Murphy: $46 million isn’t as much as it sounds like in a state like California

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.

Steven Harmon

  • To elect a true conservative for Governor of California in 2010 vote for Larry Naritelli. He will govern with a constitutional value and will earn your vote with his views and positions in plain sight. Unlike his competitor Meg Whitman who is trying to buy your vote. If you let your vote be bought, we will end up with 4 more years of a progressive “governator-like” California leadership again. Don’t be fooled by the media again.

    Larry will earn your vote learn more about him at http://www.larrynaritelli2010.com

    VOTE for Larry Naritelli for Governor of California in 2010.

  • whinenomore

    Gee, the same argument can be made for the size of the public workforce (3rd from the bottom nationwide), the size of pension and healthcare liabilities relative to the population, etc. So see Meg, it’s not a big deal. It’s all relative to the size of the state.

  • Drew

    If ever there has been a strong case/ example for PUBLICLY FUNDED ELECTIONS, this Whitman thing is IT. I’m sick of the democratic process being a financial contest instead of a process for and of the people. Under public funding, the candidates all get an equal amount of air time, debate time and publicity budget. This is common in most other western nations. The people actually have the opportunity to make their choice from an even playing field and the candidates must rely on ability, rather than money, to achieve office.

  • Has anyone examined the interesting fact that Ms. Whitman made her fortune running a company that systematically cheats state and local entities of sales tax revenues? E-bay, which began as a barter site with individuals doing auctions, has not turned into a marketplace for businesses that sell their items through the site and don’t charge for or remit sales taxes to cash-strapped states like California.

    The growth of e-commerce, while liberating and game-changing has led to substantial drops in sales tax revenue. True, you and I, as e-commerce purchasers, are supposed to pay states use taxes (the equivalent of the sales tax) on items we buy online. But aside from goods that need to be registered (i.e. motor vehicles, boats), the state has now way of knowing what we’ve bought so it’s strictly honor system.

  • Allen Payton

    George – Then I applaud Meg. The less $ going to gov’t the better. That leaves more money in the hands of the people to grow the economy – you know, part of that thing called freedom!

    Plus – hopefully – it forces gov’t to spend our tax dollars on the highest priority items and to become more efficient.

  • Allen Payton

    Drew, when was the last time you contributed financially to the candidates you support? Perhaps you do. But only 5% of Americans do.
    Remember that almost all U.S. Senators were millionaires before being elected to the Senate.
    Besides, the richest, self-funded candidates don’t always win. Look at Michael Huffington and John Edwards, for example.
    That’s part of our freedom in America, to spend our own money – pretty much – how we want, including promoting ourselves in a political campaign.