7

Trying to get a grip on Meg Whitman’s bankroll

$144.2 million. That’s what 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman spent out of her own pocket on her failed campaign; the campaign’s total spending was $178.5 million when all was said and done, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday.

Chew on it for a second. $144.2 million. Gaaaaah! Cannot… contextualize. Maybe it’s because I live on a reporter’s salary – which was never great, and actually has gotten smaller in recent years – but I’m fascinated by the concept of being able to lay out that kind of money for anything. I’m dwelling on it. It’s probably not healthy.

I did a quick turn around the Interwebs to see what $144.2 million means in other contexts. That amount is also:

  • the entire government spending of the Federated States of Micronesia for 2005.
  • the adjusted sale price of Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (sold in 2006 for $135 million to billionaire businessman Ronald Lauder)
  • Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I - Meg could've bought this.

  • the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2009 lobbying costs, the highest yearly lobbying expense ever reported
  • the amount appropriated by Congress in the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 to buy airport screening equipment for checked and carry-on baggage
  • the gross box-office take of Eddie Murphy’s “Dr. Doolittle
  • No, I’m still not feeling it. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be able to imagine $144.2 million in, and then out of, my pocket. Maybe it’s easier to visualize $34.93, which is what Whitman paid out of pocket for each vote she eventually got in November’s general election. $34.93 could buy you a pair of boots, or a computer daypack, or a knife-compass-and-spark-striker survival tool combo, or a yoga mat, or a pair of horse bookends.

    Aaaahhhh, that’s it – sweet, sweet context. A pair of horse bookends each for 4,127,391 voters.

    That’s about the same number of people as the combined populations of New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii, by the way.

    Josh Richman

    Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

    • John W

      It’s not like she mortgaged the family farm to run. When you’ve got a portfolio of $2-3 billion and can generate $100 million a year or so in investment returns without breaking a sweat, spending $144 million to be queen of California is no big deal, even if you lose. You make it all back in a couple of years. It’s the equivalent of one of us commoners going to the casino and dropping a thousand or so.

    • Elwood

      Lord, I’d like to get a grip on her bankroll!

      But only her bankroll.

    • Josh Richman

      John W: When I go to the casino, I’m the guy who still looks for the $3 blackjack tables.

    • John W

      Josh, you’re a bigger gambler than me. Haven’t been in a casino since company-paid trips and junkets to LV and Reno stopped. Used to go through a roll of quarters at the slots and quit.

    • Kathy Schrenk

      This may be my favorite post of yours ever. I love stuff like this.