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Posts Tagged ‘Talking Points Memo’



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).

Chris Finnie: Missing the Point About the Grassroots

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

By Chris Finnie
Special to Calbuzz

Calbuzz recently highlighted a link to Talking Points Memo, headlined “Meg Whitman Copies Obama Playbook,” in which writer Christina Bellantoni argues that eMeg’s $150 million campaign for governor is effectively cloning the president’s 2008 operation.

Sorry boys, but Christina’s clueless.

Whitman may be trying to duplicate some of the tactics of Obama’s game plan – appealing to Latino voters in Spanish, targeting young professionals and spending a lot of money (none of it, notably, raised from the grassroots as Obama’s was).

But like so many other politicians before her, she is missing the essence of the matter: she doesn’t have an emotional connection to voters. And that makes all the difference

Where’s the passion?

Before Obama, the new Internet Age, from-the- ground-up campaign was pioneered by Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential race. Political pundits were agog at his online organizing and fundraising; suddenly every candidate wanted Meetup groups and web organizing tools.

But they were often disappointed with the results, because they mistook the map for the territory.

I volunteered with both the 2004 Dean campaign and the 2008 Obama campaign. In both, many of the volunteers felt passionate about the candidate and connected with the other volunteers we worked with. Both campaigns did a great job of fostering those connections. And they persist to this day.

The Obama campaign did a masterful job of using technology, not as an end in itself, but to harness and organize this grassroots fervor. When I worked phone banks in Boulder Creek, California, the communication from Chicago was always quick and seamless. And the personal acknowledgements to volunteers were frequent and effective.

California Rep. Maxine Waters, D-L.A., highlighted this point at the state Democratic convention in April. Speaking to grassroots activists at the annual “Red to Blue” fundraising dinner to support Democratic candidates in Republican strongholds in California, Waters said campaign strategy is too often all about money, specifically the money that campaign consultants make on media buys.

She said that as long as the primary way consultants make money is by buying media, candidates will be increasingly distant from voters, and office holders isolated from the people they represent.

Harkening back to the days of real town hall meetings, Waters spoke of the passion generated when candidates meet in storefronts with local volunteers who walk and phone for them – not as a staged media event, but as a central part of their campaigns.

What Whitman lacks

Meg Whitman may have as many paid staff members on her communications team as the Obama campaign fielded in all 50 states. But I doubt she’ll attract many people to sit in a neighbor’s living room and make phone calls to support her.

She will continue to burn through vast amounts of money on media buys but never achieve the grassroots support Obama was able to mobilize.

She will not have anyone like the woman in Florida who rented an office and recruited volunteers, then presented the whole thing to the Obama campaign when they finally made it to her state.

The Whitman campaign may boast of having volunteers, but they’re little more than a prop. The plain fact is that there is no space in her corporate-style marketing campaign for personal communication or authentic interactions with the candidate. Heck, she won’t even talk to the media. As Rep. Waters told us, this approach will increasingly isolate her from the people she needs to reach.

Whitman also will not gain that support because California voters simply don’t like her. Not even the Republicans, which the Field Poll numbers show clearly.

Sure, they’re willing to let her try to buy the election; the party is grateful that she’s spending her money, and not theirs. But she doesn’t have a message that grabs anybody and nearly all of what she’s proposing has been tried by Schwarzenegger and hasn’t worked.

Most importantly, she has no emotional connection to voters.

Unfortunately for us Democrats, Jerry Brown’s campaign has been nearly as lackadaisical in building grassroots support, and is just beginning to reach out to volunteers.

John Laird = Obama Playbook

As Brown begins to do this, he would be well advised to look to the effort of former Assemblyman John Laird, who’s running in the special election race for the coastal 15th state Senate district.

Laird has volunteers setting up phone banks for him on their own all over the state. Community groups that came together through Organizing for America groups are making calls, as are statewide volunteers from Democracy for America.

