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Steve Poizner accuses Meg Whitman of 'criminal' campaign tactics

February 1, 2010 | 12:02 pm
Political reporters were lured to Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner’s office Monday with the promise of a “major announcement” from his campaign.

The speculation began to swirl. Was Poizner dropping out of the race? Was he finally going to unveil radio or television ads to counter his main rival, former EBay CEO Meg Whitman?

Nope. He was there to accuse Whitman, and her campaign, of criminal politics.

Poizner said an e-mail from Whitman's campaign strategist, Mike Murphy, was a violation of California political ethics and state and federal law.

“Is there anything we can do to get SP to reconsider this race?” Murphy wrote. “I hate the idea of us each spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a damaged nominee. And we can spend $40 million+ tearing up a guy with great future statewide potential.”

Murphy wrote, "We could unite [the] entire [Republican] Party behind Steve right now to build a serious race against" Dianne Feinstein in 2012. Murphy noted 2012 "could be a strong GOP year and DiFi will be 78 or 79 years old."

Poizner said the e-mail amounted to a criminal threat. At the news conference Monday, Poizner said he “identified a variety of state and federal laws that may have been violated” and that he wants the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office and the California attorney general to get involved.

“They’re trying to cancel the election, effectively,” Poizner said. “This is an attempt to effectively manipulate the elections process.”

Whitman’s campaign laughed off the accusations but did not have an immediate formal comment.

-- Anthony York and Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento