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Lawyer: Whitman’s Husband Saw Ex-Maid’s Immigration Letter

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor was thrown into turmoil Thursday as the Republican sought to fend off new evidence that she knowingly had an illegal immigrant housekeeper on her payroll for nearly a decade.

Whitman denounced the allegations as a “baseless smear attack” by Democratic challenger Jerry Brown in what has become a dead-heat race five weeks before the election.

The central issue is whether Whitman knew about a letter that the Social Security Administration sent her in 2003 that raised discrepancies about the housekeeper’s documents—a possible tip-off that she could be illegal.

The letter is the foundation for claims by former maid Nicky Diaz Santillan that Whitman and her husband knew for years she was in the U.S. illegally, but kept her on the job regardless.

For two days, Whitman forcefully denied receiving any such letter and said she fired the $23-an-hour housekeeper last year immediately after learning she was illegal. But Whitman’s husband changed course Thursday after a letter surfaced with what appeared to be his handwriting, forcing him to say he may have been aware of the correspondence back in 2003.

The husband’s shift only served to intensify the uproar in a contest that until now been focused on serious issues such as job creation, government spending and education in a state with a $19 billion deficit and 12.4 percent unemployment.

Now, the focus is on whether the billionaire GOP nominee for governor will take a polygraph test to respond to allegations brought by a celebrity-seeking attorney and her mysterious housekeeper client.

Revelations about the illegal housekeeper have also thrown Whitman’s carefully managed campaign completely off track and opened the door for Democrats to accuse her of hypocrisy.

The former eBay chief executive has called for tougher sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers, and the fact that she employed an illegal immigrant maid from Mexico for nine years could undermine her credibility. She has also spent millions courting Latino voters, who could play a key role in determining the outcome of the race.

The housekeeper and lawyer Gloria Allred later produced a copy of the letter Thursday that they say shows Whitman’s husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh III, partially filled it out and told the housekeeper to “check on this.”

Allred said the housekeeper recognized the writing as belonging to Whitman’s husband, and a handwriting specialist may be brought in to analyze her husband’s penmanship. She claims it could prove that Whitman and her husband knew years earlier that Diaz Santillan might be illegal while working at their Silicon Valley mansion.

After Allred’s press conference, she told KNX radio in Los Angeles on that she suspected writing on the letter is her husband’s.

In a statement released by the campaign, Harsh said he did not recall receiving the letter, although it’s possible he scratched out a note asking Diaz Santillan to follow up. He noted, however, that the letter does not say Diaz Santillan is illegal, it merely asks for more information.

“The essential fact remains the same, neither Meg nor I believed there was a problem with Nicky’s legal status,” the husband said. “The facts of this matter are very clear: Ms. Diaz broke the law and lied to us and to the employment agency.”

Campaign adviser Rob Stutzman said “it’s reasonable” the letter could be authentic, but added the campaign has questions about its whereabouts for seven years and if it is legitimate. At one point Thursday, the campaign said that Diaz Santillan may have intercepted the letter since she was in charge of the mail at the house.

The story has consumed two full days of news cycles just as Whitman and Brown are preparing for a Saturday Spanish-language debate that will include questions of importance to the Hispanic community.

One of the state’s largest public employee unions immediately released a Spanish-language attack ad accusing Whitman of a double standard on illegal immigration.

Whitman, who has revealed few details about her personal life since announcing her first run for office last year, was forced to spend 45 minutes answering questions from reporters about what she knew and when she knew it, her husband standing awkwardly by throughout.

“You know, I’ve only been in politics for two years. I’m just getting used to the smear politics, I’m just getting used to the politics of personal destruction,” she told dozens of reporters hastily gathered at a hotel in Santa Monica.

Whitman has spent a record $119 million of her own money on the race, and her campaign has been marked by its uncanny ability to stay on message. That marks a notable contrast with Brown, the state’s attorney general and a former governor known for talking off-the-cuff, sometimes too much.

The timing of the allegations so close to the Spanish-speaking debate, the lack of extensive documentation, and Allred’s Democratic ties left her open to questions about motive. Allred once gave money to Brown, and she was a Hillary Rodham Clinton delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

Allred, who is well-known for orchestrating media stunts, has not permitted Diaz Santillan to answer a single question from reporters over two days of news conferences. The former housekeeper read a brief, prepared statement Wednesday that alleged brusque treatment during her nine-year tenure. Whitman said it was “not the Nicky I know.”

Allred said Thursday she is not providing any financial support to her client and added her involvement with Diaz Santillan started “within the last week.”

Two days after she made the allegations that reordered the race for governor, Diaz Santillan remains a mystery. Virtually nothing is known about her activities or whereabouts from the time Whitman fired her in June 2009 until she appeared Wednesday with Allred at her Los Angeles law office.

In her 2000 employment application, Diaz Santillan revealed she went to high school and college in Mexico City and says she would like to go back to school to take computer administration. The mother of three said she has 11 brothers and sisters, eight of them living in the Bay Area. Whitman’s campaign said Diaz Santillan used her sister’s documents in her fraudulent application.

