LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's former housekeeper Nicky Diaz Santillan, who is represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, attends a press conference at Allred's offices on September 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. In the news conference Allred claims that Whitman knowingly employed an undocumented worker, Santillan, as her housekeeper for nine years and then fired her a few months after Whitman began her campaign for governor. Allred said she will file a claim for unpaid wages and mileage reimbursement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
With a week before election day, Meg Whitman and her campaign face an uphill battle. Recent polls suggest a majority of voters have concluded they just don't like her. And politics, for all the talk of plans and policy, is very much like high school: it's crucial to be popular for whatever reasons, whether they make sense or not.
The ad below, however, feels like piling on. It takes at face value the story that Whitman's former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillan, told about Whitman through her lawyer, Gloria Allred. No one, including the people who made this ad (it was sponsored by the state prison guards' union, which is not known for its subtlety), know where Diaz Santillan was telling the truth. And there are contradictions in her story; Diaz Santillan at first described the two women as close but then retreated from this. And Diaz Santillan has never provided evidence that her firing was related to Whitman's candidacy, as this ad alleges.
All that said, Whitman may have treated Diaz Santillan shabbily, and she compounded a bad situation by suggesting, falsely, that the housekeeper might have intercepted mail that was intended for her. The most damning charges the housekeeper made was that Whitman didn't pay her for all the hours she worked. Those claims are being litigated. If they prove untrue -- an important if -- then Whitman doesn't have much to be ashamed of hre: she employed Diaz Santillan for nine years and 15 hours a week, and paid her very well: $23 per hour.
Of course, the entire episode tells us nothing about the kind of governor Whitman might be. But that's the problem with a candidacy as hollow as Whitman's. Since she hasn't offered anything resembling a realistic plan for dealing with the state's fiscal and other challenges, she's left plenty of room for critics to fill in the blanks.