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Posts Tagged ‘Service Employees International Union’



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?

Character Question: Meg, Nicky & the Smoking Letter

Friday, October 1st, 2010

After 19 months of mass market campaigning inside the most luxurious  cocoon money could buy, Meg Whitman on Thursday suddenly found herself in the political free-fire zone.

For a second straight day, Whitman flailed away in unfamiliar territory, far from her comfort zone of  message discipline and robotic recitations of talking points, as she and her army of high-priced purse-carriers desperately sought to spin and control a campaign crisis that kept spiraling out of control.

The meltdown was fueled by the undeniable facts that for nine years the privileged Republican candidate for governor employed an illegal alien as a housekeeper, and that this undocumented worker now was accusing her of having “treated me like garbage.”

“This has nothing to do with my character,” Whitman insisted to reporters at one point during a truly bizarre day in the campaign.

In fact, the white-hot controversy has everything to do with character, providing, for one of the few times in the race, a public test of her credibility, performance under pressure and ability to take responsibility and hold herself accountable for her own actions and decisions.

Alas, it is not a test she is passing with flying colors.

Calbuzz has noted several times before (here and here, for example) that Whitman has only a casual regard for the actual facts, relying instead on the Power of Money to shape the “truth” to fit her needs.

But here was a case of the billionaire prevaricator being exposed by a lowly Latina housekeeper who says she was told, after nine years of cleaning toilets: “You never have seen me and I have never seen you.”

A brief recap: In an extraordinary day in California politics, Whitman’s campaign convened a morning press conference in Santa Monica, to try to soothe a state press corps in full bay, and to put to rest the heated dispute over the candidate’s long-term employment relationship with Nicky Diaz, her 31-year old former housekeeper.

For nearly an hour, Whitman answered questions by insisting she had done “absolutely” nothing wrong.

Constantly flashing a broad grin that seemed in its affect strangely out-of-sync with her words, she variously blamed, with the scantest of circumstantial evidence, Diaz and her attorney, Gloria Allred, public employee unions and Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, for concocting a mysterious  conspiracy to “smear” her and to derail her campaign.

In her remarks to reporters, Whitman also stated categorically that she and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh, had never received or seen a purported 2003 “no-match” letter from the government that raised questions about Diaz’s Social Security number, a document which might have alerted them to the fact that their Mexican-born employee was not legally in the U.S. (She even offered, in response to a silly question, to take a lie detector test — a pledge she later conditioned on Jerry Brown taking one too. Right.)

Diaz had said, at a tearful press conference one day earlier, that Whitman’s husband had given her this letter with instructions to “deal with this.” But the candidate on Thursday expressed absolute certainty that she and her neurosurgeon husband knew nothing about any such document – “they may have sent something, but we never saw it” – and charged that Diaz might have stolen the letter from the mailbox and was now being “manipulated” to participate in the “politics of personal destruction” by the Allred-Brown-Jimmy Hoffa Cabal.

“All the allegations are completely untrue’’ she said. “The Brown campaign and Gloria Allred are doing a massive smear campaign on me and my family.”

Less than an hour later, however, the famously obnoxious celeb lawyer Allred aggressively smacked down Whitman with what she called “the smoking letter,” an official government missive raising questions about Diaz’s Social Security documentation. It was sent by the SSA, dated April 2003, and addressed to eMeg and her husband; for good measure, it also had a handwritten note on the bottom, in what Diaz said was Dr. Harsh’s handwriting, instructing her to “check on this.” Said Allred:

Meg Whitman is exposed as a liar and a hypocrite. She should now apologize to the press, the public and Nicky…Meg Whitman should be ashamed and embarrassed.

Soon after, the strange day took another strange turn, when Whitman strategists again summoned reporters, this time onto a conference call in which they tried to explain away Allred’s evidence.

eMeg handler Rob Stutzman, who would neither confirm nor deny the handwriting was Dr. Harsh’s said:

What we have here is a letter that is seven years old. If this letter is authentic, Dr. Harsh very reasonably does not recall ever seeing it. And also, has the very reasonable and likely conclusion that if the letter is authentic, his frame of mind was completely focused on making sure that Nicky appropriately was going to receive her Social Security credit and therefore her benefit some day. Which makes sense, if that was the case, that he would leave a note, making sure she saw it and at some point would return it.

Well, that makes everything perfectly clear.