Whitman was repeatedly asked why she didn’t just own up to this huge political liability earlier to avoid a late election-cycle surprise such as this, particularly since she has repeatedly stressed the need to hold employers accountable for hiring illegal workers.

She said she didn’t want to subject Diaz Santillan to the scrutiny—and left unsaid, deportation—that could have resulted from her reporting it. Whitman also noted that in California, employers bear no responsibility to report illegal worker, only to not knowingly hire and employ them.

“Because Nicky had worked for us for 10 years, I was very fond of Nicky and I didn’t want to make an example of her. It’s not an obligation of the employer to turn in illegal employees,” she said.

The revelations come suspiciously close to Saturday’s Fresno debate, which will air statewide on Spanish-language television in an effort by both camps to target one of the most highly sought-after voting blocs in the state. Hispanics are projected to comprise just 15 percent of voters in the Nov. 2 general election, but both sides have aggressively targeted them as potential swing votes.

Brown’s spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said in a statement that Whitman apparently thinks the rules don’t apply to her.

“After more than a year of Whitman demanding immigration policy that ‘holds employers accountable,’ we learn that accountability doesn’t extend to her own actions,” he said.

Clifford said the Browns use a well-known national housekeeping service that comes twice a month to their home in the Oakland Hills. He said Brown has never knowingly employed an illegal immigrant.

(© CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Alfred E. Newman

    Geez. Sounds made up. Allred is a kook. keep the maid here and deport Allred.

    • Enough-Already!

      Deport both of them!

  • CMV

    “Do as I say, not as I do”? This is wrong.

  • Alex

    This screams of an orchestrated attempt by Democrats to to tilt the advantage to Brown. I don’t care for Whitman, but you can tell this gal has been rehearsed. She cries on cue and then when making a point seems to compose herself quickly. Reminds me of that Anna Ayala, the accuser of Wendy’s finger chili. She was fired in 2009 and conveniently brings this up right after the gubenatorial debate? A little too convenient. This gal wasn’t even really crying. Her eyes weren’t red from someone that was truly crying. She is a disgrace to the Latino community. She says she told Ms. Whitman, ‘Meg, please help me’. That’s bull. She wouldn’t say that, she would have said, ‘Ms. Whitman, please help me!’

  • dennis Williams

    Wish Meg would hire me for $23.00 an hr. Thanks to Obama & Polsii I have not had a job for 2 years. That girl should thank Meg for being so great to her. Then go home to Mexico and drag Gloria and Jerry with her.

    • Werewuf

      You can thank Bush for your unemployment, quit blaming the man trying to fix the Republican quicksand created before he took office. Get real….

      • Clay Pijinz

        Still trying to blame Bush? The Dems controlled both houses of Congress. Bush didn’t do anything by himself. Get a clue….

    • acalirobin

      I love this, You accept that it took 9 years for Meg to find out she hired an illegal immigrant. You don’t question if she paid taxes for this employee, and yet still you have faith that this woman can run California.

      Illegals were working in her house and she didn’t know, how is she going to catch discrepancies in the budget? How long will it take her to find problems in California? I hope to God not 9 years!

      • Clay Pijinz

        SHE didn’t hire an illegal immigrant. The service she used did. What was she supposed to do, verify her eligibility? Then you would be calling her racist.



    • JUAN

      you havent had a job in 2 years because your a lazy fat american, you idiot.

  • Wes

    Alex, you are a horse’s ass. Pray tell me how you intercepted private discourse to know how the “disgrace to the Latino community” addressed “Ms. Whitman?” Also, please explain beyond your unreliable empiricism how you determined that Santillan is lying.

    Here is what the public should know deemed upon information released by both sides: 1.) Ms. Santillan was in Ms. Whitman’s employ 2.) Ms. Santillan was illegally working and living in the United States during her employment with Ms. Whitman

    Beyond that, Alex, you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

    It is remarkable to me how Republicans along with their supporters take such a definitive and inflexible position, (ex: Illegal immigrants should return to their land of origin and be immediately expelled from the United States, no exceptions), and yet when they are caught defying their position, they circle the wagons, obfuscate the facts and excuse the behavior.

    Well, guess what, Ms. Whitman it is your responsibility as an employer to know the legal status of your employee. So, explain away…

    Do as I say and not as I do! Precisely!

  • tcjc

    It my well be orchestrated but it is pretty clear than Meg as a real hypocrite.

  • Mark

    Go and get em, Allred!

  • maxi

    Whiny Typical Mexican. She was employeed for all these years! There are so many Citizens that can’t find jobs and here she is getting paid and well. Also, I would like to understand how it is that she has an attorney when she is ILLEGAL! Allred is a crazy media witch. Send back that illegal and take Aldred too.

  • oldfart

    I want to know why the Social Security Administration did not follow up when this illegals benefits kept being accepted into the SS administration every month. They knew this was fraud but kept accepting the money.

    I want to know how many businesses in SF got notices that illegals were working in sanctuary city, I have never heard of one bussiness in sanuary city being notified. I can name a dozen restaurants and shops in the SF that have illegals working for them and nobody cares or does a thing to stop it, just the opposite the sanctuary city encourages these illegals to live and work here.

