Statewide candidates and ballot measures who ended up on the wrong side of Tuesday's election spent nearly a quarter billion dollars on their failed election bids, including at least $15 million on campaign consultants and more than $120 million on ad spending, state and federal campaign records show.
Last week, the Center for Responsive Politics estimated that candidate and independent spending on federal elections alone could exceed $4 billion this year – more than was spent during the 2000 presidential election.
Here in California, the biggest winners among the losers have been media buyers, campaign consultants and signature-gathering firms. In all, at least 17 firms were paid $1 million or more for working on losing efforts. It's worth noting that media-buyers, who top the list, typically pass most of that money through to television and radio stations to purchase advertising.
|SMART MEDIA GROUP||$109,739,465.90|
|GREENSTRIPE MEDIA, INC.||$9,304,200|
|GCW MEDIA SERVICES||$7,381,443|
|MAJORITY STRATEGIES, INC.||$5,455,869.73|
|NATIONAL PETITION MANAGEMENT, INC.||$4,808,290.98|
|SCOTT HOWELL & COMPANY, INC.||$4,571,399.64|
|KIMBALL PETITION MANAGEMENT INC.||$2,821,085.73|
|WINNER & MANDABACH CAMPAIGNS||$2,203,917.23|
|MASTERTON & WRIGHT||$1,693,590.27|
|KIMBALL PETITION MANAGEMENT, INC.||$1,587,363.82|
|BONAPARTE FILMS LLC||$1,145,999.06|
|INTUITIVE TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS||$1,057,610.31|
|BELL, MCANDREWS & HILTACHK, LLP||$1,007,312.12|
The figures we analyzed are conservative because they only include expenses through mid-October – not in the closing days of the election season, when many campaigns deployed the brunt of their resources.
Not surprisingly, many of the largest payouts went to the consulting team behind gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. The $109 million-plus she spent on ad buys through DC-based Smart Media Group accounted for nearly half of the money spent on all losing statewide bids combined (not including the attorney general's race, which is still too close to call).
Lead campaign consultant Mike Murphy made off with more than $1.1 million through his company, Bonaparte Films. Whitman also invested at least another $1 million in Murphy's company when she was trying to entice him to join her campaign.
Majority Strategies, a consulting company known for direct mail services, took in more than $5 million from Whitman. Dallas-based consultants Scott Howell & Co. made more than $4.5 million from Whitman, and direct mail firm Arena Communications got $5 million of their own. Our own Lance Williams put together a detailed breakdown of Whitman's spending earlier this week.
California has a long history of spectacularly expensive failures on the ballot.
Until Whitman, the priciest losing campaign in California was Al Checchi, the Northwest Airlines mogul who ran for governor in 1998 in the Democratic primary – unloading $40 million from his considerable fortune. He placed second, with about 12 percent of the vote.
As the San Diego Union-Tribune noted recently, self-financed campaigns are almost never successful. In fact, there have been 20 major self-financed candidates since 1964 (including author Gore Vidal, who ran for U.S. Senate from California in 1982), and all but one lost their campaign. The lone winner was Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.
And as we noted on Election Day, only two of the top self-funded federal candidates this cycle actually won: Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Scott Rigell of Virginia.
|Party||Candidate||Office Sought||Status||Total Raised||Self Funding||Outcome|
|R||Linda McMahon (R-Conn.)||Senate||Open Seat||$46,682,270||$46,600,161||Lost General|
|D||Jeff Greene (D-Fla.)||Senate||Open Seat||$23,807,119||$23,788,077||Lost Primary|
|D||Steve Pagliuca (D-Mass.)||Senate||Open Seat||$8,382,210||$7,590,643||Lost Special|
|R||Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)||Senate||Challenger||$10,644,295||$6,764,184||Won General|
|R||William H. Binnie (R-NH.)||Senate||Open Seat||$7,839,343||$6,587,594||Lost Primary|
|R||Carly Fiorina (R-Calif.)||Senate||Challenger||$17,888,405||$5,511,080||Lost General|
|R||John R Raese (R-W.Va.)||Senate||Open Seat||$6,236,354||$4,660,113||Lost General|
|R||George S. Flinn Jr (R-Tenn.)||House||Open Seat||$3,728,353||$3,500,000||Lost Primary|
|R||Scott Rigell (R-Va.)||House||Challenger||$3,709,674||$2,424,364||Won General|
|D||Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.)||House||Challenger||$3,761,064||$2,284,033||Lost General|
Compared to some of the Golden State's high-priced initiative failures, the roughly $44 million spent on losing ballot measure campaigns this fall was relatively modest.
In 2006, real estate heir and Hollywood producer Stephen Bing famously spent nearly $50 million on a failed initiative, Proposition 87, which would have taxed oil companies to invest in alternative fuels.
In total, the “Yes on Prop. 87” campaign spent about $62 million, but it was overshadowed by a tsumani of cash from oil companies. The opposition campaign unloaded $94 million – making the combined spending on Prop. 87 the single most expensive losing initiative campaign in state history.
Still, signature-gathering firms made millions. National Petition Management, Inc., one of the country's largest signature-gathering firms, made more than $4.8 million working to qualify at least four ultimately failed ballot measure campaigns: Props. 23, 24, 25 and 27. Kimball Petition Management also walked away with more than $4.4 million.
In addition to the $44 million spent on losing ballot measures and the roughly $160 million spent by Whitman, candidates spent about $5 million on other losing statewide races, including lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, controller and superintendent of public instruction.
Fiorina had spent about $16.6 million through mid-October, according to the Federal Election Commission. Records from the Fair Political Practices Commission show that independent expenditure committees spent $5.9 million on losing statewide campaigns and another $2.5 million supporting Whitman for governor.
Check out the totals below. In some cases, committees were formed to take positions on multiple propositions, so some a few ballot measure expenses might be counted more than once.
|Meg Whitman (Governor)||$160,092,822.40|
|Carly Fiorina (Senate)||$16,664,055|
|No on 25||$12,446,595.16|
|Yes on 24||$11,194,744.68|
|Yes on 23||$6,346,813.92|
|Yes on 21||$4,557,496.79|
|Yes on 27||$4,651,441.10|
|Yes on 19||$2,233,620.50|
|Abel Maldonado (Lt. Governor)||$1,488,726.63|
|Mike Villines (Insurance Commissioner)||$1,367,712.42|
|No on 26||$1,700,991.17|
|Tony Strickland (Controller)||$1,182,02|
|No on 22||$938,358.43|
|Mimi Walters (Treasurer)||$831,620.93|
|Damon Dunn (Secretary of State)||$489,410.26|
|Larry Aceves (Superintendent of Public Instruction)||$393|
|No on 20||$42,020.08|