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Whitman's big win came at a price: $76 per vote

So that’s what a $114 million governor’s primary looks like.

Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO-turned-Republican-warhorse, spent an astonishing $76 per vote to wrest the nomination from state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a California Watch analysis shows.

Flickr photo by Cali12345

Poizner, beaten two to one, spent $63 per vote to come in second.

Meanwhile, the lone Democrat, Attorney General and former Gov. Jerry Brown, faced only token opposition, and got the nomination on the cheap. Brown spent less than 50 cents per vote. He actually got more votes than Whitman, and spent only a penny for every dollar she pumped into the race.

Who made out from that long, bitter, expensive GOP campaign?

Perhaps California voters were better informed as a result of the barrage of information fired at them in TV spots, many of them extraordinarily hard-edged.

But there’s no doubt the campaign was a bonanza for the state’s TV stations and for the battalions of campaign consultants, direct mail firms, pollsters and fundraisers.

Below is a combined look at spending from the primary – the top cateories that the candidates spent their money on. It’s compiled from secretary of state data, from the beginning of the campaign through May 22, the last pre-election reporting date:

TV OR CABLE AIRTIME AND PRODUCTION COSTS

57,203,930.74

CAMPAIGN CONSULTANTS

11,085,653.21

CAMPAIGN LITERATURE AND MAILINGS

5,795,248.73

RADIO AIRTIME AND PRODUCTION COSTS

5,490,699.02

CAMPAIGN WORKERS SALARIES

5,253,488.30

PRINT ADS

4,247,724.00

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY COSTS (INTERNET, E-MAIL)

2,994,030.05

OFFICE EXPENSES

2,706,689.32

STAFF/SPOUSE TRAVEL, LODGING AND MEALS

2,643,529.76

POLLING AND SURVEY RESEARCH

1,254,627.05

MEETINGS AND APPEARANCES

1,108,086.88

FUNDRAISING EVENTS

1,028,538.47

Ordinary campaign finance analysis didn’t mean much in this primary. By and large, donors sat it out, while the GOP candidates spent down their fortunes.

Whitman spent $79.4 million through May 22, the last day for which reports were available. That was triple Poizner’s outlay.

For the 492 days in which she campaigned, Whitman’s daily burn rate was $161,000. Down the stretch, from May 1 through May 22, she spent more than $6.1 million, or $281,000 per day.

At the rate she was spending, Whitman likely pumped an additional $4.8 million into her campaign in its final 17 days, for total spending in the neighborhood of $84.2 million. The final report is due in July.

Poizner spent $23.6 million through May 22, one third of what Whitman spent, records show. Knowing he was overmatched, Poizner clutched the purse strings until late in the campaign. Then he went for it. For three weeks, from May 1 through May 22, he actually outspent Whitman by $1.2 million, laying out $7.3 million, or $332,000 per day. If he kept spending at that rate through election day, Poizner’s losing effort likely cost him $24.2 million.

Meanwhile, Brown coasted, spending $682,619 through May 22 to win the Democratic nomination. His burn rate since the beginning of 2009 was an economical $1,300 per day.

In a day, Brown spent about what Whitman spent in 10 minutes, on average. Overall, he likely spent about $730,000.

The vendor with the biggest billings? Virginia-based Smart Media Group, a political ad agency that booked Whitman’s television and radio spots. Smart Media billed $47.2 million.

The number two vendor was SSG Media of Washington, D.C., which performed the same service for Poizner. It billed $17.5 million. 

There were five other vendors that billed more than $1 million in the race. Four of them worked for Whitman: Tokoni Inc., a social networking concern ($3.8 million); Scott Howell & Co., a DC-based “strategic media firm” that touts ties to Karl Rove and the late Lee Atwater ($3.1 million); the Majority Strategies direct mail concern ($2.7 million); and Arena Communications, GOP political mail experts ($2.7 million). Poizner paid $1.4 million to Employers Resource, which handled his payroll.

By contrast, Brown paid $97,000 to Paychex, his campaign’s payroll firm. That was Brown’s biggest expense, and only slightly more than Whitman paid her top advance man, Edward Miyagishima.

Finally, some overview numbers:

 

Spent thru 5/22

Spent (est. tot)

VOTES

$/Vote

WHITMAN

79,483,648.86

84,263,939.16

1,101,528.00

$76.49

POIZNER

23,691,891.64

29,337,591.86

461,823.00

$63.52

BROWN

682,619.39

730,947.76

1,478,752.00

0.49

TOT

103,858,159.89

114,332,478.78

3,042,103.00

$37.58

Comments

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neumanco's picture
This is an obscene use of personal funds, but that is the way the system works...goodbye elective democracy.

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