Spending mounts in state races


Reporting from Sacramento

GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman was spending more each day on her campaign by early summer than her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, had spent all year, according to disclosure statements filed with the state Monday.

The reports, which cover the candidates’ expenditures in the five-week period ending June 30, show that Whitman spent $19.7 million in that short span, or $531,378 per day — most of it after the June 8 primary election. Brown, who had no major opposition in the primary, has spent $377,000 since the beginning of the year.

The Republican, who has spent nearly $100 million since launching her campaign, poured millions into TV and radio ads to attack her Democratic opponent and, after winning the nomination, to moderate the conservative image she projected in her primary effort. Her campaign also made extensive use of charter airplanes, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in bills.

Brown, meanwhile, continued to husband his resources and run a shoestring operation, flying on Southwest Airlines and getting a friend to donate janitorial services.

And while billionaire Whitman has dug deep into her own pockets, giving $23 million to her campaign in the reporting period, she also outpaced Brown in raising money directly from others. But he has benefited from more than $5.5 million spent by labor unions that organized separate groups to attack Whitman in addition to making direct donations to his coffers.

The disclosures challenge the narratives that both campaigns have used heading into the general election.

In Brown’s case, the benefits he reaps from organized labor undermine the grass-roots image he has tried to cultivate. Whitman’s campaign seized on that fact after the reports were released.

“Unlike Jerry Brown, who has entrenched union interests spending millions to run a shadow campaign on his behalf, Meg doesn’t owe anyone anything,” said spokeswoman Sarah Pompei.

In Whitman’s case, her campaign had expressed confidence that she could use her resources to define herself — and Brown — before he started spending heavily, building enough support early on to overcome the registration advantage that Democrats have in California. But opinion polls show the race in a dead heat, causing some observers to wonder whether Whitman already has hit the point of diminishing returns.

“She may have hit a saturation point,” said Bruce Cain, a political scientist at UC Berkeley. “It’s possible this is the unusual challenger who has put herself in the role of the incumbent. Voters may know more about Meg than Jerry at this point.”

Whatever the polls show, Steven Glazer, Brown’s campaign manager, said his boss will have the resources to be competitive. Brown has $23 million on hand.

“Meg Whitman is trying to use massive amounts of money and advertising to cover up her history of not voting and not caring about public affairs,” Glazer said in a statement.

Whitman has $10.3 million in the bank. She collected $3.3 million in the reporting period from donors including tycoons and business contacts she met in her years at EBay, on the board of directors of Goldman Sachs and at other top companies.

At least five of them have been on Forbes magazine’s past list of California billionaires: Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo! Inc.; Eli Broad, the Los Angeles philanthropist; A. Jerrold Perenchio, the former head of Univision; Thomas Siebel, the founder of Siebel Systems; and William Barron Hilton, the hotel and casino magnate.

Brown has benefited from the largess of public employee unions: The Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers are two of his biggest contributors, giving nearly $300,000 combined during the period.

Labor in general contributed at least $588,000 of the $2.6 million that Brown took in during the reporting period; other big donors included DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, architect Frank Gehry, William Randolph Hearst III and two Indian tribes.

The two candidates’ treasuries dwarf those in down-ballot contests.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, holds a significant financial advantage over Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, with more than $450,000 on hand as of June 30. Maldonado owed $150,000 more in unpaid bills than he had in his depleted campaign chest. Newsom outraised Maldonado by $200,000 during the reporting period.

In the attorney general race, Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley spent $1.7 million, but the Republican nominee was $50,000 in the red at end of June. The Democratic nominee, San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris, had just under $180,000 in cash after accounting for debts.

Initiative campaigns also reported the state of their finances Monday, although the major contributions expected to fund the costliest proposition wars have yet to fully materialize.

Two committees backing a hot-button November initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana, Proposition 19, had only a combined $130,000 on hand. A group backed by police and prosecutors opposing the measure reported $7,600 in available cash.

The oil industry backers of Proposition 23, a measure that would suspend California’s global warming law, reported being roughly $580,000 in the red on June 30. But few expect the well-heeled businesses supporting the suspension, who have spent $3.5 million already this year, to keep their wallets closed come fall.

Opponents of the measure reported $1 million in cash on June 30. Venture capitalist Thomas Steyer contributed an additional $2.5 million in July, according to campaign reports filed since then.