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Trying to get a grip on Meg Whitman’s bankroll

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 at 11:56 am in 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Meg Whitman.

$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.

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    • 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.