Did Meg Whitman Buy Off the Opposition?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Being a billionaire running for office does have its perks. The New York Times explains how Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman sunk more than $1 million in the nascent film production company of Mike Murphy, a top GOP strategist who was thinking of working for Whitman’s primary opponent. Months later, Murphy became a “senior adviser” for the Whitman campaign, raking in a $665,000 fee for his first six months of work. Michael Luo reports:

In the months before the deal was closed, Mr. Murphy had been flirting with working on the campaign of Ms. Whitman’s future rival in the Republican primary for governor, Steve Poizner, the state’s insurance commissioner. But he had an about-face.

The timing of the investment and its unusual nature — Ms. Whitman lists no other holdings in the world of independent movie production — raise some questions about its ultimate purpose: Was it strictly a business decision, or part of an effort to ensure that a coveted political strategist did not work for the competition? Or perhaps a way to sweeten the pot so he would eventually sign on with the right team?

The Times story is just the latest reminder of the kind of leverage that self-financed, super-wealthy candidates—like Whitman, California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, and Beverly Hills billionaire and Florida Senate contender Jeff Greene—can wield behind the scenes. Sure, they don’t have to rely on mega-donors and corporate lobbyists to back their campaign efforts. But taking money out of their own pockets makes it that much easier to buy off the opposition.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend