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.

    7

    Maybe she should have bought them polo shirts

    Former Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman reported yesterday that she had put another $2.6 million into her campaign on Election Day, Nov. 2, bringing her total personal investment to $144,175,806.11.

    The latest, not-yet-finalized ballot tally (updated last night) shows she got 3,930,138 votes. So, Whitman spent about $36.68 out of her own pocket, not counting other contributions to her campaign, for each general-election vote she ultimately received.

    FYI, if you Google $36.68, you find it’s the price for:

  • a book on wine-cellar design;
  • a pair of Lacoste shoes;
  • a Ralph Lauren polo shirt; or
  • a place in the history books as the woman who spent more out-of-pocket on her own political campaign than anyone else in American history, yet still lost even while her party did exceptionally well all across the rest of the nation.
  • Well, the last one’s not exactly on Google, but you get the picture.

    1

    Brown and Boxer get out the vote in Oakland

    Several hundred Bay Area Democrats chose to forego the start of the fifth game of the World Series this evening in favor of packing into a section of Oakland’s Jack London Square for a final get-out-the-vote rally with most of the Democratic slate of statewide candidates.

    Cynthia Rapak, 62, of San Francisco, wore a Giants cap as a sign of her torn allegiances; she said she wanted Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown “to see that I’ll make the ultimate sacrifice.”

    “The Giants might win tonight, but civic duty comes first – I always vote,” said the retired Oakland Unified School District teacher, noting she believes the campaign’s endgame bodes well for Brown. “Meg went 11 places, and Jerry is 72 and he went to 12. He talked about civic dialogue and she talked about managing; she doesn’t have a clue.”

    She and the rest of the crowd heard from Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for attorney general; Dave Jones, the Democratic nominee for insurance commissioner; John Chiang, the incumbent state controller; and Debra Bowen, the incumbent secretary of state before the top of the ticket began to take the stage: incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. By then it was the bottom of the fifth inning, but the cheering, sign-waving crowd no longer seemed to mind.

    “You’re the key to sending me back to fight for the middle class, to fight for jobs … to fight against the special interests,” Boxer said, exhorting the crowd to get everyone they know to the polls tomorrow.

    Then, backdropped by Port of Oakland cargo cranes and a Bay sunset, Brown took the podium and thanked the Democratic slate for “making this a real team victory. We’ll win tomorrow, we’ll win for you.”

    He noted the crisply uniformed Oakland Military Institute students lining the back of the stage, and said the Democrats’ goal is to make sure all California students have the resources and opportunities they need to achieve solid educations.

    “Victory brings even more challenges – in fact, the campaign is a piece of cake (compared) to fixing the budget,” he said. “I didn’t make this mess, but I sure want to fix it.”

    Just as Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman has claimed in her ads, California was working well when she arrived her 30 years ago, he said – and he was governor at the time. “And you know what? It’s going to start working again for everybody.”

    In a final jab at his opponent, he directed supporters seeking details of his platform to his campaign website. “Whitman’s plan is mostly pictures, but I have more respect for you,” he said.

    And then, by partway through the top of the sixth inning, it was over.

    1

    Meg Whitman rallies her troops in Burbank

    Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman made what she said was her 63rd campaign visit to Los Angeles County on Sunday with a get-out-the-vote rally at the Burbank Marriott. Several hundred local supporters packed into the hotel’s conference center for a glimpse of the candidate, who bounded onto the stage after a live band and several other GOP ticket members had warmed up the crowd.

    Meg Whitman in Burbank 10-31-2010 -- photo by Josh Richman“So, just a couple of days out until Nov. 2, and you know what? We’re going to win this!” she said with unusual intensity, adding internal polls and some public polls show the race for the governor’s office in a dead heat.

    “I like to think of this as two more days before a lot of really good things start happening,” Whitman said, vowing to pursue job creation and – in a nod to the Burbank area’s major industry – a focus on not losing a single entertainment job.

    She said she’s “a proven job creator” as opposed to “my opponent, who has been a part of the war on jobs in Sacramento for 40 years.”

    Whitman said former Gov. Gray Davis, who earlier was chief of staff to Jerry Brown while he was governor, recently said Brown will probably try to raise taxes to balance the budget – something she again vowed never to do. And, she said, there are rumors circulating that Brown would pick Davis to head his transition team; this brought a chorus of boos from the audience.

    Whitman said she wants to turn around K-12 education. “It is not OK that so many of our kids are in failing schools” with high dropout rates, she said, adding that her goal is to restore California to its place at the top of the nation’s school systems.

    Brown “has no prayer of ever fixing the school system” because he’s supported by California Teachers Association bosses, she said, promising to take those union bosses on and put more money into classrooms to support good teachers.

    “We have a chance to make history here, don’t we?” she said, a chance to “start the process of real change to take back this state for our children and our grandchildren.”

    And, she added, a chance to elect California’s first woman governor.

    “Who has the power in this election? You do. The people of the state of California are going to decide this,” Whitman said, calling Tuesday’s vote “a battle for the soul of California.”

    “Our problems are tough, aren’t they? But so am I.”

    Whitman was accompanied to the Burbank rally by Mike Villines, the Republican nominee for insurance commissioner; Mimi Walters, the Republican nominee for state treasurer; and Tony Strickland, the Republican nominee for state controller. Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, served as emcee.

