The latest figures show Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign has spent about $163 million promoting her candidacy. At least $140 million of that has come from her own pocket.
This is a record for spending on a governor's race in California, and also appears to be a record for personal spending in any political race.
Her critics charge she is trying to buy the election. Whitman counters that by primarily financing her own campaign, she's beholden only to the citizens, and not to any special interests.
Although she's trailing in the most polls, it won't be clear until election night if her big investment actually pays off. It's likely, no matter what the outcome, that she'll need to order some new checks.
But, what if we stepped into an only slightly altered universe, where Meg Whitman is still incredibly wealthy, but not inclined to seek public office. What could she do with all the money she spent in that other universe, running for governor?
- Contribute about $300,000 to every member of the US Congress
- Purchase the Hearst Castle
- Buy about 800,000 kilos of Mexican marijuana
- Fully fund the Atlanta-based Charter School Growth Fund, which hopes to establish spots for 335,000 children in charter schools over the next decade
- Fund the entire bonus pool paid to AIG executives in 2009
- Give $11.64 to each of the 13 million-plus California voters who participated in the 2008 general election, or just buy a Happy Meal for every Californian
- Provide the total investment Toshiba is putting up for a plant in Japan that will produce the next generation of flash memory modules
- Buy a 190-foot x 125-foot "floating island" yacht unveiled earlier this year at the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show. The ship features a 75 foot swimming pool, cinema, music and dining rooms and a 90 foot-long "beach"
- Finance the entire production of the film, "Inception", which, by the way, went on to earn more than $800 million
- Match a grant recently awarded by the federal government to expand high-speed rail service in New England
- Reimburse Wells Fargo for the fine it paid to settle a criminal case against its Wachovia unit, which was charged with allowing international cocaine cartels to launder money through its bank
- Provide full scholarships for almost 40,000 students to attend Cal State Universities for one year
- Purchase 10 million Personalized Black Titanium/Stainless Steel Name Rings (each one engraved "Meg") on Ebay.