Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Should Meg Whitman have turned in her maid?

Meg Whitman, illegal immigrant, Nicky Diaz Santillan, Gloria Allred, Jerry Brown, California governor's race Politics Daily notes that a new Rasmussen Reports poll  shows Jerry Brown's virtually nonexistent edge over Meg Whitman blossoming into a lead that's actually larger than the poll's margin of error: 49% to 44%. I don't put a lot of faith in polls that show neither candidate topping 50%, so consider me skeptical. Anyway, Bruce Drake at Politics Daily suggests that the numbers moved because of all the publicity about Whitman's erstwhile illegal immigrant housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz Santillan. Which raises the question: What should Whitman have done differently?

As my colleague Paul Thornton argued last week,  Whitman appears to have followed the law as well as any household employer might be expected to do. She hired Diaz Santillan from an agency that supposedly verified her immigration status. And when Diaz Santillan fessed up to having lied about that, Whitman terminated her employment. Yes, her husband appears to have paid scant attention to the letter from the Social Security Administration about a potential problem in Diaz Santillan's records, but he didn't throw it in the trash -- he evidently gave it to Diaz Santillan to address.

The one step Whitman didn't take was reporting her housekeeper to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Whitman says it was bad enough to fire Diaz Santillan.  "It broke my heart because Nicky had become a part of our family," she said at a debate  with Brown on Saturday. In fact, she blames Brown and his campaign allies for guaranteeing Diaz Santillan's deportation by turning her into a campaign issue (Brown denies having anything to do with the whole affair).

What do you think? The Times' editorial board will offer its opinion in Tuesday's paper about Whitman's stance on immigration policy in light of her experience with Diaz Santillan. But why wait? Leave your thoughts below, take our highly unscientific poll or do both!

-- Jon Healey

Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images


Comments () | Archives (30)

The comments to this entry are closed.


I wonder how many billion in free advertising democrats are getting this year from the MSM.

Especially anyone facing a "tea party candidate" since the tea party candidates have received non-stop bashing since day 1 of their winning the primaries.

The MSM has turned into an unmitigated disgrace. I thought it couldn't get much worse than the 2008 elections but it just continues downhill.

Jason Jacoby

Few people would have cared about this if Whitman hadn't lied about it initially. But her whole campaign has been one lie after another, and even when it's pointed out that specific campaign ads are not true she just continues to run them.

Whatever anyone's opinion is of Jerry Brown's politics, he's honest to a fault. Whether that honesty would be a positive as governor under the current environment is open to debate, but he did an excellent job as attorney general, Oakland mayor, and as governor. He is dedicated to public service, he's smart, and he's honest. We could do a lot worse.

A Agarwal

What I dont understand is - Why is Diaz Santillan a client of Gloria Allred?
Can Gloria help Diaz in any way? Could Diaz have afforded to hire Gloria?
Would Gloria even have taken Diaz as a client if Diaz was not an ex-employee of Meg Whitman, a Gubernatorial candidate?


Gloria Allred is a skanky sleaze who will do anything to get media attention. I don't love Meg Whitman but I do think she is getting a raw deal. Jerry Brown has been a fixture in CA politics and has been instrumental in the downfall of our state. Sadly even if Meg gets elected, she probably can't fix all the problems we have. The problems can only be fixed if we get rid of all the career politicians including Jerry Brown.

L. Guevara

If Diaz was part of her family why didn't she try and help her with her status? Or is this the typical Republican family values way of helping their friends?


Meg Whitman will lose the election, not because she hired an illegal alien, but because she was a billionaire who hired an illegal alien. Hope her callousness was worth $120,000,000 thrown down the draiarrogant n.

Raul T

The problem isn't what Whitman did or didn't do. While it seems morally lacks to turn down the request for help from a "member of your family" it is a moral lapse. The problem is that the entire story highlights the flaw in Whitman's immigration policy ideas. It is knee jerk GOP toughness bereft of real world practicality.

Back to the moral lapse. This situation along side the no voting for 20-years, with the assault settled out of court and begins to develop is a person who seems self serving and narrowly focused on their own end game.

