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Steve Lopez: Meg Whitman spent $50 for each vote she got. Is that an outrageous extravagance?



If you want to find something to feel good about in Tuesday's election results, look to the fact that money isn't everything.

As of Oct. 16, according to the secretary of state's office, Meg Whitman spent almost $107 million on TV and radio advertising to Jerry Brown's $21 million.

She spent $11.7 million on campaign consultants to Brown's $167,000.

She spent $10.5 million on campaign literature and mailings to Brown's $2.5 million.

She spent $5.9 million on campaign worker salaries to Brown's $157,000.

She spent $2.3 million on office expenses to Brown's $132,000.

Total expenditures? Whitman spent six times as much, or $160 million -- $141 million of it her own -- to Brown's $24.8 million.

You'd think the former EBay exec would know a good deal when she sees one, but she ended up paying roughly $50 for each of her 3 million-plus votes, and got trounced.

Maybe it wasn't too bright, after all, to outspend Brown by more than six times while trying to cast herself as a cost-cutter and Brown as a big spender.

But did Whitman lose because voters were turned off by her outrageous extravagance at a time when unemployment is in double-digits? Or did she lose because she didn't have the goods on policy?

I'd say both things did her in, as did her cold-fish personality and the revelation that as a student, she had apparently skipped classes on both civics and suffrage, having gone decades without stepping inside a polling booth.

But I say Whitman would have done much better if she had explained how exactly she intended to fire 40,000 state employees while growing the economy, improving schools and slashing spending. If she'd made any of it seem even remotely realistic, she might even have won, no matter how much cash she set fire to.

Don't you think?

-- Steve Lopez

Photos: Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (291)

Hey, Stevie baby, you sound like you are sad YOU don't have the millions in the bank that she does! Get off you hobby horse and face reality.... Just how much did Obama and the dems spend to get that schmuck elected? A whole bunch. I don't see you complaining about that. And it is her right as a citizen to blow as much $$$ as she wants on an election. Or perhaps you missed civics class where the constitution, ya know the thing we fought a war for, was discussed. You left wing brain dead moron socialists turn absolutely GREEN WITH ENVY at anyone who has a buck left in their pocket after the dems have tried to tax them into oblivion. Get a life. Every last one of you so-called journalists on the Times bleeds BLUE.

It's really very simple why she lost. You can spend all the money you want, but you are never going to get one vote from any public employee by suggesting government pull in its horns. And you're going to get very few votes from Hispanics by suggesting its a good idea to be tough in immigration. So unless you do what Jerry Brown did, promise to open the purse strings to Hispanics and government employees, your dead meat in California. Solution? If you have money, move to out of state before you get taxed and regulated to death. If you don't, get a government job and take as much as you can before the whole infrastructure implodes.

Not if you count the welfare and medical benefits that illegal aliens are paid to vote Democrat. Not too expensive at all.

To everyone who brings up Brown's union connections.... Meg sold herself to the police union and she still couldn't get elected. I hope Jerry adjusts the pension process for police officers and fireman....two groups who need to be treated like the rest of us.

Meg Whitman touted her business experience to show she was better fit to govern than Jerry Brown
So Meg spent 6 times more than Jerry Brown, ran 6 times more ads, hired 6 times more consultants, and ran up 6 times more office expenses than Jerry...and lost the election by double digits.
What happened? They were neck and neck for most of the months leading up to the campaign.

The answer could be partly her inexperience and partly because she began spending and attacking Jerry months before election time.
Jerry, who was unable to match her decided wisely to hold off until the last minute...counting that voters would ignore political ads until the very end.

His decision proved to be the right one. Not only did he conserve his war chest till the battle began in earnest but the David Vs Goliath image was not lost on California voters.

Jerry outsmarted Meg.
And he deserves to win.

Meg's 'campaign consultants ' and other professional staffers saw a sucker coming a mile away and milked her for every dime, all the while poo-pooing the polls and encouraging Whitman to pump more and more cash into a futile effort to capture the state's highest office from a platform of not even having voted for most of the preceding three decades. What did she get for her money? Recycled speeches, ads so lacking in integrity that her popularity was driven into the ground like a pile driver, and bad, bad, bad advice.

There is a reason that Edmond G. "Pat" Brown was so successful at what he did (politics) and his son grew up living and breathing it, then was elected to two terms as Governor himself, like his dad Attorney General, and other campaigns along the way--some successful and some not.

It was like an amateur batting against a hall of famer in the world series because she paid big bucks for the opportunity with equally predictable results.

Which is a good thing, because Meg Whitman was transparently motivated by vanity and cares nothing about others--unlike the Governor elect, who has demonstrated a commitment to public service over a lifetime.

All’s well that ends well, but Whitman was (not doubt) told what she wanted to hear and in the process robbed.

Steve, it was her money to spend the way she wanted, as you spend your money the way you want. Everyone has that right, and that is the way it is. You were telling the property owners to spend their money on the parcel tax because you made the decision they should.

Poor Meg just did not know that SEIU can deliver/print/count over 5 million non-existent votes per election. If she is smart, she would move out of CA.
Jerry and Gov Union will set new tax rate of 30%. This is what we need to pay good pensions for all government employees.

