversation in which Whitman fired her, the woman said:

“From now on you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You never have seen me and I have never seen you. Do you understand me? . . . and she hang me up . . . She was throwing me away like a piece of garbage . . . She treat me as if I was not a human being.”

In her own brief comments to reporters, recorded by the Chronicle’s resourceful Joe Garofoli,  eMeg tried to blame the whole thing on Brown, whom she accused of a political stunt, and on Allred, whom she said was manipulating the housekeeper.

“Everything Gloria Allred is saying is an absolute lie,” she said.

The problem for eMeg, however, is less what Allred said (although there could be legal sanctions attached to the civil complaint the attorney said she will be filing) than what Diaz said.

The politics: Explaining the way she managed her household help for nine years was most likely not what eMeg hoped to be doing the day after she turned in a solid performance in her debate with Brown (although one reporter noticed eMeg was very shaky, almost trembling, at her post-debate press conference, and speculated, without a shred of evidence, she might have just learned of Allred’s plans. But we digress).

Several issues occur:

First, either she knew that her housekeeper was illegal, or she didn’t perform the due diligence to find out, which doesn’t speak well of her much-vaunted executive abilities. Liar or incompetent? You be the judge.

Beyond that, there is the question of eMeg’s oft-shifting policy positions on illegal immigration.

At Tuesday night’s debate, she stated, as clearly as she has done during the campaign, that she opposed any legislation that would provide a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented workers.

Translating her policy view to her personal circumstance, this led her to slam the door in the face of  a woman who labored loyally, by all accounts, in her home for nine years and was asking for her help in making herself legal (BTW, since Nicky was doing all the housework and schlepping the kids around, why couldn’t Meg find time to vote? Inquiring minds want to know).

Her behavior will fuel Brown’s narrative that she is a hypocrite with an enlarged sense of entitlement, and that her wealth, values and social status give her contempt or, at best, indifference to the real-life problems of real-life working people. He made the point during the debate when he argued their values are very different because he respects the dignity of “people who clean bed pans, our police, our fire…I do cherish and appreciate the work they do.”

While it is still unclear what the fallout from the media storm over eMeg’s treatment of Diaz will be on the governor’s race, it is clear that Democrats will do all they can to keep it alive for Saturday’s second debate.

In that regard, it’s worth noting that the 6 p.m. newscast on Spanish language KMEX-TV in L.A. has a larger audience than any the three major networks.

PS: Did anyone else think it was more than a little suspicious that Team Whitman held a conference call to refute Nicky’s charges even before she and Allred made them, as if they were prepared for an eruption about eMeg’s illegal housekeeper problem?