Stop trying to buy the election and earn the right to call yourself a public servant.


One - a person with bogus credentials, regardless of US citizenship status, is breaking the law.

Two - An ILLEGAL alien has very little chance of getting legal status if they are here illegally. THEY HAVE TO LEAVE the US territory and apply.

Three - Any parent that hires a person to drive their kids around, is not a family member.


It was originally reported that Meg Whitman spent $150 million on her campaign. With the same amount of money she could have fed 5,000 homeless people at $24 per day for over three years. And maybe she could have helped her housekeeper after nine years of service. California residents are next - I don't know you and you don't know me.

This may be the best bad publicity she ever received though, based on name recognition winning elections. She could be California's Alvin Greene. Let's start a conversation about Jerry Brown.


Illegal is illegal

Who cares about the latino vote, well over 75 percent of voters are NON-latino

Please do me a favor and never vote for Jerry who will really brownify this state!

No states ever wants to look like Mexifornia. My area (Burbank) used to be nice, now I hear spanish all over the blocks

I voted POIZNER, the next option is Whitman

Ann Mere

I am certainly voting for Meg Whitman. In the situation with her employee, she showed both compassion and kept the law. On the other hand, Jerry Brown and his henchwoman Gloria Allred have demonstrated unethical and slimy behavior. I don't want Jerry Brown. In his 40 yr career in politics, he has done what politicans always do--he has lied, looked after himself, and destroyed our beautiful state.


She could not have turned in her maid, or said much of anything, unless she wanted to act in self-incrimination. Whitman is the one who hired her and turned a blind eye to the fact that she could have used e-Verify to determine the validity of the Social Security number she was given. Just as ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break the law, ignorance of legally available means to ensure legal employment is also not an excuse. It doesn't matter that e-Verify isn't a mandatory step; although it should be. It is there for every employer to use, free of charge, and the choice not to use it is convenient for anybody who wants a cheap, easily exploitable source of labor.

Mitchell Young

I'll bet the logic (manfully resisting the urge to put that in scare quotes) of the Times editorial will be thus: Whitman didn't turn in Diaz, therefore Whitman isn't really serious about illegal immigration, and indeed no one else in SoCal who has ever eaten at Taco Bell or used a 'blow, mow and go' guy.

But who really believes that calling ICE would have brought any action against Diaz -- after all they are not moving against her now? And fact is most of us don't enforce laws, or even inform on people who are breaking laws, even those we believe in. Who hasn't had a few beers with a colleague or friend and then let them drive home knowing to a certainty they were over the legal blood alcohol limit. And that's not nearly as severe as calling the cops on them. How many people would report a friend or neighbor who they knew was operating a car which didn't meet smog requirements? Using some streng verboten lighter fluid when lighting some charcoal? How many would turn in their kid for 'sharing' files on Kazaa? (Come to think of it, Healy might). Lots of folks will pick up the occasional 'Gucci' bag or 'Luis Vutton' sun glasses at a street mart, thus aiding and abetting a crime the US spends a lot of resources in combating --that doesn't mean that we should abandon intellectual property or trademark laws.

It just means humans weigh probabilities of consequences, and don't usually act selflessly to enforce the law when they know their efforts will make no practical difference. That's why we have this thing called 'the state', we give it some serious power in order engage in actions which might individually have little effect, can make us all better off. Not hiring illegal immigrants is one of those thinks which would make us all better off, but it takes the force of government to make it work.

Jon  Healey

@Mitchell -- Close, but not quite. Here's the editorial: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-whitman-20101005,0,3745977.story. The point is that the hardest part about the illegal immigration problem is dealing with the people already here. You seem to be punting on that issue, too, by suggesting that individuals aren't capable of making a real difference. "It's a dirty job, so leave it to the state" isn't a compelling argument, IMO.


