Whitman’s spending nears $100 million in CA gov race

Holly Bailey

With three months to go before Election Day, Meg Whitman is super close to breaking Michael Bloomberg's record for a self-funding candidate. According to a report filed Monday, the California Republican has spent $99.7 million on her quest to be the state's next governor—and $91 million of that was Whitman's own money. In 2009, Bloomberg spent more than $109 million of his own cash on his New York City mayoral re-election—a record Whitman seems likely to break well before November.

Between May 23 and June 30—the latest reporting period—Whitman spent nearly $20 million and ended up the month with $10.3 million in the bank. By comparison, Jerry Brown, her Democratic opponent, has spent $633,205 since January and ended up June with $23 million cash on hand. In fairness, some of Whitman's spending was on the GOP primary, which she won on June 9th. And Brown has yet to spend money on pricey things like statewide TV ad buys—but that's mainly because others are spending for him.

Whitman has been the focus of a barrage of attack ads from several pro-Brown groups, including California Working Families, a coalition of unions we wrote about last month after spotting a few anti-John McCain ads in the race. According to filings, the group has spent about $4 million on TV ads attacking Whitman in recent weeks. That's a generous gift to Brown's campaign, given statewide advertising in the state averages about $1.5 million to $2 million a week. Of course, at Whtiman's dollars and pace, that's about two or three days of spending for her campaign, which spent an average $500,000 a day during the last quarter.

The big unknown is how much Whitman is ultimately willing to spend on the race.  If she continues spending at the current pace, we could be looking at a $160 million campaign--an amount that surpasses any total ever spent on a gubernatorial election. In fact, it's nearly on par with a presidential campaign--at least before 2008, anyway.