In her Republican primary victory in the governor's race, Meg Whitman spent $71 million of her own money.
Steve Poizner spent $25 million of his own money in losing to Whitman.
And the pay-to-play scenario isn't just happening on the state level. Eleventh Congressional District candidates Brad Goehring of Clements and Elizabeth Emken, among others, also poured major money into their campaigns.
That raises the question: Can a candidate wage a successful campaign without pouring in some of their own cash? A look at candidates in the 11th District indicates that you need money, one way or the other.
You either have to get money from your own party or from individual and corporate contributors. Otherwise, you have to pay for it yourself.
"Well it certainly takes money, and you have to have that to win," said Goehring, who sought the 11th Congressional District's Republican nomination. "I don't think there's any distinction whether it's from contributors or your own. Money is money."
Goehring, who lost to David Harmer in the June primary, loaned his campaign money several times — as much as $425,000 as of June 30, according to campaign disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission. He's been able to pay himself back for some of his expenses, but Goehring's still out more than $150,000, money he says he will never see again. Sometimes, the money comes from the candidate
Money, whether it be in the form of campaign contributions or a candidate's personal funds, is needed to hire a campaign manager and accountant, purchase advertising, stamps to mail campaign materials and other expenses, Goehring said.
"It's sad the amount of money that it takes," he added.
Keith Smith, a political science professor at University of the Pacific, agrees that it's exceedingly expensive to run — and that the expense can be especially burdensome for challengers.
"Incumbents don't have to spend their own money," Smith said. "If you don't have the money, it's really hard to run for office."
You have to spend your own cash in order to get others to contribute, unless your party endorses only one candidate, Smith said.
Two candidates, Elizabeth Emken in District 11 and Bill Slaton in District 3 (which includes Galt), say that it's appropriate to spend some of your own money because it shows that the candidate is serious about running.
Emken, a Republican from Danville, put $200,000 of her own money into the primary campaign. She thought it was only fair that, as a first-time candidate, she was asking others to contribute on her behalf. She raised $250,000 in contributions, according to the Federal Election Commission. Sometimes, the money comes from donors
Spending one’s own money isn’t always a requirement for victory, however.
Harmer, who won the GOP primary in the 11th District, and McNerney, the two-term incumbent, spent relatively little or none of their own cash heading into the fall election season.
According to campaign finance reports, McNerney has spent none of his own money on campaigning, though he has $1.25 million in cash on hand and has spent about $537,000 so far in the 2009-10 election cycle.
Most of the $1.6 million McNerney raised in 2009-10 comes from individual donors, who chipped in a total of $1 million. The rest came almost entirely from political action committees, groups formed to funnel money into the campaign war chests for either individual candidates or political parties.
Harmer, though he hasn’t loaned himself any cash, has spent just over $18,000 of his own money for expenses such as air fare, car rental and meals. Finance reports show he has spent $630,000 in his campaign for the 11th Congressional District.
Harmer received the majority of the $780,000 he raised this election cycle from individual donors, who contributed about $722,000. Political action committees accounted for about $60,800 of the campaign’s receipts.
Harmer had about $233,000 cash on hand as of the most recent report. Building name recognition
Republican Tony Amador, who says he's remaining in Lodi after also coming up short in the 11th Congressional primary, said it takes one's own money to develop name recognition.
There were always some unanticipated expenses, said Amador, who's out $72,000. For example, he learned he had to file separately in all four counties in the 11th District and pay the filing fee in each county. You also need to pay incidental expenses to keep your name in the public eye, Amador said.
Goehring said that running in the 11th incurs extra expense because the district includes San Joaquin County, the East Bay and Morgan Hill. If you do any TV or radio advertising, Goehring said, you must pay double because the district crosses two TV and radio markets.
However, candidates who already have name recognition and considerable backing from individuals, corporations and political action committees don't tend to use their own cash. That — in addition to the fact that he did not face a challenger in the primary election — helps explain McNerney’s war chest advantage over Harmer. How much of their own money did candidates spend? 11th Congressional District
Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney: None.
GOP nominee David Harmer: $18,275.
Elizabeth Emken: $200,000.
Brad Goehring: $152,506 (loaned himself up to $450,000 at any one time, but paid himself back all except $152,506).
Tony Amador: $82,856.
Robert Beadles: $71,022.
Jonathan Del Arroz: $6,562.
Jeff Takada: $84.
Larry Pegram: None.
• The Tracy Press contributed to this report. • Editor's note: This story was updated on Tuesday, Aug. 3, to reflect money David Harmer has raised specifically for the 11th District race. Previous figures listed in this story combined both his 11th District fundraising totals and his fundraising totals for a special election campaign in 2009 for California's 10th District.