by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado

Candidates for public office today had better be squeaky clean or else something from the past is apt to come to light and bite them when they least expect it. Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, a political novice, built upon her business and management successes, as well as her ample wealth, to gain the party’s nomination to run for the highest office in the nation’s largest state. Given the state’s desperate fiscal condition, it sorely needs someone with business and management skills.

Ms. Whitman labored mightily in the primary campaign to convince the party’s base that she was more conservative than Ronald Reagan. That strategy having worked, she is now endeavoring to convince independents and moderate Democrats that she really is a moderate after all.

She and former governor Jerry Brown, renowned as a liberal but who professes now to be a born-again moderate, or something of that order, were running neck and neck, each with the support of about 41% of likely voters. Then along came Los Angeles attorney Gloria Alred with a tearful illegal alien, Nicki Diaz Santillan, in tow. It seems that Ms. Diaz Santillan was employed as a housekeeper for Whitman for nine years, until she was fired last year. Diaz Santillan blubbered on cameras with attorney Alred looking on with an appropriately severe-looking expression. The housekeeper sobbed that she had been exploited, disrespected, humiliated and emotionally and financially abused. All of this allegedly occurred while she was collecting $23 an hour in the Whitman household.

The timing of this drama was decidedly inconvenient for Ms. Whitman, who is locked in a tight campaign and trying to reach out to Hispanic voters. Her campaign responded with alacrity. It produced IRS and immigration forms which Diaz Santilla reportedly signed in 2000 stating that she was a legal resident of the United States. The campaign also produced a copy of a social security card that Diaz Santillan reportedly used. Ms. Whitman said that she used an agency to hire the housekeeper and that the agency provided the documentation regarding her residency.

Whitman said that she fired Diaz Santillan as soon as she learned that she was illegal. She said that it was difficult to let her go because she had come to regard her as a friend and a member of their extended household. Diaz Santillan, however, alleges that Whitman had to be aware of her illegal status all along and that she was fired only when Whitman decided to run for governor.

Diaz Santillan reportedly said that she contacted Ms. Whitman in June 2009 to seek help in legalizing her status. According to a Wall Street Journal article, Diaz Santillan said that Whitman called her back four days later and said that, after consulting a lawyer, there was nothing she could do to help. Diaz Santillan then reportedly said that Whitman then told her, “I don’t know you. You have never seen me and I have never seen you. Understand me?”

Mr. Brown, in knee-jerk fashion, was quick to observe that, once again, Whitman has shown that she thinks the rules don’t apply to her.

Who to believe? Probably not the word of someone who broke the law to sneak into the country, who apparently lied about her status and used someone else’s social security number to gain employment. Her attorney, Gloria Alred, has been described as a Democratic activist who has made political contributions to Democratic candidates including Mr. Brown. She has had prior experience in bringing allegations against Republican gubernatorial candidates in the late stages of a campaign. In 2003, one day before the state’s recall election, Alred produced a woman who claimed that she was groped by Arnold Schwarzeneggar. He denied the allegation and went on to win convincingly.

Whitman may not be my all-time favorite candidate, but I certainly think that she deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one unless other facts emerge. If Whitman used an agency to hire the housekeeper, it seems reasonable that she should be able to trust documents that the agency provided. If the documents were not authentic, shouldn’t the agency have some liability? For that matter, what action is being taken against Ms. Diaz Santillan for her illegal acts?

The entire episode smells to me like a politically-motivated attempt to smear a candidate and to turn Hispanic voters against Whitman. Diaz Santillan’s theatrics and attempts to portray herself as a victim despite having apparently broken several laws are outrageous and demonstrate the extent to which illegal immigration has gotten out of hand in this country.


copyright 2010 J.F. Kelly, Jr

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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