In losing the 2010 governor’s race, Republican Meg Whitman set a record for political spending in a California election: Her campaign cost $178.5 million.
But Whitman’s losing campaign against Democrat Jerry Brown appears somewhat more economical in terms of dollars spent per vote obtained. Whitman paid about $43 for each of the 4.12 million votes she attracted.
Compare that with the recent electoral foray of San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, who was among 16 contenders in the 2011 contest for mayor of San Francisco.
In losing to appointed incumbent Ed Lee, Ting spent an astonishing $510.45 per vote, according to data compiled by the CitiReport political website. Ting finished 12th, spending more than $500,000 to win 1,013 votes – and seemingly setting a record for spending the most money per vote in a major election in California.
Ting’s record comes with an asterisk: 60 percent of the money he spent came not from political donors, but from local taxpayers via the city’s public campaign finance law.
This information comes from a series of analytic reports on San Francisco campaign finance issues by CitiReport's Oliver Luby. Working from public records, he calculated what he called “votes per dollar” for the 2011 municipal election.
“The results may be useful in evaluating the value of election propaganda and determining which campaigns had inherent popularity or grassroots strength,” Luby writes.