Al Checchi spent forty million dollars of his own money running for governor of California. He didn't even get his party's nomination. Bill Simon lent himself ten million dollars to lose to Gray Davis. Let me type that again. To lose. To Gray Davis. Georges Marciano, one of the founders of Guess? Jeans, is running a self-financed run for governor right now. This is a man with so little to justify his own existence he actually started a company with a question mark in it. "Question mark," in Marciano's case, being short for "Who the fuck are you, question mark."
And god bless 'em all.
The key to a California vanity campaign is lots and lots of television advertising, and ad rates are down this year. The TV industry needs the money.
Meg Whitman has already committed four million dollars of her own money to making herself governor, and the only person who's talking about her is me, and I ran out of things to say days ago.
She's hinted that she'll spend another $40 million, and that's good. Let's get that money back in circulation. Don't think of her as a malevolent cipher on a midlife ego trip. Think of her as a stimulus package. For the advertising and consulting industries.
There are crazier things she could do.
In 1884, an aimless millionairess moved to California and bought an eight-room farmhouse in San Jose. Her name was Sarah Winchester. She had twenty million dollars from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and the way she revitalized the economy was by renovating, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the next 38 years.
There was never a plan for any of the work. She built rooms and had them boarded up again. Staircases go nowhere and doors - eventually there were 467 of them - open onto brick walls and fourteen-foot drops. There are 47 fireplaces, some with chimneys that have no way of venting smoke to the outside. 50 skylights, including one that only lets light in from the room upstairs. 40 bdrms, 13 bths, 6 EIKs. Grt views! through 1000 windows, most with thirteen panes of glass.
She spent five million dollars between 1884 and 1922, which proves, once and for all, that we must repeal the estate tax NOW! If the state had gotten its hands on that money they would have probably just blown it on irrigation or fighting polio.
Here's how Meg Whitman is completely different from Sarah Winchester: Sarah Winchester left us something. The house is a museum. All we're going to get from Whitman for Governor is sick of her ads.
Here's another way they're different. Sarah Winchester was a nut. According to legend at least, she was building the house to ward off ghosts. A psychic had told her that the spirits of people who'd been killed by Winchester rifles were coming to get her. According to legend, at least, she was building the house to confuse them. She was crippled with remorse.
In 2007, when Meg Whitman was running eBay, an Idaho gun shop used the service to sell extended ammunition magazines for a Walther P22 to a Virginia Tech senior named Seung-Hui Cho. Cho killed 32 people and himself. If this bothered Meg Whitman, we never heard about it. It certainly didn't make her crazy with guilt, like some people. EBay changed its policies, but she kept her cut of the money.
And now, through her campaign, in a small, touching way, she's going to share that money with us.