What appears to be most at issue is not how she handled it in June, although if the housekeeper was "part of their extended family" (Meg's words) her concern would have likely led to hiring an attorney for her....it's that she seemed to be most concerned of what knowledge of her having hired an undocumented worker would do to her chances of winning the race. Moreover, she used a hard line on the immigration issue to ace the primary and is using it to woo voters in the general. Hiding this does come off as 1) hypocritical and 2) sneaky. And finally, if Ms Whitman wasn't able to manage this matter effectively, what does that say about her skill for managing a whole state filled with far bigger matters? Just sayin'.


In the debate, when Meg Whitman turned to Jerry Brown, glaring, and uttered her handlers' words... "Shame on you Jerry Brown.... sacrificing Nicky on the altar of your political ambitions"... That was such a mean-spirited, accusatory, petty and really adolescent display for someone who wants to be governor. I thought it was a disgusting display of "Hey, everyone... look over there!" in trying to suck Jerry Brown into her sordid deeds.

Jerry Brown handled it like a statesman, and I like when he said... "If you want to run for governor, you've got to stand on your own two feet and be able to say..."Hey, I made a mistake."

But something else no one has commented on really bothered me about Meg and spoke volumes about her opportunism and and lack of ethics. At the end of the debate,when the candidates were asked to give 3 qualities that would make their opponent a good governor, when Meg was done giving hers for Jerry Brown, she then launched into a long monologue about her own qualities to be guv. Jerry Brown did not do that, but she did. Point is... she took unfair advantage, right in front of all the public who were watching that debate, and it shows a certain ruthlessness that I abhor and would never want to see our governor. She has that quality, in spades. That moment when she did that, was very revealing to me and was yet another reason why I could never support such a heartless, ruthless person for governor. Go Jerry!

Mitchell Young

Jon, your editorial presents the usual false dichotomy of 'pathway to citizenship' or mass actively, state-run deportation. Inserting the qualifier 'principled' doesn't change its falsehood.

First, principles aren't all on the side of 'everyone here should be a citizen'. There is also the principle that people should not benefit from their wrongdoing. Indeed we have laws that allow the government to seize property of drug dealers, prevent criminals from profiting from books describing their crime, etc. Allowing amnesty would definitely allow people who broke the law , not doubt including many who -- like Diaz -- broke multiple laws such as using false documents and committing perjury, to benefit from their bad actions.

Second, there is the positive principle that in a democracy, the people should get to say through their elected officials how many people are added to the polity and by what criteria these are chosen. That principle would be violated by granting a 'pathway to citizenship'.

Third, there is the principle that policy should be based on evidence -- and the evidence is that amnesties don't work. We amnestied 2-3 million in the late 80s and early 90s. That has obviously led only to more illegal immigration. If we amnesty, say, 8 million now, why would we not expect to have to deal with 20 million illegal residents 20 years from now? And the US is not the only country to experience the perverse effects of amnesty -- Spain did in the middle of this decade, when its amnesty only attracted more illegal migrants. No doubt there are other examples.

I for one don't feel any obligation of morality or principle to reward Diaz-Santillan. She is an adult, intelligent woman who obviously knew she was breaking the law. She has human agency, she could at any time do the right thing and return to Mexico.

Pasquino Marforio

LOL. I think this whole incident has swayed me to vote for Meg Whitman. She, as a victim of illegal immigration, now clearly understands the issue.

Crossing our border, illegally, the first time, is a misdemeanor. Staying in the U.S. after your visa expires, is a misdemeanor. Crossing our border after being deported is a felony. Obtaining a fraudulent Social Security Number to work illegally is a felony. Obtaining and using Fraudulent I.D. is another Felony. Obtaining unauthorized employment is another misdemeanor. Illegally obtaining Food Stamps, Unemployment, H.U.D. Section 8 Housing and Medicaid is another Felony. Signing the I-9 form as an illegal immigrant is another felony. Not reporting your income to the I.R.S. and to your State Franchise board is another felony.

Voting in our elections while an illegal immigrant is a felony.

Attempting to influence our elections, and an illegal immigrant, is a felony.

And for the Democrats who are enabling illegal immigrants to take our jobs and influence our elections - they should be tried for treason.

