A book could be written about what Meg Whitman doesn’t know about government, the public sector in general and most specifically, public education. But the fact is that she wants the governor’s office and is willing to buy, lie and pander to get it. Unfortunately for Ms. Whitman, the price seems to keep rising. Maybe it’s pressure from Jerry Brown, or perhaps just a desire to overwhelm Californians with media blitz, but whatever the case, billionaire Whitman upped the ante on Friday by adding another $13 million in personal funds to her campaign chest.
Whitman, who has said that she’s willing to spend up to $150 million to buy the top seat in California’s government, has invested $104 million to date. Still $5.2 million short of the self-funding record set by Michael Bloomberg, she is outspending her Democratic opponent at a dramatic rate. Although Jerry Brown has accumulated $24 million in campaign funds, his spending to date is a miserly $700,000.
Some in the Brown camp are concerned about his frugal ways, and believe that he should jump center ring and grapple in the Whitman-financed mud wrestling. Many Brown supporters are concerned that Whitman’s continuous half-truth and distortion based assault may cause irreversible damage. They cite instances like her present illegitimate attempt to associate Brown’s record as Oakland’s mayor with the pension and pay scandals in Bell, CA as evidence that she must be rebutted. They argue that Brown needs to respond to Whitman’s blatant distortions, like her treating as fact, claims made by a fired city controller that City of Oakland employees were paid for thousands of hours that were not worked.
Other Brown supporters find comfort in the fact that even Whitman’s own consultants know that, despite all the money they’re spending, she’s not making any real progress. They contend that there’s plenty of time to explain that crime did not increase in Oakland under Brown, or how the tax increases she blames on Brown were actually approved by 70% of voters. They argue that she may have oversaturated the media with her abundant ads, and that the prudent tack may well be to let her continue the negative campaigning. So, for now, the Brown campaign is waiting and watching Whitman spend her millions, all the while revealing herself as the out-of-touch, mudslinging, wealthy panderer she is.
But just who Meg Whitman is may be a bit difficult to determine. She’s flip-flopped back and forth on offshore drilling, so her position likely depends on when it’s rendered. Her position on immigration is even more ephemeral, seeming to be tailored to whatever she thinks the current audience wants to hear: when interviewed on American Morning News this past July 28, Whitman stated that Arizona’s SB1070 should stand, but her Spanish language media ads that ran earlier said that she was opposed to the Arizona law.
The truth of the matter is that anyone who doesn’t question Whitman’s character must be either ignorant, in denial or as unscrupulous as she. And one does not have to look far for answers. Even at eBay, Whitman’s record was tarnished with claims of dishonesty, where she resigned her post there under charges of insider trading brought by her own shareholders. She denies the allegations, but admits to making money from “spinning” — an activity since rendered explicitly illegal by the SEC. The suit brought by eBay shareholders was settled and along with the others charged, Whitman paid $3 million.
Meg Whitman has a plan for California, but voters need to beware that Meg does what benefits Meg. In large part, she stands for what California stands against and vice versa. She is strongly against Prop-19; she’s neutral on Prop-23, which is sponsored by two Texas Oil giants, but she supports a suspension of AB32, which would have a similar effect in lifting pollution standards. While at Goldman Sachs, she was even a big supporter of the huge bonuses for which Wall Street is now infamous.
In the final analysis, Meg Whitman is a billionaire, and she’s not likely to change her mega-wealthy patterns of behavior — like hiding profits in the Cayman Islands — just because she becomes Governor of California. She’s used to getting what she wants, and she wants to run this state. The trouble is that from the perspective of an average Californian, she’s likely to run it straight into the ground.