How eMeg Spends Money & Why Poizner Doesn’t


megauctionMeg Whitman’s people wrote another big check for another, retooled statewide radio ad this week, while Steve Poizner’s e-blasted a memo assuring supporters that his pathetic, single digit standing in the polls was no reason to tap his own big pile of filthy lucre just yet.

Poizner’s letter is posted over at Flashreport, while conservative yakker Eric Hogue has a a right-wing critique of it up at Hoguenews. In stream of skillful spin only slightly longer than the L.A. phone book, Poizner manager Jim Bognet tackles the key question bestirring some of his backers and puzzling the Calbuzz cognoscenti:

Why the hell hasn’t The Commish yet tapped his personal fortune to get his name out there, at a time when eMeg has already begun to build a sense of inevitability in the Republican primary race for governor?poizner

Proper timing is a central tenet of our plan. We understand that the general public is not paying attention to the 2010 governor’s race – and won’t be until a few months into next year. Californians are focused on raising their families and making ends meet in a difficult economy. While there are a few thousand insiders intently paying attention, the Poizner campaign is quietly progressing while keeping its focus, rather than expending excessive time, energy, and money on inside baseball . . .

Early and excessive spending by the Whitman campaign has had an impact on the polls. While this is to be expected, it is largely meaningless. With the primary still more than seven months away, multiple surveys confirm that the electorate hasn’t engaged and the overwhelming majority of voters are undecided. Whitman’s poll numbers ultimately reflect an increase in name identification, not lasting support. At this point in the race, Name ID means little. Just ask Jon Corzine.

Fair enough, but their whole the-race-starts-when-we-say-it-starts message strikes a lot of insiders,  Republicans and Democrats alike, as a short-sighted rationalization for giving eMeg a free shot at building the perception she’s the presumptive nominee while Single Digits Steve remains a virtual unknown.

radio_wavesPrime example: Whitman’s multi-million dollar investment in an ongoing, low-profile if costly, radio campaign — designed to boost her name ID and three-point platform of creating jobs, cutting spending and fixing education -– has been a shrewd bit of communications strategy.

Says Democratic consultant Bill Carrick of LA, one of the best in the business: “It operates to some degree under the radar. But in a state where people are in their cars one to three hours a day, if you stay with it long enough and spend enough, it has the potential to be very effective -– a sort of slow burn impact that can move voters. Every day, drip by drip, she’s communicating with voters.”

And while Team Poizner has expended energy on ginning up a debate about debates to capitalize on Chicken Meg’s fearful avoidance of nose-to-nose confrontations, her sustained radio campaign has kept her in the public ear, if not eye:

“It has allowed her to be visible while she’s still somewhat a candidate in training,” said Carrick.

On the other hand -– as we former editorial writers are wont to say -– eMeg’s spending is indeed as a thing of wonder. Its obscene magnitude, coupled with her let-them-eat-cake financial platform, may yet backfire in an economic atmosphere which isn’t going to find many presents under the tree this Christmas.

Check out the Secretary of State’s official reports for Margaret C. Whitman who has spent – your best Carl Sagan voice here – millions and millions. Already.

The spending report we looked at totals the first six months of 2009. Keeping in mind there’s millions of bucks worth of updating to do, consider that in the month of June alone, eMeg’s nut was $1,672,637.70.

Here’s some other six-month random numbers to ponder:

— $2,111,774.29 – Amount spent on consultants.
— $943,067.71 – Total for internet and online services.
— $462,642.44 – Dished out for campaign employee salaries.
— $430,723.32 – Thrown at polling and other research services.
— $102,076.71 – Amount spent on private aviation services.

(Trying to figure out exactly who’s getting paid what is a bit challenging, but it looks like among the consultants, Scott Howell has been getting $75,000 a month [maybe that includes commissions and/or fees?], Henry Gomez Gonzales was paid at $36,000 a month, SJZ consultants at $36,000, Jeff Randle at $27,500,  the Davis Group, Heuter and Associates, Strategy Co. and Mitch Zak, all at $20,000 a month.)

Of course, this was before eMeg hired media man Mike Murphy, who, you gotta guess, is gonna make some serious change off the campaign.

Among staffers –- and we sincerely hope we’re not stirring up a hornets’ nest here –- top pay was going to Tucker Bounds and Todd Cranney who appeared to be pulling down $15,000 a month, followed by Michael Saragosa at $12,500, Sara Myers at $12,000 and John Endert at $10,500. (The volcanic Sarah Pompei hadn’t signed on yet, along with several others.)

We gotta say we were a bit stung on behalf for our old colleague Mary Anne Ostromtolstoy from the San Jose Mercury News, sitting in the nosebleed seats at $7,166 a month.

For comparative purposes, consider this: Tom Campbell’s “Recipient Committee Campaign Statement” (tracking all income and expenditures) from 1-1-09 to 6-30-09 is 103 pages; Poizner’s is 256 pages and Whitman’s is a staggering 668 pages –- on track to match Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” by the end of the year.

Whether eMeg’s Queen Midas strategy proves far-sighted or folly will not be known, of course, until the results of the June primary are in. At this point, Team Poizner’s attack on her spending sounds suspiciously like whistling past the graveyard.

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