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Wilson Criticized for Alien Maid

By Dan Balz
The Washington Post

California Gov. Pete Wilson came under fire from opponents Thursday for revelations that he and his former wife employed and failed to pay Social Security taxes for an undocumented housekeeper 16 years ago, but his aides said the episode would not deter him from making illegal immigration a key issue in his presidential campaign.

Wilson returned to Sacramento Thursday after a three-day trip to the East Coast, but for the second day did not respond in public to reporters' questions about the hiring of the part-time housekeeper. He is recovering from throat surgery.

But Wilson aides attempted to head off any criticism from rivals for the 1996 Republican nomination or from Democratic opponents by claiming that the governor had dealt forthrightly with a politically embarrassing revelation.

"The woods are full of politicians who try to bury things like this but, characteristically, Pete Wilson has taken it head-on," Craig Fuller, Wilson's campaign manager, said in a statement.

Wilson's other Republican rivals, quietly enjoying seeing Wilson squirm, decided not to comment on his situation.

The embarrassing revelation, coming two weeks before Wilson's formal entry into the 1996 race, could complicate his efforts to get his campaign moving forward. But his aides said illegal immigration would remain a centerpiece of Wilson's candidacy.

"Pete cannot allow himself to be distracted from representing the passions of people around the country (on the issue of) granting special favors for people who are here in violation of the law," said adviser Ken Khachigian. "That would be criminal. That would mean he's allowed himself to be silenced by criticism that is frankly not valid."

Another senior Republican, who asked not to be identified, said the fact that it wasn't illegal in the late 1970s to employ an undocumented worker and because the incident happened many years ago would minimize the impact.

In California, however, Democratic Party officials leaped on the revelation, even going so far as to ask Attorney General Janet Reno for a federal investigation.

"I really think this is an outrage to all the law-abiding citizens of the state of California," said California Democratic chairman Bill Press.