I am old enough to remember the days when the private revelations from the Richard Nixon White House became public. In private, President Nixon often stated that he did not want the complete facts on many things, so that in public he could maintain "deniability." He would ask his aides, "Do we have deniability on that?"
California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman claims deniability on the immigration status of her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz Santillian, who is fighting deportation because she has been an illegal alien in this country for many years. Of course, Ms. Diaz was Ms. Whitman's housekeeper for nine years.
Well before Whitman hired Ms. Diaz, the immigration and withholding status of Central and South American nannys and housekeepers had became front-page news. We had nanny-gates with regard to several Clinton attorney general nominations. I remember that Judge Kimba Woods and Zoe Baird were in the headlines, along with their illegal nannies and housekeepers. But Whitman maintains deniability on what the Woods, Baird and other cases show to have been a high-profile issue for many years now.
In fact, Whitman points the finger at her opponent, California Attorney General Jerry Brown: "Jerry, you should be ashamed. You put her deportation at risk. You put her out there. You should be ashamed of sacrificing Nicky Diaz on the altar of your political ambitions," Whitman said in a televised debate at Cal State Fresno.
Those comments escalate Whitman beyond deniability (which seems implausible, given the nine year time span during which she employed Diaz). The newest Whitman debate tactic seems a jump shift from deniability to finger pointing. The two (deniability plus finger pointing) are not mutually exclusive, of course.
Ex-CEO Whitman has, of course, done this before. In 2002-2004, Whitman received preferential shares in technology and other hot issue offerings, likely to shoot up in price, assuring Whitman that she would reap handsome profits. Even though Goldman Sachs allocated shares to Whitman more than 100 times, she denied any knowledge of the illegal "spinning." Spinning is wrongful because it is the company, eBay in this case, not its CEO, that owns the right to award future investment banking business to Goldman Sachs and the like.
Whitman's claims of deniability in the spinning case seem as weak as her deniability claims in the illegal housekeeper case. Whitman received Goldman Sachs statements for 36-48 months. The statements clearly showed the illegal allocations to her investment account. After being sued, Whitman tacitly admitted her fault, disgorging several million dollars in illicit profits.
In that case, too, Whitman escalated from deniability to finger pointing. She and her supporters said that, if they can be shown to have known of the allocations, they did not know it was illegal. No SEC regulations prohibited the practice or even were on point.
Of course, the SEC does not have regulations on most things in the corporate-securities world. Common sense and basic morality would tell you that spinning amounted to usurpation of a corporate opportunity and, based upon general principles and ordinary morality, it is wrongful.
So we have two less edifying characteristics possessed by Ms. Whitman: deniability and finger pointing. Opponent Brown said to Whitman: "You have blamed her [Ms. Diaz]; blamed me; blamed the left; blamed the unions. You don't take accountability."
During her years as CEO of eBay, subordinates referred to Meg Whitman as "Golden Girl," based upon the unstinting progress the company made in the 10 years she was there. But the Golden Girl stuff may have gone to her head.
Meg Whitman may be convinced that she doesn't know, and has no responsibility for knowing of matters to which she has chosen to turn a blind eye. Further, she seems practiced in the art of shifting from the art of deniability to finger pointing. If a case can be made out that she knew, or should have known, well, then it's not her fault. It's Goldman Sachs', or Jerry Brown's, or the liberals', or the labor unions', or the Left.