Groups all over the state are organizing themselves, or working as a group to support Laird’s bid, because they feel passionately about his progressive ideas and having him in the Senate to enact them.

Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee may have more money, with millions from big oil and insurance companies, and a big assist from Whitman, but Laird has the sort of people-powered campaign every politician should hope for.

Chris Finnie sits on the Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee, serves as a delegate to the California Democratic Party, and is a member of the CDP Organizational Development Committee. She became a political activist in the Howard Dean campaign in 2004 and has since served on campaign staffs with Cegelis for Congress and McNerney for Congress. She also volunteered in the Obama campaign in 2008, and has acted as a volunteer consultant with several other campaigns. She ran for chair of the California Democratic Party in 2009 as what Calbuzz called the “bran muffin” candidate. In her spare time, Chris works as a freelance marketing copywriter.

Fishwrap: This Just In from Krusty, eMeg & Babs

Friday, July 9th, 2010

We wish we’d said that: Calbuzz felt verdant with envy at reading the nice perceptual scoop that Christiana Bellantoni posted on Talking Points Memo, which drew a parallel between the strategy and tactics of Meg Whitman’s zillion dollar campaign for governor and Barack Obama’s technologically groundbreaking operation in 2008.

Yeah, yeah, we know eMeg ain’t exactly in Obama’s class when it comes to public speaking, much preferring a crisp three-bullet Power Point approach when it comes to world class oratory; nor do we see too many folks fainting or leaping from their chairs to shout “Fired up – ready to go” when Her Megness hits the closing chords of the eight millionth delivery of her somnolent stump speech.

But Bellantoni’s yarn (graphic stolen shamelessly from TPM) –  “Meg Whitman Copies ‘Obama Playbook’ in Pursuit of her California Dreams” — did a swell job of finding a story hiding in plain sight. She drew together strands of reporting about the mechanics of the Whitman operation that have been produced, variously, by Ken McLaughlin, Jack Chang and, uh, us into an analysis of the race that casts eMeg as the high-tech candidate of change and Jerry Brown as, well, John McCain.

The Democratic take on Whitman being a 2010 version of Barack Obama? “In her dreams,” they say. And of course, much of Obama’s success had to do with the candidate’s own popularity and appeal. Obama was a young, African-American senator who represented generational change and used technology to mass finance much of his campaign. Whitman is a middle-aged former tech CEO who’s already self-financed her campaign to the tune of almost $100 million. But plenty of the building blocks and strategies of the Obama ’08 effort can be copied. And Whitman seems to be trying to duplicate pretty much all of them.

Krusty McCain: Her Obama-McCain take, while flawed, certainly resonated on Thursday, when Team Whitman rolled out a big new Spanish language outdoor advertising program to keep pressing her aggressive bid for Latino voters, while Brown responded by surrounding himself with a bunch of Hispanic pols and hacks who complained that she’s shading the truth about her stance on illegal immigration.

Sample remark, from U.S. Rep Xavier Becerra: “Jerry Brown broke bread with Cesar Chavez.  His opponent breaks bread with Pete Wilson [aka in Mexico City 1999 "Hijo de Puta"]

“Leaders are quite chagrined and shocked at the way the Whitman campaign can say one thing in English which is very hostile to the Latino community and then take out billboards and ads and make it sound like she was fighting Pete Wilson and Prop. 187 when in truth she wasn’t even here in the state of California,” Brown said.

Brown does have a point about eMeg’s claim that she opposed Prop. 187, seeing as how she lived in Massachusetts when the measure was on the ballot, wasn’t even a voter and has since agreed with fundamental aspects of it, to wit: Illegal immigrants should not expect benefits from the state of California. No driver’s license and no admission to state-funded institutions of higher education.

But hey, despite her casual relationship with true facts, at least she’s reaching out to Latinos. We’re still waiting to see Brown actually break a sweat in search of Latino votes.

