Dear Big Daddy,
What about Meg Whitman and her money?
–Envious in Eureka
You and me both, buddy. I could have ruled the world – or at least California – with $100 million in campaign cash. Heck, I almost did with hardly a fraction of that. Oh, what I could have done with $100 million. As Sam Spade said in the Maltese Falcon, “That’s a lot of dough!”
In politics, it always comes down to power, sex and money, and of the three, money is the most important. That’s because it buys the other two (to repeat: Oh what I could have done with $100 million). It shapes the race, scares people away and leases respectability.
Whitman has spent $90 million of her own money. Her campaign’s total price tag is about $100 million. She’s already spent five times what Jerry Brown has in the bank, and if you compare their spending, she’s on top by about 297-to-1. And we still have three months left, and she’s still got $50 million more to burn through – at least.
Those are great numbers – if you’re Whitman, her campaign manager, or a TV station ad department director. That’s more than the annual budgets of hundreds of California cities. That’s a little more than Capitol Weekly’s yearly ad take, more than Aaron Read’s quarterly operating nut, more than Bob White’s wine closet at Morton’s – combined.
As I once told a reporter, I’d love to be governor if they made it an appointed office. That’s because I hate fund-raising. I like touching money, I like spending it, I like passing it out among friends. I just hate raising it. I hate asking people for it. I may have lacked shame in most areas of my life, but when it came to begging for money, I felt smarmy before the handshake was over.
That’s why I’m so envious of Whitman. She has the joy of political cash with none of the work. She doesn’t have to ask anyone. It takes my breath way. What a pair we could have made! Jesse and Meg! Never mind that she’s taller than me. With all that money, no one would tell us to our faces that we look like Bert & Ernie. If there had been a Silicon Valley (or a Silicon anything) in my day, maybe I too would have dot-comed my way to viability on the big stage.
Of course, Big Daddy with a big campaign war chest would be like Big Daddy with a 31-inch waist. I didn’t need looks or money to get votes or dates. Sure, maybe if I’d been svelte and suave, I’d have been governor then president, an Elder Statesman with a statue of myself in every county in our state.
But then I wouldn’t have been me. And when it gets right down to it, I’d rather be remembered for a legislative lockdown, civil rights and consumer protection bills – and for dating outside my weight class. Heck, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
And at least I was never in danger of spending the most money ever on a losing effort.