Bob Crowter

Meg Whitman is like almost every Republican & all Teabags since Richard Nixon, a LIAR ! End of story! Her Pinocchio Nose is growing by the minute. You hear very little about her worthless sons, who are great examples of her Family Values. I expect to see one of them locked up before the election. Why are all these Family Values Republicans so screwed up in their own families ? Because they are all LIARS ! Dwight D. Eisenhower was the last believable Republican, Teddy Roosevelt & Abe Lincoln are rolling over in their graves & want to quit the party. Jerry Brown WILL WIN this election because he is & always has been, a real man & for the people of California. My friends & I will vote to elect Jerry.


Look, I really don't give a CRAP about housekeeper-gate. The person bringing it to the forefront was a Brown supporter anyway. I ONLY care about her stance on the issues which, once elected, I will hold her accountable for. And yes, I won't be voting for Brown, simply because he's being supported by far-left groups and people who are bilking California into bankruptcy. Jerry Brown = NO JOBS and a WELFARE STATE where all the illegal immigrants get to live for free, without paying any taxes.


The question in my mind is, after the SSI system advised problems with matching
the employee with their records shortly after she hired the housekeeper, as an employer, did Whitman continue to send SSI payroll deductions to the SSI ?

Where are those payroll deductions now? Some kind of suspense account at the

It stretches credibility to the breaking point to think that Ms. Whitman and her
physician husband did not immediately realize that Diaz Santillan was probably in the country illegally.

Mitchell Young

From what I've read Diaz-Santillan used her sister's (presumably legal) SSN, and so the 'contributions' , which are not contributions but rather sort of accounting credits showing quarters worked and wages received, will go to her sister, boosting her Social Security payments when she retires. BTW we will get much more of that when this next wave gets a 'path to citizenship' -- passing of newly issued, legitimate SSNs to relatives, friends, people from home towns back in Mexico -- I'll bet cash money on it.

And why does it 'stretch credibility' . The 'no-match' letter says specifically it is not a determination of immigration status and all but threatens legal action if the employer takes action on it. Diaz had the ready explanation that she had used her husbands name on some documents and hers on others (in Spanish speaking countries women use their own name, only sometimes adding the husbands).

I may not vote for Whitman, but this blaming her for following the law, laws rigged in favor of *not* discovering an illegal worker-- really irks.

Pasquino Marforio

The answer SF Chronicle Oct 1,2010

According to Gening Liao, a labor and employment attorney at the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, which defends immigrants.

It is the employer's obligation upon receiving a no-match letter from the Social Security Administration is to check their own records for typographical or other errors, inform the employee that the records do not match and tell the employee to correct them.

"There is no additional legal obligation for an employer to follow up or respond to SSA with new information," said
Liao added that it is "very important that the employer does not take adverse action against the employee" merely based on a letter from Social Security.

Social Security's notice to employees says the letter "does not, in and of itself, allow your employer to change your job, lay you off, fire you or take other action against you." Any action by Whitman would have exposed her to discrimination violations.

Jon Healey

@Mitchell -- I think @lothianscot was more about the payroll taxes that Diaz Santillan's employer were paying into the system. The answer, as you suggest, is that the feds happily accept any and all payroll tax revenue even when there is a paperwork problem. From purely an economic standpoint, whether this is a good or bad thing for the Social Security program depends on whether the taxes collected from people with bogus SSNs and their employers exceed the benefits eventually paid to the SSN account holder. 'Cause even if the worker is using a false SSN to fool an employer, he/she is still paying payroll taxes and the employer is, too.

Mitchell Young


Agreed, SSA will take all money, pretty much no questions asked. The question I have is this -- how is this situation resolved? Does someone get credited with the wages that Diaz-Santillan was reported as earning? The assumption is that no-one gets credited with these wages and then go to some sort of general fund -- a pure plus for Social Security. But I am not convinced. Could Diaz Santillan call up the local SSA office and say -- oh, I used to go by Rosa (for example) and thus have the wages credited to her sister (again, for example) Rosa's account? From the document dump at TMZ is doesn't look like the paperwork to do such a thing would be either too difficult or at much risk of a follow up by SSA or anyone. Pure conjecture, though.


