How Did the Armies of eMeg Blow the Nicky Story?


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.

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There are 16 comments for this post

  1. avatar Bob Mulholland says:

    Like so many CEOs who drained the system to make themselves very wealthy, Whitman is arrogant and believes she is smarter than everyone else. Her Campaign Chair, Pete Wilson (got caught in 1995 with an undocumented maid and had to pay $15,000 in back taxes) looking for lucrative contracts, if Meggy is Governor, probably agreed with her. Now they have a “Nixon” problem- how long do they try to drag out the coverup.

  2. For the non-Latino voter, the big news may have been that Meg had a husband named Griff Harsh (!) and lived in a house of a zillion square feet.

  3. avatar bth100 says:

    “Paid for by Jerry Brown for Governor, with major funding by CalBuzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”

    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      Shorter bth100: “WAAAAHHH!!!! WAAAHHH!!!!”

      To loosely paraphrase Jerry Brown, don’t post here supporting a GOP candidate for governor if you won’t hold that candidate responsible for her own actions.

  4. avatar tegrat says:

    I guess they forgot to put “cherry-picked” in front of “voters surveyed” over at the Whitman campaign. Reality is not their strong suit.

  5. avatar Andy says:

    In my mind this is about her campaign’s need to body slam Poizner…had they been content with simply beating him and winning the Republican nomination by a decent margin they would have never had to move so far right on immigration.

    They got greedy for some sort of right-wing mandate…now they are paying the price.

  6. avatar tonyseton says:

    It’s stunning how incompetent she is. Managing a campaign is, by definition, a demonstration of executive ability. She picked consultants who couldn’t help her, she flipfloped on issues, and she has shown herself to be not only inept but dishonest and nasty. It really all comes down to character, or the lack thereof. A statue should be erected to her with an epitaph that reads Money Can’t Buy Love.

  7. avatar Adelaides Lament says:

    The suggestion that Calbuzz is deliberately working to help Jerry Brown is ridiculous.
    bth100 just exemplifies the GOP right now. They’re blaming everyone but themselves. Calbuzz is just reporting the facts, as in not making things up.
    It must be so frustrating to realize that Meg could have done the right thing here but decided to selfishly cast this “family friend” aside without offering any help. Who among us would do that to a young mother of 3 kids after nine years? Not me, I’ll tell you.
    The GOP is going to stay out of power for a very long time until they start cleaning house and taking responsibility. And they need to get past the “we just want power at any cost” mentality. Josh Marshall at TPM is ready to start a pool to see which Tea Party candidate loses it first and beats the crap out of somebody. And Ed Gillespie was just on my tv going along with the idea that loony Christine O’Donnell (Delaware) is actually in possession of Classified Information on the Chinese. Good Grief!
    Don’t blame CalBuzz or anybody else because your party has regressed to the level of 11-year olds.

  8. avatar VickyK says:

    Whitman’s handling of this situation speaks negatively about her character and her judgment, which matters to independent voters. A nice severance package, a lawyer and a non-disclosure agreement would have avoided this mess, and if it had gone public now, would have left her in a solid position.

  9. avatar jalford says:

    Why hasn’t she polled on Dr. Hackenflack?

  10. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    I have to agree with Adelaide. Calbuzz has given “Krusty” his fair share of pokes.

    Some years back, I took an Emilys List training for women candidates. One of the things I remember they taught us was to identify skeletons in your closet early and address them right away. If one comes up that you didn’t expect, address it right away too. An example they used was of a candidate who’d been late on his child-support payments. As soon as the story broke, he was ready with a letter from his ex-wife explaining the circumstances, affirming that he’d made it right, and saying she’d had no problem since. And, by the way, she thought her ex-husband would be great for the office. While unusually generous for an ex-wife (Imagine Jenny Sanford doing this, for example.), it was a great comeback, the campaign had it all ready to go in case the issue came up, and it worked.

    For all Meg is paying her consultants, you’d think one of them would go to an Emilys List training. It was free. But they do only support pro-choice women. Maybe that’s the rub.

    • avatar Mitchell Rapp says:

      “But they do only support pro-choice women. Maybe that’s the rub.”

      That wouldn’t be a problem for Meg the Quaker Oats Lady!

  11. avatar Moderate Democrat says:

    Yep, would have been really easy to spin this, apologize, and look like a leader, just like the analysis Krusty Brown made when he clocked eMeg as his response during the Fresno debate.

    BTW, Krusty visiting Cuba and partying with Fidel ten years ago makes him even more qualified to be Governor.

  12. avatar OC Progressive says:

    All of Meg’s money and all of Meg’s men, couldn’t put eMeg together again.

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