The race for governor of California has proved one thing: money can buy votes.
After lagging heavily in the polls behind her Republican and Democratic opponents, former EBay chief Meg Whitman paid $27.2 million between Jan. 1 and March 17 to businesses and people. In that time, she doubled her lead over Republican opponent Steve Poizner and made a narrow one over Democrat Jerry Brown, according to a poll from last week.
Broken down over time, that comes down to $249 a minute in campaign spending. But that’s only for the last two and a half months. Overall, Whitman has spent $46 million, the most ever for a candidate in a statewide California primary.
Almost all of the money came directly from Whitman, who made billions running popular auction site EBay. Almost $21 million went to television and radio ads that Whitman began airing last fall.
One cable TV gimmick allowed watchers to order Whitman’s bumper sticker using their remote controls.
“We’re running a campaign that is designed to get our message out, that is designed to reach voters by all different kinds of media,” Whitman said at a Sacramento campaign stop Tuesday. “And then of course I’m traveling the state. . . . It’s a six-day-a-week job, and we will have the resources that are required to get all the way through.”
Unsurprisingly, fellow GOP hopeful Piozner has begun criticizing Whitman for her enormous spending.
“She’s clearly trying to buy the election,” Poizner said. “We’ve concentrated our funds here at the end. We’re going to be very aggressive now.”
Poizner said the deluge of advertising is “overkill,” and will ultimately backfire against Whitman.
“You can’t swing a dead cat in California without hitting a Meg Whitman ad. They’re everywhere – in every medium,” said political strategist Patrick Dorinson of Sacramento. “But you wonder if, at some point, people will say: I’ve had enough. Is this going to go on for three more months?”
Democrat Jerry Brown isn’t happy either, and said Whitman is destroying the democratic process.
“She has … outspent me 190 to 1,” Brown told KCRA 3. “What is my reaction? I don’t think it’s democratic. I think it’s corrupting the political process. It’s buying the airwaves, and it is really hostile to the notion of people-to-people democracy.”
Whitman defended her spending and said she will use her personal fortune if she has to. She added that she has only $4 million left.
“Jerry Brown’s been in politics for 40 years here,” Whitman said. “He is a formidable opponent. So, we’re actually running two races at the same time right now.”