That’s the very first line of the autobiography of billionaire Meg Whitman, candidate for the Republican nomination for California governor. She paints herself as the ethical candidate: “No playing things loose or close to the edge. We were going to do things the right way.” That’s an unnamed eBay executive talking in a campaign ad about working for Whitman back then. When Forbes Magazine did a 2007 cover story on Whitman they enthused, “Ebay’s Meg Whitman built a retail leviathan without sacrificing her customers, shareholders or ethics.”
But politicians claiming they’re particularly ethical are like gangsters shouting, “Come and get me, copper.” The press, like the cops, usually accepts the challenge, a la John Edwards, Gary Hart, Eliot Spitzer, and others.
If you watch television in California you already know about Whitman’s ethics, displayed in $60 million worth of the skuzziest campaign ads imaginable. But her hyper-negative campaign against fellow Republican Steve Poizner isn’t the most interesting thing about Whitman’s campaign.
Try googling “Meg Whitman ethics.” It turns up 48,800 entries. There are the articles about her sweetheart deal with Goldman Sachs, in which she moved the banking business of eBay, which she headed, to Goldman Sachs in return for the inside track on an initial public stock offering (IPO) in which she made a quick $1.78 million. When eBay shareholders sued she agreed to give her ill-gotten gains (more…)