Politics

Meg Whitman Spends $119 Million: Biggest Self-Funded Campaign

| by OpenSecrets

Money-in-politics news of the day: Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, former eBay chief executive and the Great Right Hope of California Republicans, has spent more of her own money on a political

race than anyone in U.S. history, including billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent $108 million on his reelection efforts last year.

What you probably don't know: Whitman's self-financed spending total -- $119 million and counting -- utterly dwarfs that of any self-funded candidate who's competed at the federal level, running either for a congressional seat or the presidency.

At the federal level, presidential candidate Ross Perot, pictured, remains the self-financing record holder, having poured more than $63.5 million of his own cash into a bid that earned him about 20 percent of the national popular vote, zero electoral votes and a third-place finish behind Democrat Bill Clinton and incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush.

In 2000, John Corzine spent more than $60 million to win a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey. But in 2008, cash couldn't help him, either, when he failed to win re-election, this time as New Jersey's governor, an office he initially won in 2006.

See a pattern? Indeed, self-financed federal-level candidates generally fare poorly.

Republican Mitt Romney, for example, invested more than $44.6 million into a 2008 presidential bid and didn't even win his party's nomination.

Same goes for Republican Steve Forbes, who poured a fortune into his 1996 presidential campaign, all for naught. He tried again in 2000 -- same money, same result.

Two federal-level candidates running this year already appear among the top 20 self-financers during the past 20 years -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon in Connecticut and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene in Florida.

Only McMahon still remains in her race. Greene, despite spending more than $14.4 million -- and when final reports are public, likely much more -- on his race, couldn't even advance out of his partisan primary, unceremoniously losing to Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.).

Below is a breakdown of the top 20 self-funded candidates at the federal level during the past two decades. You may download a spreadsheet of the top 100 by clicking here: topselffundersfed.xls  

 

 Candidate   Federal office sought   Party   Own money spent, $   Election year 

Perot, Ross
President
I
63,543,721
1992

Corzine, Jon S.
Senate (N.J.)
D
60,200,967
2000

Romney, Mitt
President
R
44,677,735
2008

Forbes, Steve
President
R
38,675,038
2000

Forbes, Steve
President
R
37,394,000
1996

Hull, Blair
Senate (Ill.)
D
28,658,890
2004

Huffington, Michael
Senate (Calif.)
R
28,382,385
1994

McMahon, Linda
Senate (Conn.)
R
22,082,070
2010

Lamont, Ned
Senate (Conn.)
D
16,975,678
2006

Greene, Jeff
Senate (Fla.)
D
14,418,388
2010

Maloof, Phillip James
House (N.M.)
D
12,645,170
1998

Ricketts, Pete
Senate (Neb.)
R
12,025,597
2006

Dayton, Mark
Senate (Minn.)
D
11,772,067
2000

Fitzgerald, Peter G.
Senate (Ill.)
R
11,726,986
1998

Pederson, Jim
Senate (Ariz.)
D
10,910,827
2006

Warner, Mark
Senate (Va.)
D
10,345,487
1996

Cantwell, Maria
Senate (Wash.)
D
10,331,911
2000

Issa, Darrell
Senate (Calif.)
R
9,469,565
1998

Perot, Ross
President
I
8,201,419
1996

Humphreys, James F.
House (W. Va.)
D
7,794,500
2002