Griff Harsh, the husband of California gubernatorial candidate Nutneg Whitman, acknowledged in a statement on Thursday that “it is possible” he received and wrote notes on a letter from the Social Security Administration back in 2003, regarding the former housekeeper. The Whitman/ Harsh household then fired their housekeeper in June 2009 (after nine years of service), when Nutmeg handlers decided that she was an election liability.

Meg, Meg, Meg, where do I start, you have reportedly spent $140 million of your own money to get elected Governor but you couldn’t use some of it to get your housekeeper (after nine years of service) some legal help to get her papers, and worse you lied about it. Wow, what a WITCH, of course I meant it with a “B”.



But your comments on holding employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers real takes the cake, I assume you exempt yourself and your husband, or will you be turning yourself in.

Meg on holding employers accountable:

Meg you think you can buy the election, but what puzzles many is if you real cared and loved California then why not do your civic duty and vote, seems more rhetoric than anything else.

In good times we might give you a try but not in our disaster mode that we find ourselves in after that so-called outsider Independent Republican, named Arnold Schwarzenegger (sold to us by radio personalities John and Ken), ruined our state, yah we will trust another one of you liars, think not. And another thing nine years this maid was in your house, in your house and you failed to learned this major thing about her, come on this sounds like a huge lie that no one can believe in.

Ebay paid out $200,000 because Nutmeg assaulted an employee, so it’s not the first time she has mistreated an employee. Good luck winning Nutmeg, money will buy you admiration from the majority just from the Gay Old Party (GOP), but not from all of California.


The Republicans are so funny, when the economy is good you say let’s all celebrate “Cinco de Mayo, my brothers” but when the economy is down “it’s all your fault, you damn immigrant”. When most Americans (with Latin America roots) go to the polls this November we will remember that the GOP has gone on a nationwide rant in proposing and passing several anti-immigration legislation (that our US Courts continue to strike down) and have continue to blame the immigrant for the flat economy or worse. We will remember who stands with us and who stands against us, so trying to stop it now is somewhat funny, but go ahead, you will not change our minds.

Plus the more radical of the GOP are now attacking our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, in their crazy notion of wanting to take away rights that all of us take for granted in their misguided attempt to garner some much needed votes, they really are fools, and leading the GOP towards obscurity because they are no longer a party of ideas, just of empty suits. Your hate made you do it, in November; you will reap what you have sown. I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would say about todays GOP, he unlike the current GOP was a man of ideas.


While the press is filling the airwaves and print media with what Whitman should or may have known, where is the outrage and attention on the housekeeper? Not only is she here illegally, but she appears to have either counterfeit or fraudulently obtained government documents in the forms of a drivers license and social security card. Why isn't the press asking why she isn't being deported or arrested for this illegal behavior?


The letter from Social Security directed Harsh to check Diaz' Social Security card. Instead he give her the letter. Odd behavior, at best. At the very least it was a red flag that they ignored.

Diaz also says that she told Whitman that she couldn't leave the country. It seems unlikely that with these two clues Whitman and Harsh didn't know that they had hired and were paying an undocumented worker.

Even worse, Whitman supported comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship before she ran against Poizner in the primary. When Poizner challenged her on this issue, she made a 180. Now she's running against what she supported in 2009. Let's send this hypocrite to oblivion, not Sacramento.


If "Nicky" was truly part of the family Whitman should have helped her by getting her legal counsel and keeping her employed. Whitman had the money. Whitman has the ability to spend 120 million on a campaign that will end in disaster. She is neither qualified nor intelligent enough to run a state. The simple fact that she attack a underling while at ebay displays this. Attacking someone shows a lack of intelligence. It takes a cool head to deal with all the issues California has to deal with. The ideas "Meg" has are idiotic at best. Decreasing unemployment by firing 40,000 state employees. Whitman is an abomintion, she started the downfall of ebay and if elected she will further hender the recovery economically of California this is not an opion but a prediction based off of sound ideas brought forth from many ecomonists who study her plan.



In Case You Missed It...



Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

In Case You Missed It...