THE BLOG
05/16/2009 11:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Shenzhenian Candidate: Meg Whitman Wants to be Governor of California

A couple of years ago, someone was trying to sell Vietnamese women on eBay. The auction went on for three days before eBay closed it down. EBay policy strictly forbids the sale or purchase of humans, living or dead. (Sorry, Owners of Ted Williams' head.) But you can see where the slave trader had gotten the wrong impression. The CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman, had built a career on one job after another exploiting Asian women, the younger and more vulnerable the better.

That's real world business experience she'll bring to Sacramento as your governor.

Yesterday Meg Whitman resigned from the board of directors at eBay and from two other corporate boards. A last step, we're told, before formally announcing that she's running for governor of California. She'll be campaigning as that most Republican of icons, the Successful Business Leader Who Can Get Things Done. And you can see why:

- She has a billion dollars. (True, it used to be $1.4 billion, but there's a lot of that going around.)

- She ran eBay. (Okay, and it kind of stinks of death lately, but that's not her fault. Or entirely her fault.)

- She saw the future and bought the cutting edge Internet phone service Skype. (eBay just took a $900 million write-down on it. But still.)

And if that's not enough -- if you don't love and trust her already -- she used to be on the board of directors at Goldman Sachs.

"Meg Whitman is one of the most dynamic and forward-looking leaders in business today. She is an outstanding addition to our Board, and we look forward to working with her." -- Henry Paulson, 10/1/01.

"We are grateful to Meg for the contribution she has made as a director. We have benefited from her insight and dedication, and thank her on behalf of Goldman Sachs and its shareholders." -- Henry Paulson, accepting her resignation, effective immediately, fourteen months later.

(And the strip search was just a formality.)

But she's not just a titan of industry. She brought that same gimlet-eyed vision to the world of politics. In the last year, since she changed her party affiliation from "decline to state" to "Republican," she served as finance chair for Mitt Romney ($86.1 million spent / 133 delegates / $647,000 per delegate) and then appeared at the convention to electrify a nation for John McCain.

(Don't remember her? She opened for Carly Fiorina, best known for laying off 18,000 workers at Hewlett-Packard. The theme of the night? "Prosperity." I'm not making that up.)

Meg Whitman will probably buy a lot of television commercials, and you probably won't hear the word "Republican" much. You'll hear the words "manage," "solutions" and "success." Which is a nice way of saying "She's rich."

And they won't talk about where Meg Whitman got rich before eBay. Her real expertise is in globalization. Which is the nice way of saying Asian sweatshops.

Here are some highlights from her résumé. See if you can spot a pattern.

"Prior to eBay, Meg was the General Manager of Hasbro Inc.'s Preschool Division. In this position, Meg was responsible for global management and marketing..."

Young workers in China who make holiday toys for Disney, Hasbro and RC2... report that their bodies are often covered with red welts from the bug bites, which can easily become infected if the wounds are scratched... Workers are at the factory 93 hours a week, toiling 13 and a half-hour shifts, seven days a week...

-- National Labor Committee Report

"Meg served as President of the Stride Rite Corporation's Stride Rite Division... She had also been Executive Vice President for the Keds Division..."

Sixteen-year-olds put toxic glue onto Keds sneakers with their bare hands. When we visited the factory in July 1999, they were producing Keds sneakers for Stride Rite... When you went through the adhesive department where they worked your eyes stung from the strong chemical vapors. There was no special ventilation, nor were gloves or masks provided to the workers. The company general manager said they came to China "for the cheap labor" and "to get away from the unions in South Korea." According to the company the average wage was 42 cents an hour.

-- Another National Labor Committee Report

"Meg spent 1989 to 1992 at the Walt Disney Company, highlighted by her work as the Senior Vice President of Marketing of the Disney Consumer Products Division. During this time, she... developed the strategy for Disney's entry into the book publishing business..."

NEW YORK (CNN) - The National Labor Committee... made new charges Thursday against The Walt Disney Company, releasing a videotape alleging that two Chinese factories making books for Disney operate under unsafe conditions. "There's blood on this book," Kernaghan said as he held up a copy of a child's book made in China and published by Disney.

I'm not saying everything Meg Whitman touches turns to slave labor, I'm just not saying it doesn't.

Also, in fairness, she's worked for at least four companies that didn't take whatever she was in charge of and move it to the Pearl River Delta.

Where she could pay people forty-two cents an hour.

Also, I feel legally compelled to say that Hasbro and Disney and Stride-Rite know a lot better than I do whether they're behaving ethically. I've never even been to China.

And maybe the National Labor Committee just doesn't like Meg Whitman.

My point is, you can't simply write off Meg Whitman as another egomaniac stooge, set up to fail by a Republican party that needs a candidate who can finance herself. She's a real person. With a genuine record. Of callous indifference not just to the dignity of labor, but to suffering in general.

Getting back to the Vietnamese girls who weren't, in the end, sold on eBay. Hung Nguyen of the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans thanked Meg Whitman by name for eBay's quick action. But he didn't think that would be the end of human trafficking in Asia.

"The only real alternative is to give countries opportunities for people to educate and better themselves. If we could improve the economic conditions in places like Vietnam and Cambodia, there would be less likelihood that people would sell themselves or their children into slavery or brothels.''

Obviously he didn't know who he was talking to.