California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman moved one step closer this week to buying the state’s top office. On Monday, the former eBay executive set a U.S. record after she donated another $15 million from her own personal fortune, bringing her total investment to $119 million.
That puts her $10 million above the previous record-holder New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent $109 million in his 2009 re-election campaign. That equalled out to about $185 per vote.
And in Whitman’s case, we’re still less than two months away from election day in California.
Whitman’s answer to reporters was shamelessly honest: “It takes a lot of money to be competitive in California,” she told reporters, according to the LA Times. Whitman rationalizes her spending by pointing out the state’s biggest unions have backed challenger Jerry Brown.
“You are up against entrenched competitors. Jerry Brown has the best-known name in California politics,” she told reporters. “You can’t underestimate the union spending.”
Whitman also shouldn’t underestimate voters. Despite her massive campaign budget, she’s remained relatively tied with Brown in recent polls. On September 8, Rasmussen Reports found that Whitman only had a three point lead over Brown among likely voters in the state — a margin that was actually five points higher at the end of August. So it actually looks like as Whitman spends more money, the lead is shrinking.
Which shouldn’t be all that surprising when you look at what money can’t buy: good politics. So far the most visible impact of Whitman’s endless piggybank has been a slew of Brown-bashing TV ads. She’s remained fervently ant-gay and anti-immigrant in a state whose electorate is trending toward younger voters of color.