The true outrage is that only 25% who could voted.

Hi Steve How much money as an extravagance have California Taxpayers paid for Polic and School Unions, who both havent done anything except Bankrupt the State Economy?

No "Buy it Now" option in Ca

I'm certainly glad she lost. It's disgusting to think that anyone believes their cash qualifies them to do anything useful. Would you hire a well-to-do plumber as your next brain surgeon? Would you hire the CEO of General Motors (with no special training) to fly the airplane on your next coast-to-coast flight? That's what Meg wanted us to do. Hire a total rookie to do a professional's job. Good riddance, I say (and I hope she learns a lesson).

People like to dump on career politicians, and they do have their downsides. Their upside is that they've spent a lifetime learning to do the job we're hiring them to do. Isn't that what you'd look for in hiring anyone to do ANY other job?

Meg Whitman's trouncing encourages me to hope that, unlike the rest of the nation, the people of California can't be fooled all of the time.

ow reveal the millions the Unions spent on Jerry Brown's campaign. Money I might add that was the Union members' dues and the Union members did not vote to endorse Brown. Let's be fair and not catty.

"Good Luck when this state is completely down the toilet.", wrote one commentator earlier. I have news for you, this state has been in the toilet since Prop 13, and all your darling conservative govs since then have been able to accomplish nothing. But at least they had some prior political experience. Thencomes Arnold whose only political experience is having voted and being married to a Kennedy (which is TOO weird) and Meg. As much as I disliked Arnold, at least he voted in some elections before running for the highest office in a state that is ranked the 8th largest economy in the world. If all you conservatives don't like it when the liberals gloat a little,tough toenails.

Man...am i in the wrong business!!! I gotta run for something and get the Feds, state and taxpayers to float me some of that serious coin!!!Win. lose or draw..i would have a whale of a time buyin'n'spendin'!!!

In the final analysis NutMeg Whitman has now become the poster child of election failure for the Republican party in California politics. The lesson is clearly apparent. She applied the big business principle of a hostile takeover to a state that can't be bought, proving that even billions of dollars can't guarantee intelligence or success in the political arena for a party hack and neophyte like her.

This should serve as a lesson for future billionaires/multimillionaires who want to buy the election with their own fortunes. It does not work in California. Al Checchi tried it way before NutMeg did. We saw what happened. Another annoying billionaire egomaniac--Ross Perot--tried it on the national scene. Hmm, what happened to his effort?

Have you looked at how much local career politicians, right here in L.A., spend on our own low-turnout elections?

In the 2009 Mayoral election, Villaraigosa spent over $3.383 million, and received 152,613 votes, which works out to $22 per vote.

P.S. Villaraigosa's closest competitor -- yours truly -- spent $294,673 and got 71,937 votes, which works out to just over $4 per vote.

So Villaraigosa spent 11 times more money, but avoided a run-off by just 5.6% of the vote -- just 15,494 votes.

Well Kimber, as a third generation Mexican American I am surprised to learn that I only speak Spanish, this is quite a revealation to me and I am sure to other individuals of Mexican ethnicity. Ms. Whitman reached to high, she totally lacked experience and if she wanted to be in politics she should have started at the local level. Besides, she lied too many times and got caught, minorities are not stupid, they know a phony when they see one.

The only consistent winners in any election are the local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. They're pulling in money hand over fist for those terribly annoying ads. Money well spent...

Just give me the fifty bucks, I still wouldn't have voted for her, but my spending the money would have helped the state's economy far more than her spending did.

Your comparison is flawed. Jerry Brown got lots of help (unions) so he didn't directly spend, his supporters did. Meg spent pretty much her own money. I would bet Jerry actually got more "spent" in terms of total monies spent towards the campaign.

Hey Steve -- I'm still waiting for the LA Times to present their plan to eliminate the racial inequalities in marijuana enforcement in Los Angeles.

They promised their readers in their editorial that there was a "better way" to eliminate this racial inequality than by passing Prop. 19.

Now that Prop. 19 has failed, it's time for the LA Times editors to present their plan.

Where is this "better way"?

Exactly how and when do they plan to eliminate this racial inequality that causes blacks to be arrested for marijuana at 7 times the rate of whites in Los Angeles?

Steve, maybe you can talk to them and tell us when this plan is going to be presented to the public.

Being a billionaire and one-time member of Goldman Sachs board of directors didn't help. Fat-cat billionaires are no one's favorite people these days.

I think she got scammed by her "advisors", too. I was getting 3 pieces of Meg mail a day for a week. That's obvious ridiculous overspending. She was getting taken by the people she hired. And if she's that gullible to campaign "advisors", and that extravagant with her own money, how easy would she have been to fool as governor? And how extravagant with other people's money?

"did Whitman lose because voters were turned off by her outrageous extravagance at a time when unemployment is in double-digits?"

Either she keeps the money in her bank account, or spends them in her campaign and create jobs in certain sectors of the economy. $141 million paid rent/mortgages for many and put food on many people's table. So what seems to be the problem?

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