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Meg Whitman gets California (publicity machine) working again

November 2, 2010 | 11:04 am

Whitman Billionaire Meg Whitman's record-breaking spending spree -- more than $140 million of her own money, plus an additional $20 million or so in contributions -- in what polls show may be a futile attempt to get elected governor of California raises a tricky ethical question. If you're going to blow $140 million, wouldn't it be better to spend it feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless, or maybe educating our state's struggling public-school kids?

Well, what about feeding our TV producers' kids? Whitman may not be much of a philanthropist, but she's a one-woman economic-stimulus program for California, or at least California's media industry. A breakdown of her astonishing spending by California Watch shows that she plowed a whopping $107 million into TV and radio advertising (and that's just her spending through Oct. 16; the final total will be higher). Meanwhile, lawyers and campaign consultants have to eat too. They've feasted well on Whitman, with her campaign workers raking in $5.9 million, consultants getting $11.7 million and her lawyers and accountants pigging out on $880,000. It's tough to get the super-wealthy to pry open their purses during tough times, but Whitman shows her commitment to getting California working again by shoveling cash at the white-collar political publicity machine. Disappointingly, though, she only spent a paltry $153,000 on print ads. Come on, Meg, couldn't you pile a little more mash in the L.A. Times' trough?

Democratic opponent Jerry Brown, meanwhile, has only spent a sixth as much as Whitman. His stinginess even applies to his own wife; while Whitman's campaign spent $1.3 million on "staff/spouse travel, lodging and meals," Brown spent $0. He also spent zip on "radio airtime and production costs" (compared with $5.5 million for Whitman), nada on phone banks ($550,000 for Whitman) and, most painful of all, nothing at all on print ads. That's not going to stuff any Thanksgiving turkeys for needy media professionals from San Diego to Eureka.

So as one of those media professionals, I give my thanks to Whitman. But not my vote.

-- Dan Turner

Photo: Meg Whitman. Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press

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