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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)

No Mr. Lopez Your comments about Meg Whitmans spending are not likely to make us feel good. You seem to think we got a good deal with Jerry only spending $167 million. But that $167 million came from labor unions, so he was bought and pauid for. Meg's came from her own personal finances. So what's your beef and why should we be happy with Jerry's spending and rhe results.

California is heading for the trash and will soon be a second rate state ineducation, roads, housing and living conditions. The philosophy here is if you make money let the state take it and give it to others who aren't willing to lear or get an education or who are here illegally.

I'm outta here soon and others have already abandoned California and more will be leaving.

Another Win for the Dems and another Loss for California. So Steve tell me what's the difference between Meg who tried to buy the Governor's seat versus Jerry Brown who is propped up, bought and paid for by the UNIONS? The only difference is she was upfront about where the money came from...

Who cares? It's a problem if people receive donations because we assume politicians are being bought and will be beholden to special interests...yet it's also a problem if they finance a majority on their own? Which is it?

Besides, doesn't this show that money does not necessarily win an election?

The joke is on all of us because Whitman still has a $1.1 billion net worth. Maybe she'll start another business and employee lots of people...elsewhere, of course, because CA will continue to be an uninviting place to run a business--and it will only get worse now that AB 32 will be enacted.

Bravo, Steve!

Meg Whitman played like the New York Yankees, Jerry Brown, tossed from one government club to another, often eccentric, but always scraping together enough wins to gain respect, played like he were a San Francisco Giant. Jerry, the Giants and the state of California won over the last few nights.

Wow, she's not as smart as I thought. If she was willing to waste so much money on the election, I can't imagine her being much smarter with California's budget.

Every mexican that voted for brown will receive thousands in state aid. They got a better deal.

Meg Whitman lost because she gave very few if any specifics on how she would accomplish all these wonderful things she promised. When you announce that you will balance the budget, put people back to work, bring business back to the state and reduce taxes - but don't tell us how, it doesn't foster voter trust.

Sadly, we now have Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown back again. For those too young to remember Jerry, he was the one who did well as a fiscal conservative in his first term after Reagan retired, increasing the state surplus Reagan left to over $5 billion, but then later squandered it all after Prop 13 passed. Jerry is and always has been vehemently opposed to Prop 13 and will no doubt work against it and elderly homeowners this time too.

Who cares? It's her money she could give it all away for all I care. It's hers to do with as she pleases. The only ones complaining are the ones who aren't on the recieving end.

Meg Whitman lost because the majority of the population is a bunch of ignorant liberals who can't see past their hourly wage, and fails to understand that the wealthy entrpreneurs help to trickle down to the rest of us. This is coming from someone on the low end of a middle class secretary salary.

Who cares? It's her money she could give it all away for all I care. It's hers to do with as she pleases. The only ones complaining are the ones who aren't on the recieving end.

Get ready! All you California tax payers, jerry brown now elected Governor this means you will be paying allot more a in taxes to support all the people that stay home and don’t pull their weight and collect G.R.,walfare,ect.. In addition, illegal immigrants that that come here and probably never put a dime into the system and we tax payers get the short end of the stick (Well you voted for him,not me)

This just shows how dedicated she was to California and why she should have won!

She didn't spend $140 million of public money. She spent her own money. I don't care how anyone spends their own money. It's not right to blame rich people for having money to spend just because others don't have the same resources. What we should be proud of is the fact that the election wasn't bought. What we should be scared of is our new governor.

You can't buy love. You can't buy happiness. And for all those supposedly smart people like Meg Whitman and the Koch brothers, you can't buy the American people or their votes. California is thus one of the few places left in this increasingly benighted nation where common sense from the common man prevails.

You're neglecting to mention what the unions spent on Jerry Brown. Whatever, good night California. I would say sweet dreams California, but it won't be sweet dreams. You are going to wake from from your sleep thinking that you are having a nightmare. You will be. I guess the real nightmare will come for the unions, when the watch the bankruptcy courts cut their retirement pentions in half.

I believe that what really hurt most republicans in this election in California was the tea party. Even for the more moderate Republicans they were on the extreme right. I consider myself an independent I believe in the ideals of Republican less taxes, really who doesn't. The agenda of the tea party I could not back and especially once I saw Sara Palin who I have no respect for. asking about the our government is not a gotcha question. Oh and the last thing I want is someone who is like me running the country. I want someone with the intellect to be able to understand the complex issues that come with running a complex diverse economic and military power.

she trash talked, i did not vote for someone who does that. I like ebay though.

people need to relax, maybe go out for bob marley

I found her campaign expenditures appalling. Regardless if a person is independent, democratic, green, or republican, anybody that spends that much money will never get my vote. I would have rather seen her donate 3/4 of that to the state of California and then spend 1/4 on her campaign. Politicians take note, you want my vote? Donate the money to the state you are running in, cut down your campaign dollars and then I'll vote for you.

Nutmeg & Moonbeam were the two viable choices. California is doomed.

She obviously ran for Governor due to her ego....which i would say is pretty bruised since even her money could not get her into office.

It never fails to amaze me how dumb the liberal side of politics expresses itself.

Since we are beyond broke and many companies are moving in part or in whole, where are the billions going to come from to continue the Demo's spending spree?

Liberals, please explain where this money will come from???? Please!

You can't continue to tax, tax, tax and expect people to sit there and pay up... People will move and move their business. Where will the money come from????

Liberals, have you thought about that?

A $19 billion deficit and a pension system underfunded by 1/2 TRILLION....


1. Those that work at fast food restaurants?
2. Illegal immigrants?
3. College students?
4. The 12% plus of the unemployed?
5. The retired Government worker that gets $80-100k a year in pension funds?

Where is the money going to come from.... please explain!

Hey Steve:
Meg certainly did her part to support the media industry with her spending. I'm sure the content creators, printers, digital and traditional media outlets are thankful for the boost in revenue. See, that's how jobs are created in the real world.

The money she spent was an investment that failed. She would have stood to make many times her investment had she been elected. Now she is known much more widely and will profit from that. Not a loss at all, really. Cynical and amoral, but not a loss.

Why don't we count on how much Unions spent to elect Jerry Brown.

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