You don't have to take Chris Kelly's word for it: A study released this week by the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows that barely one in 10 candidates nationwide who largely finance their own campaigns actually went on to win an election between 2000 and 2009, despite spending nearly a combined $1 billion.
Naturally, self-funding is a big part of the election narrative this year, with wealthy candidates like Meg Whitman vowing to spend upwards of $150 million of her personal fortune to win the governor's job. Press reports for months have been peppered with tales of failed self-funders from years gone by: Al Checchi, Michael Huffington and Steve Westly, to name a few.
But the institute's research takes those anecdotes one step further. Looking at 75,000 state candidates across the country from the last decade, the study found that about 8 percent of candidates were primarily self-funded. Of those, just 11 percent – or 668 candidates – were elected to office.
In contrast, the study says candidates that were not self-financed but were the top fund-raisers in their race won 87 percent of their contests.
Perhaps owing to outsized ambition, it's more common for self-funders to seek statewide office than a legislative seat. Of the top 10 biggest self-funders, nine ran for governor and two were Californians: Steve Westly, who spent $35 million of his own money only to lose the Democratic primary in 2006, and Steve Poizner, who spent $14 million of his own money on his 2006 race for insurance commissioner, according to the study.