Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman made two campaign stops in the Southland Sunday, speaking at a conference for Iranian-American Jews in Century City, and picking up the endorsement of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in Van Nuys.
At a dinner at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City organized by 30 Years After, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 2007 to promote participation in American political, civic and Jewish life by Iranian- American Jews, the former head of eBay talked about her upbringing and business experience and reiterated her main campaign themes of creating jobs, cutting government spending and improving education.
Fielding questions from Dan Senor, co-author of "Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle," Whitman repeated her promise to "veto every single piece of legislation that is not on point to the crisis we face."
"The Legislature has become a bill factory," Whitman said. "Last year they served up nearly 2,000 pieces of legislation, the governor signed into law nearly 700 pieces of legislation, almost none that were on point to any crisis we face.
"Almost every bit of that new legislation comes with spending. I want to veto that legislation unless it's about jobs, spending or education." When asked for her position on AB 619, which would have required companies seeking contracts to build California's High Speed Rail system to disclose their involvement in deportations to concentration camps during World War II, Whitman said, "On issues like this ... the question I asked myself as the head of eBay was, `What's the right thing to do here?"'
Whitman said an example of doing the right thing was California officials asking the Germany-based engineering conglomerate Siemens whether it wanted to continue providing telecommunications equipment to Iran or do business with state government.
"In the end, Siemens said, `We're going to do business with the state of California,"' Whitman said.
"We have enormous economic leverage here. We have to make sure that we use it appropriately and effectively," Whitman said, drawing applause.
AB 619 was aimed at the French rail company, Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais, which provided trains, personnel and logistics that sent thousands of Jews, American soldiers and others to concentration and prisoner of war camps, according to its author, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D- Van Nuys.
The company known as SNCF was paid by the Nazis for the deportations per head, per kilometer. Unlike other companies that were involved in the Holocaust, SNCF has not made restitution to survivors, nor has it been held accountable in a court of law, Blumenfield said.
"My bill is an effort to encourage SNCF and others to make amends to Holocaust survivors whom they've injured before we give these companies the tax dollars of those very survivors," Blumenfield said in August, after the Assembly voted 50-7 to approve the Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act.
"My bill seeks to ensure that our tax dollars are entrusted only to companies that can meet the most minimum threshold of corporate responsibility." The bill passed both houses of the Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said in his veto message, "While I sympathize with the victims of the Holocaust and other individuals that were transported against their will during World War II, this bill needlessly places the state in a position of acknowledging the activities of companies during that time."
Earlier, Whitman campaigned at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys, where about 400 people showed up and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsed her candidacy.
"This is the right person at the right time for the kind of challenges that California faces," he said. "And your challengers are our challenges, meaning they are the same challenges as America. Sometimes I think California may be more complicated than America."
Whitman was an economic advisor to Republican presidential candidate John McCain during the 2008 election.
She declined to comment about a phone message in which someone associated with rival Jerry Brown's campaign called Whitman a "whore" for allegedly exempting police and firefighers from pension reform to get their endorsements.
Whitman said, "It's a slur and I'm not going to dignify it with a response," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Brown's campaign issued an apology Thursday, but the candidate has not talked publicly about the incident. He canceled plans Saturday to visit a get- out-the-vote effort organized by his campaign.
Whitman's campaign aides earlier called the remark offensive to all women, but Whitman has refused to comment. Before the comment became public, she had been fending off questions about the fact that she employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper for nine years.
She would not say if anyone in her campaign has ever made an inappropriate comment, The Times reported.
"I think voters want a campaign on the issues," she said. "They want to know what I'm going to do about jobs, what I'm going to do about education, how we're going to cut wasteful spending.
"I think the media needs to turn the attention back to the issues that are in front of every Californian between now and Nov. 2."
At the rally, Whitman talked about her three priorities -- creating jobs, cutting government spending and improving schools.
"I'm excited, we have 24 more days," she said. "And in 24 more days, we're going to have chance to elect the first job creator as governor of California.
"Also we have a chance to elect the first woman governor of California," Whitman said to cheers. "And I will be the governor who says no to wasteful spending. I will be the governor who says no to more taxes, and I'll be the governor who says yes to more jobs."
Giuliani said his being elected mayor of a deeply Democratic city was proof that Whitman could win in Democratic-leaning California.
"This isn't about Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative," he said. "It's about having a chief executive who can make decisions and will run the state in a sensible way, like a business, where you spend what you can afford to spend, where you lower taxes, and that's how you attract business and that's how you grow jobs."
Brown did not campaign this weekend, but is expected to appear with former President Bill Clinton and Democratic lieutenant governor candidate and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at a rally Friday at UCLA.