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.
But the pay-to-play scenario isn't just happening on the state level. Congressional 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 3rd and 11th congressional districts 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.
Bill Slaton, a Democrat who sought his party's nomination in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Galt, has contributed $163,000 to his campaign. Slaton terminated his campaign around Thanksgiving of last year. Amerish "Ami" Bera of Elk Grove ended up running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
"To put your own money in, even if it's a loan, I view it as an appropriate indication of your desire to serve," Slaton said. "It is important to show you have ability to raise money."
Slaton did something the other candidates didn't. When he dropped out of the race, Slaton said he issued a refund to everyone who contributed to his campaign. That amounted to $220,000 of his own funds.
Building name recognition
Tony Amador, who says he's remaining in Lodi after losing the 11th Congressional primary, said it takes one's own money to get that name recognition out there.
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 over into 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. Incumbent Republican Dan Lungren, running against Bera in the 3rd District, hasn't used any of his own cash. Neither has Democrat Jerry McNerney in the 11th.
Harmer, McNerney's Republican opponent, hasn't loaned himself any cash, though he spent $18,000 of his own money for such expenses as air fare, car rental and meals.
How much of their own money did candidates spend?
11th Congressional District
Incumbent Jerry McNerney: None.
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.
3rd Congressional District
Incumbent Dan Lungren: None.
Nominee Amerish “Ami” Bera: $51,187.
Bill Slaton: $163,191.
Bill Durston: $25.
Gary Davis: None.
— Source: Federal Election Commission.