Money Money Money!

Anthony Pignataro: Former eBay chief Meg Whitman spent $65.29 American per vote to win the Republican nomination for Governor of California. This is according a new report, Breaking the Bank, just put out by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. If that doesn’t seem like a lot of money, consider the fact that her opponent, current state Attorney General and former Governor Jerry Brown, spent a mere 38 cents per vote to win the Democratic Party’s nod.

The report looks at all gubernatorial primary elections since 1978. The conclusion: “(O)ver time, gubernatorial primary elections have become more costly and fewer people turnout at the polls.”

Whitman is what the FPPC considers a “self-funded candidate,” meaning that her own money fills the vast majority of her campaign coffers. The Commission concludes that it’s the rise of candidates like Whitman that’s making elections more expensive.

As for why few people are voting, that’s not really in the report, which is mostly a pretty detailed accounting of past primary elections. The implication is that the vast sums of cash rich candidates bring to the election turn people off, but that’s never explicitly said.

It’s also not stated why it would be intrinsically bad for a rich person to spend his her own money on a campaign, though the report does make clear that self-funded candidates should be extremely cautious before entering a governor’s race: Al Checchi ($70.21 per vote), Steve Westly ($45.29 per vote), Steve Poizner ($43.64 per vote) Jane Harmon ($29.59 per vote) and Bill Simon ($17.31 per vote) were all self-funded candidates running for California governor, and they all lost.

Posted: Sept. 3, 2010

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