    Why isn’t Newsom and the board of stupidvisors applauding Meg for hiring an illegal and going to her defense.

    this has all the earmarks of a set up, and my guess is it orchestrated by the Democratic party.

    • Jay`

      since you “can” name them , why don’t you ? Or are you just farting ?

  • fazsha

    Actually, Whitman acquits herself pretty well on this; it’s the immigrant that lies, then when she loses her job tries to claim that SHE was victimized. You Dems are never fair. Do you realize how much mail the average person gets every week? I’m surprised that the letter got the attention it did.

  • Keep'n it Real

    Another GOP that says one thing and does another!

    • Enough-Already!

      YOU MEAN POLITICIAN> THEY ARE ALL CROOKS AND THIEVES. STEALING FROM THE MIDDLE CLASS AND DESTROYING THE FABRIC OF OUR NATION….this says it best…”I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” –Thomas Jefferson

  • Debbie

    Yes I find it suspect the maid is just now coming out BUT that does not preclude Whitman from concealing the fact from the voting public. It does not matter WHEN Whitman found out the woman was illegal. The maid at this point can be deported. What matters is that Whitman is running on a platform with a strong emphasis on immigration and she hid it from the voting public. What matters is that Whitman knew this about her past before she ran for Governor! First we find out she is a non-voter showing lack of respect for democracy and now we find she conceals information. It’s a matter of trust. Whitman knownly concealed information the voting public should have been told at the beginning of her campaign.

    • Holly

      you hit the nail on the head, Debbie! Couldn’t have said it better myself!!

  • DSDavies

    The obvious reason that “normal” families give for hiring foreign help is that is the only help they can afford. What I don’t get is why all the “rich” people, like MW, choose this route. Is she that in love with her money to go cheap with help for her own home and family? I think that says a lot about her values and priorities. God bless these workers for doing the work and taking less pay. I could not know if this person’s pay was less than the job’s worth, but it should be part of the discussion.

    • Jack Everett

      mmm 23 + and hour is much more that a lot of people make..

  • Jerry Brown

    The Republicans SUCK the big one!

    • Enough-Already!

      and the big one = democrats. may they all rest is peace….

  • CACarvalho

    I have just one question – Who is paying for this high class attorney, Gloria Allred, for this woman that has been out of work. Funny that the story is just now coming out to the public.

  • Allison

    MW needs to explain why she is a hypocrite. She hired this women thinking she was legal, but found out sometime in her employment that she was not legal. Since she probably liked her, she decided to overlook her legal status until it became a liability to her.

    In addition Meg needs to explain why both of her children were either kicked out of their schools or severely disciplined for racists comments and behavior.

    Racism is something that comes from within the family and it is not just one of her boys who demonstrated this behavior both of her boys at 2 different institutions.

    I am concerned that MW is buying herself into office, but is really not the kind of person morally to be running CA


    The agency was/is responsible for recommending a person for the job who is in
    the country illegally. The hosekeeper can’t have been very “mistreated’ IF SHE

  • Bob

    That “poor” maid earned $390,000 working for Meg, sounds like she had a real scam going.

  • Bloodhounds

    I think Meg should either go run for Gov. in Arizona, Alaska, or Delaware. She never voted in 28 years. Besides the illegal maid business, she’s mega rich and will only be taking care of her rich friends.

  • 2twokewt

    It’s the employment agency’s fault. Period.

  • Jason

    Shouldn’t the real story be fals application, lied about citizenship in application and had fake drivers license and fake SSN and card.

    Usual liberal reporting, missing teh whole story

  • Mark Greenman

    Looks to me that immigrants have more power than you think people. Real or not, Meg Whitman is a hypocrite, and she’ll spend more money than you’ll ever imagine. Have you seen how much of her own money she has spent on this campaign! She’ll spend even more in office people!!! and she used to work for a corporation!!! they are our enemies in this down economy!!

  • Annon

    Gloria Allred is a JOKE! Have you seen the “clients” she takes on? If anyone takes her seriously they should have their head examined! This is just her feable attempt to stay in the headlines. The maid was hired by Whitman THROUGH AN AGENCY! Where is the agnecy’s accountability in all of this? The point of all of this is the lady lost her job-Meg did what was right AFTER she found out the truth. Whose to say this maid didn’t just toss the mail since this was part of her job & Whitmen never saw the letters? How is Meg to know that someone she hired THROUGH AN AGNECY was an illegal? She did request that the person be her legally. This maid lied-where is the uproar about falsifying information? Is it ok to lie & get away with it???

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    […] Lawyer: Whitman’s Husband Saw Ex-Maid’s Immigration Letter LOS ANGELES (AP) – The attorney for Meg Whitman’s former housekeeper released a copy Thursday of a purported 2003 […] […]

  • Lisa

    Okay, so this woman was getting $23 per hour for nine years using another person’s social security number, she comes forward and admits that she is an identity thief and she hasn’t been arrested? What’s up with that? I am a democrat and I believe Meg Whitman. I believe this is a smear campaign orchestrated by Jerry Brown’s camp and I may actually vote republican as a protest.

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