Possible California gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly was warned Tuesday not to run for the office again by some women's rights activists, including Gloria Steinem and Eve Ensler, who alleged he sought leniency for a colleague accused of domestic violence.
Steinem, the feminist co-founder of Ms. Magazine, and Ensler, the Tony-award winning playwright of "The Vagina Monologues," were joined in an open letter to Westly by Beverly Upton, executive director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium.
Westly, the former state controller and wealthy venture capitalist who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006, recently told the Sacramento Bee that he had made a mistake regarding a domestic violence case against Gurbaksh Chahal, founder of the advertising firm RadiumOne.
Chahal was accused of hitting his girlfriend 100 times during one half-hour period. The Wall Street Journal reported in September that Westly, who was on the company's board, sent an email indicating that former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, an attorney, knew the San Francisco district attorney and "may be able to 'back him off.'"
Westly, a Democrat, also said in an email to Chahal that Brown's request for $1 million to make the case go away was "probably worth it if he can make it happen. I suspect he will pull out all the stops to get this done," the Journal reported.
Chahal originally faced 45 felony charges but ended the case by pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges after a judge tossed out security camera footage of the incident as inadmissible. The company board later fired Chahal.
An attorney for Chahal could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Steinem and Ensler said in their letter to Westly that they were "deeply disturbed," to read about his efforts "to protect a violent domestic abuser from facing judgment."
"When the abuser got off with a slap on the wrist after getting the video evidence thrown out of court, you celebrated the 'good news' and sent him a personal note exclaiming 'Huge Congratulations!'" the women wrote.
"Let us be perfectly clear -- your work defending this violent abuser in order to personally profit disqualifies you from any public office," they added. "Your actions are unforgivable and we will not sit idly by while you campaign as a Democrat. If you choose to run, we will make sure voters know the facts. We ask that you reconsider your plans to run for governor."
In a statement, Westly said "the RadiumOne board and I did the right thing to remove the CEO."
"I stand by my record on women's issues and take the issue of domestic violence particularly seriously," Westly added. "That is why my wife and I created a foundation that has a 10-year track record of supporting groups that help women and children who have been affected by domestic violence."