Pathetic lies: Far from putting the matter to rest, the shaky, if not panicked, daylong performance by the candidate and Team Whitman  further undercut eMeg’s credibility, as she made a series of formless and unsubstantiated accusations in an effort to deflect attention from her own actions:

Nicky stole the mail. On Wednesday, the Chron’s Joe Garofoli asked eMeg this question:

Did you ever receive any notification from the Social Security Administration or any other government agency that the number this housekeeper had provided did not match the name or that there was any other discrepancy with the papers that had been filed?

Whitman answered flatly: “No.”

At Thursday’s press conference, she shifted gears, now admitting the possible existence of such a letter, but suggesting that if was sent, Diaz probably stole it from the mail.

She may have intercepted the letter, it’s very possible, I have no other explanation…Nicky did bring in the mail and sort the mail. If she got a letter two weeks before alerting her to a problem and saying we’re going to alert your employer she might have been on the lookout for that letter….. It pains me to say that because, gosh, that’s not the Nicky I knew.

Gosh, it sure isn’t.

(BTW, Griff stood by Meg’s side when she was denying ever having received a letter from the Social Security Administration and did not say, “Oh wait, honey, I forgot to tell you. Nicky didn’t swipe that letter, I read it, filled it out part way and wrote her a little note on it.”)

Despite Whitman’s defamatory comments about Diaz, whose version of events was confirmed by the document produced by Allred, Stutzman gruffly insisted there will be no apology from eMeg for having slimed her former employee.

No… Nicky has willingly allowed herself to be used…It’s unfortunate…But make no mistake: Nicky is participating in something that is 100% political and it is 100% designed to harm Meg’s ability to succeed in this campaign .

Nicky Diaz, POW: Whitman said repeatedly that Diaz “doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into,” and is being “manipulated” by Allred, who’s allegedly feeding her false things to say. (Does Whitman really think her former housekeeper, part of her “extended family,”  is that stupid and porous?)

At one point during her press conference, Meg rather astonishingly said: “I think Nicky had a gun to her head.”

No word yet on what kind of gun or who’s holding it.

Meanwhile, here’s an alternative explanation: Diaz felt like she got royally screwed by Meg Whitman and the good doctor and figured she had some wages and expenses coming to her. (She was, after all, paid at a rate of $17,940 a year compared to the $20,770 per month that eMeg pays campaign consultant Mike Murphy.) So maybe she just decided to get herself a bad-ass lawyer to help her get what she thinks she’s owed.

Of all the nerve.

It’s all Jerry Brown’s fault:   “I absolutely believe this is linked to the Brown campaign, 100%,” Meg said at her press conference. Not 98%, mind you, One Hundred Percent.

Former state Democratic party chairman Bill Press recapped her argument on MSNBC last night this way (we’re paraphrasing here):

Meg Whitman employed an illegal immigrant for nine years.
When she found out, she fired her.
And whose fault is this? Jerry Brown’s.

We didn’t hire an undocumented immigrant to work in our house,” chimed in Brown flack Sterling Clifford, who figures prominently in the Whitman camp’s evidence for their magic bullet theory.

Part of the proof  of the evil plot that Team Whitman pointed to was a Spanish-language TV ad titled “Nueve Años,” whipped up and released Thursday as part of a $5 million campaign by the Service Employees International Union. The ad says, in part: “Whitman attacks undocumented workers to win votes, but an undocumented woman worked in her home for nine years . . .   Whitman says one thing in Spanish, something different in English.  The real Meg Whitman has no shame. She’s (tiene dos caras) a two-faced woman.”

Meg’s people also fingered a Wednesday night report on KTVU-TV, in which political reporter Randy Shandobil recounted a conversation he had with Clifford a couple of weeks ago, during which the spokesman told Randy that he’d heard Whitman had a “housekeeper problem” (his words, not Clifford’s). Shandobil acknowledged that Clifford was “just passing along rumors.”

We’re shocked – shocked! – that a campaign operative was actually gossiping with a political reporter.

Psst, here’s more breaking news: Calbuzz hereby admits that we sometimes talk off the record with campaign hacks and that they sometimes tell us about rumors they’ve heard that they think we should check out.

Truth be told, Calbuzz has actually done this with operatives from the Whitman campaign! We name no names. (And, unlike some, burn no sources.)

BTW, Calbuzz asked Stutzman on the conference call, even if Jerry Brown was behind exposing eMeg’s employment of an illegal housekeeper, what difference would that make?

“What difference it makes is that this entire stunt, in the way it’s been drawn out particularly over the last couple of days, is completely designed to influence a political race,” Stutzman replied.

Asked Calbuzz: “What’s wrong with that? This is a political race.”

We didn’t get a real answer before we were cut off.

Documents, what documents? Whitman points to the driver’s license and Social Security card that Diaz presented when she first went to work for her and her husband back in 2000 as evidence that they had assurances Nicki was legal, even though they were being taken in by her.

To prove the point, they released a copy of an I-9 immigration service form that Diaz had signed swearing that she was legally in the country and authorized to work. The same form contains a line for the employer to sign, swearing that she has checked out the employee’s documents and believes everything is on the up and up.

However, neither Meg nor Dr. Harsh signed Diaz’s I-9 attesting to this.

When Whitman was questioned about her failure to sign on Thursday, she said: “I don’t know whether we signed it or not.”

Memo to Meg: you’re the one who put out the document, girlfriend, go have yourself a read.

We always play by the rules: In describing her views on hiring household help, Whitman told reporters that she always insisted that they be legal.

A few minutes later, however, Whitman admitted that when Diaz went on maternity leave for three months, she was replaced by one of the housekeeper’s friends, adding that she didn’t know whether or not the second woman was legal and could not recall whether or not she made an effort to find out.

Claiming she would only hire “someone who was 100% legal,” Meg assured reporters that, “Griff and I play by the rules.”

Except when we don’t.

Wal-Mart & Obama: Unlikely Allies in Health Reform

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

lichtensteinBy Evan Wagstaff
Special to Calbuzz

As President Obama prepares to deliver a crucial speech on health care reform to Congress tonight, he has found a surprising ally in his bid to expand medical insurance to all Americans: retail giant Wal-Mart.

On June 30, Wal-Mart joined the liberal research group, Center for American Progress, and the Service Employees International Union in issuing a public letter to the White House that called for a “pay or play” plan, requiring businesses either to pay $750 per employee per year for government health care coverage or to offer an insurance plan through the company.

Wal-Mart’s unlikely alliance with liberal groups in pushing for a controversial employer mandate for health care plan was in part a conciliatory move to placate consumers in California, according to UCSB history professor Nelson Lichtenstein, who has published a new book about the company.

“Wal-Mart isn’t in danger of going bankrupt, but it wants to expand into coastal California,” Lichtenstein said. “Wal-Mart knows it has a problem there.”

But company spokesman Greg Rossiter said the plan simply reflects the company’s good business sense, citing a letter cosigned by Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke noting that as much as $244 billion is lost from the U.S. economy every year due to sick time taken by uninsured Americans.

“We’re focused on efforts to reform the country’s health care system,” Rossiter said. “It’s costing all of us a great deal of money. All of the projections are for increasing costs.”

Wal-Mart’s support for the principle of universal coverage for workers appears at odds with the reputation of the company with a reputation for keeping prices low and profit margins high at the expense of workers, who have frequently and bitterly complained about wages and working conditions.

Lichtenstein’s new book, “The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created awal mart book Brave New World of Business” details the growth of Wal-Mart, from its beginnings to its gradual expansion into Canada and Mexico, a history plagued by questionable business practices and accusations of employee abuse.

He told Calbuzz that Wal-Mart has been “stymied” in its attempts to enter the retail market in large areas of California. While the retailer operates a number of stores in the Central Valley, they have been unable to establish “supercenters” in densely populated urban areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

According to Lichtenstein, Wal-Mart’s surveys have shown that 10 percent of people say they don’t shop at the retailer for political reasons, and such opposition to Wal-Mart’s practices has made it difficult to expand into the highly profitable urban areas of the Golden State.

The endorsement of expanded health care insurance is part of a concerted effort to clean up the company’s image, a trend that began in December 2008 when Wal-Mart resolved 63 standing lawsuits in 42 different states to avoid possible federal intervention. Although the company does not need positive press to survive, Lichtenstein said that a better image would encourage business in areas like California.

“California is a cockpit of opposition to Wal-Mart’s expansion into urban America,” Lichtenstein said. “California has a well-unionized grocery sector; the unions fought Wal-Mart and won.”

While Wal-Mart’s decision to back an employer mandate plan is viewed favorably by progressives, the conservative National Retail Federation (NRF) called the employer mandate proposal a “tax on jobs.” The NRF is the nation’s largest retail trade association, but does not include Wal-Mart. According to organization’s web site, NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Steve Pfister said that an employer mandate would worsen the recession.