He hit me, he hit me: Since the start of the World Cup, Slate has been running a terrific feature called “Dive of the Day,” which presents video of the top flop by a player who falls to the ground in fake distress,  taking the slightest hint of contact as an opportunity to roll around, grab his limbs and contort his face in horror, all in an  effort to convince the ref he’s been fouled. (Good examples are herehere and here ).

As Dave Eggers wonderfully described it, diving is:

…essentially a combination of acting, lying, begging, and cheating, and these four behaviors make for an unappealing mix. The sheer theatricality of flopping is distasteful, as is the slow-motion way the chicanery unfolds….Go and do the grocery shopping and perhaps open a new money-market account at the bank, and when you return, our flopper will still be on the ground, holding his shin, his head thrown back in mock-agony. It’s disgusting, all of it, particularly because, just as all of this fakery takes a good deal of time and melodrama to put over, the next step is so fast that special cameras are needed to capture it. Once the referees have decided either to issue a penalty or not to our Fakey McChumpland, he will jump up, suddenly and spectacularly uninjured—excelsior!—and will kick the ball over to his teammate and move on.

The melodramatic element of diving, in particular, came to mind when we received a communiqué from Her Megness, complaining that Jerry Brown and his allies were spending too much money on TV ads that are unkind to her.

Whitman media buyer Kyle Roberts sent a memo to campaign reporters whining about the sheer unfairness of it all:

Jerry Brown Incorporated continues its spending on attack ads against the Meg Whitman for Governor Campaign. To date, Jerry Brown Inc. which consists of union backed California Working Families, Level the Playing Field, the California Democratic Party and Jerry Brown 2010 have spent $6.6 million in advertising on broadcast, cable TV and radio. Of the $6.6 million, approximately $1 million has been spent on positive (pro-Jerry Brown ads) leaving $5.6 million in negative attack ads.

…it is quite clear that if Jerry Brown Inc. continues to double its spending and attack Meg Whitman at this level, it will be necessary for Meg Whitman to continue to defend herself from these attacks in order to ensure a competitive position for the General Election.

The mind boggles.

Putting aside the facts that 1) eMEg spends $5.6 million before lunch and 2) she went on the air for about 12 seconds with a positive spot before starting to air an anti-Brown ad portraying him as a cross between Jerry Rubin and Jerry Garcia, the sheer audacity of a) Team eMeg unctuously complaining about someone else’s spending on TV ads and b) gussying up their complaint to justify even more – “Well, I guess we have no choice but to throw another $100 million in the pot, Mike” – would be breathtaking, if it wasn’t so hilarious.

The refs say: No foul. Get up and keep playin’, Meg.

And don’t call me chief! Senator Barbara Boxer has been beaten up for over a year for the infamous You Tube moment when she upbraided Brigadier General Michael Walsh in the course of a hearing before her Environment and Public Works Committee for addressing her as “ma’am” rather than as “Senator.”

By now, Boxer’s huffy snit of petty arrogance has become an iconic image for her legions of political enemies, who find in the brief exchange with General Walsh personification of all the condescending,  Chardonnay liberal elitist values which they can’t abide.

Given that we’ve mentioned the episode, oh, once or twice, we thought it only sporting that, given a chance to talk to her the other night, we should ask her the key question that’s so long troubled us about the matter: WTF was that all about ?

Our query came at the end of a long  campaign day for Boxer and, when we raised it, she shot a hard look, as if calculating how quickly she could kick open the door of the van and push us out, somersaulting along the highway at a high rate of speed. To her credit, she quickly suppressed any sign of crankiness and offered this explanation:

I really wasn’t trying to make a point. We were going back and forth in the hearing, and I was calling him “General” and he was calling me “ma’am” and I just thought we should both use our formal titles.

For the record, Boxer also said she called Walsh after the hearing to check in and he told her, no worries. So there you have it, exclusive to Calbuzz.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Lindsay Lohan channels Clarence Darrow.