Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Meg Whitman gets California (publicity machine) working again

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


Comments () | Archives (10)

The comments to this entry are closed.


I agree, Meg Whitman (for example) could have spent $30 million on having a Princeton college (and related faux-Cambridge buildings) named after her, which she could then have leveraged to get her son out of trouble...oh, wait--sorry she did that also.

And with approximately $900,000,000.00 left of her net worth, and considering that she is married to the foremost brain surgeon-oncologist in the world (currently at Stanford) who is no minimum wage earner either, I somehow doubt that the Megster is at risk of any diminution in her landed, horsey, ocean view acrage, mega-bucks life-style (let alone going broke) any time soon, not matter how many times she self-finances a futile run for the California Governor's chair.

Mitchell Young

Somebody's paying for all those anti-Whitman banner ads and TV spots -- a large amount of that funding must come from public employee unions. So in a sense California taxpayers are indirectly paying for the Brown campaign.


Methinks Mean-spirited Meg should have hired the best plastic surgeon in the world even before thinking about running for office. Being mean does not require looking mean.


I agree with Mitchell. I want my money back, and I also want a ride in my state worker neighbor's fancy new speedboat that I helped pay for. I like how you bring up ethical questions Dan. Maybe a better ethical question would be: Should we really keep spending incredible amounts of money on education (ie union teacher and admin salaries) and put up with some of the poorest performing students in the nation? Hmmmm. Get off your high horse and start getting real.

Jon Healey

@Mitchell -- Isn't that like saying Cali taxpayers' dollars are supporting illegal drugs because some state employees buy marijuana, or that Cali taxpayers' dollars are establishing religion because some state employees give money to their church?


@Jon Healey, great oversimplification. Money flows where money flows. He is pointing to the fact of the circle of corruption. The unions back the guy who promises to keep the gravy train rolling for them. Theirs no synergistic effect when a state employee buys drugs, the drug dealers then don't turn around and donate to the state worker retirement fund. Is it really that hard to understand? You must have come up in the California school system.


Come on Dan seriousley, your out of touch.

Jon Healey

@JohnP -- See http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2010/10/the-electoral-clout-of-public-employee-unions.html for my take on that topic. My point here was that in the river of dollars flowing to Jerry Brown's campaign, public employee unions' donations represent but one component -- just as public employees' drug purchases are but one component of the illegal drug trade.

The big donors to Brown's campaign are all listed here: http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1321867&session=2009&view=late1

There's no need to guess, as Mitchell does, where Brown's support is coming from. No knock on Mitchell, whom I greatly respect. But when the data is out there, why not use it?

Mitchell Young


That's why I put that wimpy 'in a sense' qualifier in there.
My main point was that Brown can be so frugal because the unions 'got his back'. Though no doubt Whitman outspent Brown and the unions combined by a large margin.

The real question is, will the K car be brought out of mothballs?

Anita Hynds

The state of California is the most industrial and commercial state. It is the one that pays more taxes than all the other states. Our Financial Crisis in California was caused because of the inappropriate disbursement of money. The state of California is nearing Bankruptcy.
At the present time Jerry Brown is the Attorney General of the State of California. In what way did he help? He probably knows a lot about Laws, but that is it.
Meg Whitman is specialized in Business Administration. Her Education, knowledge, experience, Discipline and honesty took her to succeed in her Business. That means that she also knows about creation, Administration and the right Distribution of work and money. It was very important for the State of California to have a person with all the qualifications that Mrs. Whitman has. It is sad that many people didn't know to appreciated to the most qualified person to help us to save California.
Anita Hynds



In Case You Missed It...



Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

In Case You Missed It...