Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Will Meg spend $30 million to buy the California legislature?

I found this San Francisco Chronicle story last week, and it is just fascinating. Republican candidate Meg Whitman has already spent over $100 million in her bid to purchase the California governors mansion. Why not spend another $30 million to purchase the California legislature as well? From the San Francisco Chronicle:

California Republicans are buzzing about the possibility that billionaire gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman - who has spent nearly $100 million of her own money on her campaign - could be preparing another unprecedented personal investment in her political future: a $30 million-plus infusion into the state party.

The Chronicle has obtained a draft of a detailed 44-page state GOP "2010 Victory Plan" that outlines the party's $85.5 million financial blueprint for a campaign effort that includes $30 million directed to the gubernatorial race.

The former eBay CEO is "putting a significant amount of money in ... it could be $30 to $40 million," said a GOP insider familiar with the plan. The source said Whitman is also expected to tap her fundraising sources and contacts for the party's benefit.

Whitman's potential $30 million in contributions was confirmed by prominent state Republicans, who spoke on condition that they would not be named for publication.

But Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds strongly denied the notion.

"No secret document or anonymous source you have is credible in this because Meg is not writing the $30 million check," he said. "It's simple. Meg is planning to help solicit outside contributions to the party and working tirelessly to defeat the status quo in Sacramento. That's the plan and it isn't a secret."

Moreover, Whitman campaign officials insisted the candidate is planning no sizeable contributions to the state GOP.

First thought is that I don't think "Governor" Whitman would have a clue as to how to work with the state legislature, which is controlled by the Democrats. Instead of finding common ground with the legislature that can provide compromises, I'd say that Whitman would rather shove whatever her agenda is down the legislature's throats. Of course, I've seen this behavior before with Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. The result has been a constant bickering between the Governator and the legislature (And I'm sure the state legislature is just as responsible as the Governator regarding the nasty fights that have taken place in Sacramento). Ironically, both Schwarzenegger and the legislature's poll numbers are in the garbage can. According to this Field Poll, Governor Schwarzenegger's approval ratings are at an all-time low of 22 percent--plunging from an all-time high of 65 percent in 2004. What is more, Schwarzenegger's poll numbers are now at the same level of his predecessor, Gray Davis, when the Governator jumped in the recall election ring to replace Davis. The state legislature's approval poll numbers are even lower than the Governator's, at around 16 percent.

So what does this mean for Meg Whitman? I'm thinking that the Whitman campaign has studied the Schwarzenegger administration, and has decided that since they can't work with a Democratic legislature, they might as well buy a Republican legislature into office. As the CEO of eBay, I can see Whitman using the forcefulness of her personality to get things done her way--eBay was her company. I just can't see Whitman succeeding in forcing the Democratic legislature bending towards her agenda. Instead, we would see four more years of bickering and gridlock. When I look at Meg Whitman's campaign, I see a completely controlled, fully scripted, almost corporate marketing campaign that has spent $100 million to promote its product of Meg Whitman. That is it. Whitman has consistently refused to answer tough press questions on her policy agenda. Meg Whitman has become the Invisible Candidate. Will she also become the Invisible Governor, pushing whatever agenda she has that the California voters have no clue about, since the Corporate Whitman Marketing Campaign has pushed their view of who Governor Whitman is? I can't say.

Hence, we've got this speculation that Meg Whitman will be buying the California legislature to the GOP for a price of $30 million. If the Invisible Candidate becomes the Invisible Governor, and the California legislature switches to the Republicans as a result of Whitman's $130 million-plus investment, then I guess we'll have the best political system that money can buy in California. And the Invisible Governor would have the perfect platform to shove whatever her agenda is, down California's throat. That is scary.

The second thought I have about this story is the Whitman campaign's denial that the Invisible Candidate will actually spend $30 million to the state GOP coffers. Perhaps it is true, and Whitman will not be spending her own money to help state Republican candidates win office. But somehow, I don't believe it. There are a couple of reasons here. First, Whitman has spent over $100 million of her own money in this campaign--and we've got four months to go before the election. Can you say Whitman will spend another $100 million in the general election on negative advertising to defeat Jerry Brown? Because that is all I see on the television now, and I'm expecting it will get even worst as November rolls around. Meg Whitman is spending so much money to influence California politics towards her advantage--what is another $30 million to influence the legislature, if she gets elected? Second, Whitman campaign spokespeople are denying these claims. I want the Invisible Candidate to come out and speak on this issue to reporters. Of course, Meg Whitman will never speak to reporters on any issues. And third, I think there may be a backlash brewing on how much of her money Meg Whitman has spend on her campaign. The more of her money the Invisible Candidate spends of her political campaign, the greater the negative speculation is of Whitman attempting to purchase the governor's office. Perhaps the Whitman campaign doesn't care how much money Meg spends on herself. But if the story of Whitman spending $30 million to help Republican candidates win seats in the legislature has any truth to it, then is Whitman trying to purchase the California government for the Republican Party? I know that Democratic voters would cringe at that thought, but how would independent and non-partisan voters feel about Meg buying a state government for the GOP?

Talk about another scary thought. More to come.

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