    From Burbank, Whitman was headed to the Santa Barbara area for a “Halloween-themed” campaign event at the home of Tom Deardorff, president of Deardorff Family Farms. On Monday, she’ll be in Menlo Park, Woodland Hills, Orange County and San Diego.

    Queen Meg in Burbank 10-31-2010 -- photo by Josh RichmanShe may be campaigning right up until the polls close on Tuesday, but for “Queen Meg” – the mocking, matronly monarch created by the California Nurses Association to stalk the candidate – today was the swan song.

    A CNA contingent led by the tiara-topped royal made a brief appearance outside the Burbank Marriott, where Whitman supporters were lining up for a rally with the candidate. Waving union signs, they chanted, “Hey Meg Whitman, get out of our town, so much money and you’re still 10 points down” as the bogus candidate yelled about being beset by the riff-raff and so on.

    Another person in a skeleton cavorted around Queen Meg – a skeleton from her closet, as it were; Queen Meg demanded its deportation.

    CNA has mounted the Queen Meg campaign to underscore its contention that Whitman’s policies would disproportionately harm California’s women and children – particularly her plan to eliminate the state’s capital gains tax, a $5 billion hit to the state’s revenue that the union says would come out of education and health-care funding.

    6

    Canciamilla: Burton doesn’t speak for all Dems

    Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg, accompanied Republican incumbent Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado to his campaign stop this afternoon in Walnut Creek. Per my article, he explained that serving with Maldonado in the Assembly convinced him that Maldonado is truly interested in working across the political aisle, and is a straight shooter who means what he says.

    Canciamilla and Maldonado 10-29-10 -- photo by Josh RichmanCanciamilla said that’s why other moderate Democratic former lawmakers like John Dutra of Fremont and Joe Nation of San Rafael are on Maldonado’s side, too.

    That reminded me of what happened last week when Dutra, now an independent, was named the head of a Democratic and independent voter coalition supporting Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman: California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton unleashed his legendary ire.

    “John (Dutra) is a nice guy, but if that’s the best she can do, her campaign is in more trouble than I think it is,” Burton had said at the time, noting Dutra finished third in a three-way Democratic primary for state Senate and since had abandoned the party.

    So I asked Canciamilla if he was prepared to brave Burton’s raging rhetoric himself, and he replied with some of his own.

    “I respect John but I think the years of drugs and alcohol have taken their toll,” Canciamilla said. “He doesn’t speak for all Democrats, and the extremes are entitled to their opinion but they shouldn’t be allowed to be the dominant voices in the debate.”

    UPDATE @ 4:15 P.M.: While we’re on the subject of cross-party endorsements, Democrat Gavin Newsom‘s campaign sent out an advisory a few minutes ago announcing his endorsement for lieutenant governor by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican. “Running a city requires creativity and a commitment to solutions that work, regardless of their ideological origins,” Bloomberg said in the news release. “Mayor Newsom has demonstrated a dedication to innovative policies that protect the environment, improve the city’s education system, and create jobs. Gavin Newsom will bring this commitment to making government work for its citizens to Sacramento.”

    8

    Whitman would save millions from her tax cut

    Continuing a meme that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown started during the debate last week, his supporters released a memo today estimating that Republican nominee Meg Whitman would see personal savings of between $8.2 million and $41.2 million over a four-year gubernatorial term if she keeps her promise to eliminate the state’s capital gains tax.

    Brown had asked Whitman – the billionaire former eBay CEO – during their Oct. 12 debate at Dominican University of California in San Rafael how much her tax plan would benefit her own finances; she didn’t answer, and hasn’t released an estimate since. Today’s memo was prepared and released by California Tax Reform Association Executive Director Lenny Goldberg.

    Whitman says eliminating the tax will stimulate investment, leading to job creation. Democrats say it would blow an even bigger hole in the already-shredded state budget while mostly benefiting the very rich, with no guarantee of an economic benefit.

    “Meg Whitman has millions to gain, but we have everything else to lose,” California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski told reporters on a conference call.

    He said eliminating the capital gains tax would reduce state revenues by $4.5 billion per year, with each dollar lost bringing “a decrease in the quality of life for Californians:” failing schools, reduced college admissions, shortages of police and firefighters, crumbling infrastructure, struggling seniors and disabled, and reduced or no child care, all without creating jobs.

    Pulaski and Goldberg repeated their calls for Whitman to release her tax records so estimates such as theirs wouldn’t be necessary.

    State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, agreed the memo underscores Democrats’ contention that Whitman offers “a one-sided solution to our budget problem – it is to enrich the rich and cut from children and the poor.”

    California saw faster economic growth than the rest of the nation from 2000 through 2007 even with the capital gains tax in place, said University of California, Berkeley Economics Professor Michael Reich, while other states such as Texas have outperformed California in recovering from this recession because they weren’t as hard hit by foreclosures.

    Whitman’s campaign issued a statement saying leading economists are on her side.

    “Having closely studied the issue, Meg Whitman’s proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax in California will spur investment and create jobs. As a whole, Meg’s economic policies of streamlining regulation and implementing targeted tax cuts are crucial in getting our economy moving again and getting Californians back to work,” Hoover Institute Senior Fellow John Taylor – an economic advisor to governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson, as well as to presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush – said in the campaign’s statement.

    But Reich said California investors have diversified national and international portfolios, and so their reinvestment wouldn’t benefit the Golden State’s economy all that much. He also said millionaires haven’t been leaving California in any measurable way due to taxes, and so it’s unlikely any would return if the tax was eliminated.