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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / U.S. SENATE : Huffington's Wife Runs Campaign, Ex-Aides Say : Five former staffers in the election bid claim they quit due to disagreements with her. She insists that they were fired and that her role in the race is minor.

October 10, 1994|DAVE LESHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a result, they said there were times when she would sacrifice what was considered most prudent for political strategy in order to gain a platform for her views. "To be honest, it got kind of confusing as to whether Arianna was going out as a public relations campaign for her book or for the political campaign," said one staff member.

Shirck-Twomey, a 12-year veteran of state and national campaign finance operations, said the contrast between Arianna Huffington's priorities and the political professionals was most apparent in August when the campaign began to highlight a plan to replace government welfare with private charity--an idea elaborated in her book.

Shirck-Twomey said the campaign spent $4 million on a series of television commercials on the subject despite advice from senior political consultants that it was a waste of money since the issue was not a priority for voters.

While Huffington has spent more than $10 million of his personal fortune on the campaign, Shirck-Twomey's job was to try to raise money from other sources. She said Arianna Huffington insisted that the issue of volunteerism be highlighted in the letters she was sending to Republican contributors.

"We (professional consultants) concurred that a direct-mail piece calling on people to volunteer (to help the poor) would not raise money," Shirck-Twomey said. "Primarily, there are some hot topics that get traditional Republican givers to give--crime, taxes and defense. Volunteering for your community is just not a salient issue. They were told this is foolish, you are going to lose money, don't do it."

Some also said their ability to work was hampered by a requirement from the candidate's wife that some staff members donate their time at least twice a week to homeless shelters in the area.

Overall, Huffington's campaign headquarters was described by the former staff members as a chaotic office with no clear lines of authority and a work force broken into hostile camps. They said their jobs became impossible because she frequently questioned their loyalty to the campaign and confused the staff by regularly second-guessing their decisions.

"She viewed everybody who came there as a future member in some social crusade that has something to do with the ideas she has in her book," one ex-staffer said. "I felt this need from an individual to have total control over you and your function was just to execute her directions and orders. . . . But (they) were bringing in people who have experience; we're not just kids starting out."

Political Scorecard

29 days to go before Californians go to the polls

THE GOVERNOR'S RACE

* What Happened Sunday: Democrat Kathleen Brown had no public events. Gov. Pete Wilson planned to attend fund-raising events in Upland and Hemet.

* What's Ahead: Neither Wilson nor Brown released advance schedules for today.

THE SENATE RACE

* What Happened Sunday: Rep. Mike Huffington was to attend a fund-raising event in Pebble Beach. Sen. Dianne Feinstein had no public events scheduled.

* What's Ahead: Huffington was scheduled to meet with leaders of the Monterey County Farm Bureau in Salinas, address employees of the Anvahl Corp. in Silicon Valley and meet with a youth group in the San Francisco Bay Area. Feinstein was to give a breakfast address on the economy to the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, speak at a campaign lunch in Chico and attend a campaign dinner in Eureka.

DEADLINE AHEAD

* Today and Tuesday are the final two days for Californians to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election. Registration officially closes at midnight Tuesday. Anyone who voted in the June primary is automatically registered for the general election. Anyone who has moved since he or she last voted needs to re-register under the new address.

NOTABLE QUOTE

"He'll vote when he gets around to it.

"He hasn't had to fight for it.

"It's always been there.

"If there's extra time. Later. Next Year.

"Later might just be too late."

--From the poem "Later," by Carina Joy Bender, a Rio Americano High School student in Sacramento, published in the official California ballot pamphlet.

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