Meg Whitman sets record spending pace in campaign for governor

Republican Meg Whitman spent $27 million on her campaign for governor in the first 11 weeks of the year, setting a record-shattering pace with a prime-time television ad blitz to introduce herself to voters and attack her GOP opponent, according to a disclosure statement she filed Monday.

Whitman, the billionaire ex-chief of EBay, has spent $46 million since joining the race early last year, seven times more than either of her main rivals.

Steve Poizner, the Republican state insurance commissioner, has been punished incessantly by Whitman’s “Can’t Trust Steve” ads on shows such as “American Idol,” and lagged nearly 50 points behind her in last week’s Field Poll.

“Our campaign’s budget is designed for victory,” said Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds. “And we’re seeing positive results.”

Poizner spent $3 million for the reporting period that ran from Jan. 1 to March 17, but he has almost stopped raising money, collecting only $95,000. A former Silicon Valley entrepreneur who like Whitman has been pouring personal wealth into his campaign, Poizner began running television ads this month. But he’s had far fewer than Whitman and says he will wait until closer to the primary to unload a war chest of $14.9 million.

“We’ve focused much more on policy and grass-roots events,” said Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen. “Meg Whitman wants to make this election about money because she’s wrong on the issues.”

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, the likely Democratic nominee who has no serious primary challenger, has conserved his money. He has spent only $142,000 this year for a small staff, consultants and office expenses, his filing shows.

In an appeal to donors on his campaign website, Brown said the “spending binge to purchase California’s airwaves is shocking. . . . I need your help. The opposition has unlimited money to drown out those who disagree with them.”

Brown reported having $14 million in the bank after raising slightly more than $2 million this year. He raised $25,900 each, the maximum he can collect for the primary, from Los Angeles musician Herb Alpert, Alpert’s wife, Lani, and the L.A.-based Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Brown is a yoga fan.

The attorney general, who was recently videotaped exhorting union leaders to “attack” on his behalf, also received $25,900 each from unions representing pipe fitters, carpenters, sheet metal workers and other trades.

Democratic independent expenditure groups formed to help Brown have been hard-pressed for money. One sponsored by the Democratic Governors Assn. had received $200,000. A union-backed group, Level the Playing Field, raised $227,000, but campaign manager Sean Clegg said it expected another $200,000 this week from the painters union to pay for a TV ad with a caricature of Whitman called the “Meg-a-Tar.”

In the race for state attorney general, former Facebook executive Chris Kelly has a fundraising edge in the Democratic primary. He gave his campaign $4 million. He ended the reporting period with $3.4 million.

San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris brought in $413,900 this year and had a total of $1.3 million. Another contender, former Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, reported raising $124,500 this year and had $1.1 million. Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D- Santa Barbara) reported raising $36,100 this year and had $43,900 in the bank.

Republican Steve Cooley, district attorney of Los Angeles County, reported raising $395,900, with $297,200 still in the bank. Sen. Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) had $239,900 in the bank.

The race to see who will be California’s next lieutenant governor has generated a new frenzy of fundraising and, in one case, some deep campaign debt, candidates reported Monday. Tapping into the power of the Internet has allowed San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to build a competitive war chest for his campaign even though he announced his candidacy March 12.

Thanks to contributions that poured in through the web-based fundraising site ActBlue, Newsom reported raising $267,200 with $255,500 left in the bank. He raised more than twice as much this year as the other leading Democratic contender, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who brought in $105,400. Hahn reported $263,800 in her campaign account.

On the Republican side, Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) reported raising $173,900 this year and having $73,400 in the bank. But Maldonado has spent $615,000 this year, much of it on mailers, and had $514,400 in unpaid bills.

Sen. Sam Aanestad of Grass Valley reported raising $89,400 and having $28,300 on hand.

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