Mike Murphy, the chief strategist for Meg Whitman — yes, the same consultant who was listed under Bonaparte Films in Whitman’s spending report who’s been paid $495,582 since coming on board on Nov. 25 — says the media have it all wrong in our collective gasp over Whitman’s record $46 million spending spree.
His point is that for a state as large as California, the money Whitman has spent on advertising so far — about $28 million total — is not so far out of line when you index it by the number of registered voters.
Murphy pulled together an interesting chart showing that, for instance, Tom Daschle’s Senate campaign’s $20.3 million expenditure in 2004 in puny South Dakota was far in excess of what Whitman has spent, at $40 per registered voter. In contrast, Whitman has spent $2.72 per registered voter so far.
Others ahead of Whitman in per registered voter expenditures were John Thune ($30.59) in the same 2004 Senate race in South Dakota; Steve Poizner ($30.54) in his 2006 Assembly race; Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($24.34) in 2009; Al Franken ($8.89) in his Minnesota Senate race in 1008; and Senate Leader Harry Reid ($4.67) in 2004.
“While we are obviously a very well funded campaign, California is also a very big state and very expensive to campaign across,” Murphy wrote in an email. “For all the conventional wisdom about voters being bombed with ads at around $2 per voter, the average California voter has seen a pretty average number of ads for a political campaign so far.”
His point, he said, was that the contention that the large spending numbers have created “some massive onslaught on the voters … just isn’t true.”
At any rate, he said, “we make no apologies for spending enough to put our message out. Especially against incumbent office holders with taxpayer funded staff and power(ful) special interests on their side.”
That all may be true, but the simple fact is that we’re not even in April and Whitman has already shattered spending records for a gubernatorial race in California. And she doesn’t intend to slow down the cash flow.
A footnote on how Whitman listed Murphy in her spending reports. First, you had to put it together that Bonaparte Films was Murphy’s consulting firm. Fine. But you may not have thought much of his presence from Whitman’s first spending report covering 2009, filed on Feb. 2. Bonaparte Films got a relatively modest sum of $57,975 for a little more than a month’s work.
Once the report was filed, though, Whitman cut a $250,000 check to Murphy on Jan. 7. Was she just trying to hold off the day that we would see how extravagant her pay to one of her top consultants was? Murphy seems to have settled into a $90,000 per month arrangement since the New Year, which means that by the end of the campaign, he’ll have made a cool $1.5 million for his services.
That’s not much, if you index it by registered voters.