Dear Big Daddy,
What do you think of politics, money and the governor’s race this year?
–Jim in Encinitas
I know money is the mother’s milk of politics – everybody has a favorite cliché, and this is mine – but Meg Whitman has taken it to a new level. Move over Norton Simon, Al Checchi, Jane Harman, George Soros, Ron Burkle, Eli Broad, et al – there’s a new kid on the block. In fact, the new kid owns the block.
There’s nothing wrong with money, of course, although once you know how to make it you move on to other challenges. Like spending it, or like spending someone else’s money. There used to be a skit on a TV comedy show called, “How to spend mo’ money without spending yo’ money.” I always liked that. That was the joy of the treasurer’s office: spending and collecting money. Pure money. It was better than a good cigar.
But Whitman is spending her money. She’s spending it at the rate of $249 a minute, $20 million in a matter of weeks. Of the $47 million for her campaign kitty, $39 million came from her own wallet.
Oh, what I could have done with $39 million and a campaign to wage. You’d be calling me governor now.
Money won’t buy love – actually, maybe it does. But it can buy just about everything else including, apparently, the governor’s office.
I once told a reporter that I’d love to run for governor if they made it an appointed office, because I hated raising money for the campaign. I love money, I love earning it, I love spending it. But I hate asking other people for it.
Whitman, of course, doesn’t have that problem. She doesn’t have to get on her knees and beg for anything. And if she wins the general election, she will have bought the governor’s office. Of course, if Jerry Brown wins, he will have bought it, too – but with somebody else’s money, presumably labor’s.
So I guess the real question is does it matter which dollars buy the office, yours or somebody else’s?
Myself, I don’t buy the contention that a really wealthy candidate is beyond the reach of monied special interests – this was Schwarzenegger’s argument and you can see where that took us. And I don’t think that having a lot of money gives you enough self assurance to prevent you from trying to please everybody all the time – look at Steve Poizner. And I don’t even think that having a lot of money makes you a corporate creature – look at Brown.
Nope, I just think having a lot of money makes you different – Fitzgerald was right, Hemingway was wrong – and it gives you a different, more pleasant view of the world. It also lets you take vacations, and every good politician should be well-rested and tanned.
One question, though, is being answered: What’s the governorship worth on the open market to a candidate?
It looks like about $100 million, which is what I expect Whitman will spend.
That’s a bargain, considering that the governor runs the world’s 10th-largest economy, can appoint 1,700 judges, rules a state with 38 million people and is an automatic contender for president.
Buy it now….