Excessive funding affects perception of candidate

Sara Kleopfer
Managing Editor

For a state seemingly drowned in debt, California proves itself a big financial player once again as Meg Whitman, Republican nominee for governor, lives up to the Golden State standard.
The billionaire and former eBay CEO set a new record for personal spending on a U.S. political campaign — $119 million. She pushed herself into first place by giving her campaign an additional $15 million last week, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Voters may wonder why she needs to add funds to a seemingly endless account, but her money is quickly being gobbled up by her publicity bill. Whitman spent $71 million to defeat millionaire state Treasurer Steve Poizner in the primary. The rest has gone to advertising, including an iPhone app that lets supporters donate money and a cable TV ad allowing viewers to order bumper stickers straight from their remote.
Whitman has gathered $24 million from wealthy friends, unlike previous record holder, Michael Bloomberg, fellow billionaire and New York City Mayor, who rejected donations. Whitman claims that self-funding allows her to act independently, not beholden to the interests of backers, but by accepting this money she indicates otherwise.
Bloomberg spent $109 million to get re-elected last year. His financial self-sufficiency gave citizens the confidence to vote to amend New York City’s term limits law, allowing him a third term. It is hard to imagine Whitman receiving the same support when voters are aware that she is indebted to her rich comrades and their leanings.
Whitman’s spending also acts as a defense against the $12 million provided by union groups attacking her. Her opponent Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown has relied mostly on donations for his campaign, only spending about $28 million. However, Brown did not have serious competition in the primary. He owns a precious commodity Whitman can’t buy — brand-recognition. Brown has spent most of his 72 years in politics, serving as governor from 1975-83 and running for president three times.
Brown’s experience is in direct contrast to Whitman’s, who admits to rarely even voting in the last 28 years. Her lack of political involvement only adds to the impression that she is simply attempting to buy the governor’s office. Some could argue that by dedicating her personal funds to California, Whitman is showing she cares about the state’s future. However, if she really cared she would have voted for its leaders.
If Whitman wins this election, the public could be led to believe it takes a king’s ransom to run for governor. What happened to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”? If the state cabinet becomes a billionaires’ club, the interests of the Average Joe could go unnoticed.
Already Whitman plans to scale back state spending, eliminate 40,000 state jobs, reduce pension benefits and cut the welfare system. These actions affect the average working Californian in ways the über-rich cannot relate to. Whitman may know how to spend money, but she may not know how to save California’s.

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