“We can think of few more dangerous steps to take in the middle of our present recession,” Pfister said. “We need to add new jobs, not exacerbate the near double-digit unemployment numbers. We cannot afford to have new and existing jobs priced out of our collective reach because of mandated health coverage.”

Lichtenstein noted that although Wal-Mart made a significant gesture in its endorsement, nothing will change if Congress cannot pass health care reform legislation. If no action is taken, Wal-Mart associates will have to make do with what Lichtenstein called “phony health insurance” with large deductibles and coverage caps.

walmart-logo“If an Obama plan passes, Wal-Mart would brag about helping to put it through,” he said. “If nothing happens in Congress, Wal-Mart goes back to its old way of doing things and that’s the end of it.”

Obama’s speech will be broadcast on most network and cable news channels at 5 p.m.

Calbuzz intern Evan Wagstaff is Opinion Editor of UCSB’s Daily Nexus.

Calbuzz Dustbin of History: DiFi’s First Labor Squeeze

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

dianneworriedHunger-striking union protesters unhappy with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s lack of support for labor’s top priority bill in Congress picketed her San Francisco office this week — while Chamber of Commerce lobbyists insisted to her in Washington there can “no compromise” on the legislation.

For those who watched her formative political years, Feinstein’s stance, squarely in the middle of the controversy over labor’s bid to make it easier for workers to join unions and get contracts through the Employee Free Choice Act, is a familiar one. As a city politician in 1970s San Francisco, an era of constant and sometimes violent labor strife, DiFi repeatedly tried, without much success, to thread the needle between what Marx called “the fundamental contradiction” between workers and bosses.

Today the Calbuzz Dustbin of History sweeps us back to 1974, when DiFi was president of the Board of Supervisors and positioning herself to run what would become her second (failed) campaign for mayor the next year.

One of the year’s biggest local stories (along with the racially motivated “Zebra murders” and the kidnap of Patricia Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army) was a strike by city workers represented by the Service Employees International Union, whose members had received tiny or no pay increases in a new contract passed by the board. Aided by thousands of sympathetic transit union workers, the SEIU strike kept San Francisco in turmoil for nine days, snarling traffic, stranding commuters, closing hospitals and resulting in raw sewage being dumped in the Bay.

DiFi and her supervisorial colleagues caved in and came up with $4.5 million in new compensation and benefits for SEIU to settle the strike, but it fueled a backlash among homeowners outraged over skyrocketing property tax bills (anger that soon enough would be channeled into passage of Proposition 13).

Trying to tap into the anti-tax, anti-labor mood in preparation for her mayoral bid, without totally alienating the political potent unions, Feinstein put on the ballot a measure called Proposition L, to bypass contract negotiations by pegging public employee salaries to other large cities and counties, but also reserving the city’s right to award sweetheart fringe benefits.

The unions denounced Prop. L as a union-busting tool, while conservative pols (there were some in S.F. then) and homeowner groups opposed it as more the same, over-generous City Hall giveaways gussied up as reform.

Presaging last week’s protest at her office, SEIU at one point organized a “female only picket line” in front of Feinstein’s Pacific Heights home, bashing her both for Prop. L and for crossing a picket line at SF General Hospital during the strike. Maxine Jenkins, a powerful local union leader of the time, got to the heart of the problem labor often had Difi:

“While Dianne casts herself as the representative for women’s issues…and rides on the back of the women’s movement, she is unworthy of support from women, as she works against the basic survival needs of the city’s poorest working women and represents instead wealthy members of the Chamber of Commerce. The lowest paid city workers are women…Contrary to popular belief, women do not work for pin money or luxuries for themselves and their families.”

On election day, Prop. L went down to defeat, beaten by the strange bedfellow alliance of labor and anti-tax voters. That foreshadowed what would happen to her campaign for the mayor next year, when she finished third, squeezed between a liberal and a conservative in the middle of the road (where Jim Hightower famously said the only thing you find are “yellow stripes and dead armadillos”).

In the current EFCA fight, Feinstein is the only California Democratic member of Congress to not support the bill; at the same time, she has rejected the Chamber of Commerce push to oppose any such legislation.

“I am working to find common ground between the needs of both business and labor in order to reach a bipartisan solution,” she said this week, in a prepared statement released by her office.

The more things change…