Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman has collected nearly $2.2 million from donors outside California in her quest to become governor, leaning on an elite roster of executives, hedge fund managers, venture capitalists and wealthy associates, an Associated Press review of campaign finance documents shows.
More than 20 percent of the $10.2 million the Republican front-runner collected last year came from outside the state. That percentage outstrips the proportion of campaign contributions Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger collected from out-of-state donors during his 2006 re-election campaign and the proportion of the presumed Democratic candidate, Attorney General Jerry Brown.
Whitman, a billionaire, already has poured $39 million of her own money into the campaign and has indicated she could spend more than $100 million on the race.
Whitman's donations came as part of an aggressive national fundraising tour, and the large sums demonstrate California's huge influence with an economy that produces 12 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. As a result, large campaign donors across the country want a say in who runs the state.
Schwarzenegger, the most prolific campaign fundraiser so far in California history, used his status as an international celebrity to help bring in $5.4 million in out-of-state donations for his re-election campaign, or about 12 percent of the nearly $45 million he raised for the race in 2005 and 2006.
The bulk of Whitman's money came from the business titans, corporate executives and venture capitalists Whitman knew and worked with at eBay and in her past roles at firms such as Procter & Gamble Co. and the Walt Disney Co.
They include Princeton classmate and Ford Motor Co. chairman William C. Ford of Detroit, who also is on the board of eBay. He and his wife, Lisa, each contributed $25,900, the maximum allowed per election cycle under California law. Ford declined through a spokesman to comment on his donation.
Herbert Anthony Allen of the New York investment firm Allen & Co., which hosts an annual conference of heavyweight political and business figures in Sun Valley, Idaho, gave $25,000, while his firm gave $24,000. Whitman headlined his event in 2004.
Attempts to reach about a dozen of Whitman's out-of-state donors were unsuccessful. Among them was Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz of Seattle, who gave Whitman $10,000.
The biggest donations came from New York investment bankers, hedge fund managers, attorneys and others who collectively gave Whitman more than $400,000, according to the AP's review of campaign finance reports filed Monday with the secretary of state's office. Donors in Massachusetts, where Whitman once worked for Mitt Romney's investment firm, gave $300,000. About $240,000 in donations came from Florida, while another $205,000 was from Connecticut.
Whitman's intensive fundraising in 2009, a full year before the gubernatorial primary and general election, was in part meant to prove that the first-time candidate was credible, said Marty Wilson, Schwarzenegger's chief fundraiser.
"In Meg's case, I think that some of the fundraising she does is just to prove that she's got support beyond the checks that she can write," said Wilson, who is not consulting for Whitman. "It's an important political statement as well as a financial statement."
Despite her fundraising success, Whitman's corporate ties do not give her a lock on large out-of-state contributions.
Brown, who has yet to formally announce his gubernatorial candidacy, has been fundraising vigorously and has attracted his own share of out-of-state contributions through his committees for attorney general and governor.
Brown, the state's attorney general, raised about 13 percent of the $8.3 million he collected outside California last year. Much of the money came from public employee unions in places ranging from the nation's capital to Kaukauna, Wis.
After decades of public service and two terms as California governor from 1975 to 1983, Brown has his own long roster of friends and colleagues to draw from. His donations came without holding any fundraisers outside California, and he does not appear to have any scheduled.
"Ninety percent of the donations have come from Californians and California businesses," said Brown's campaign spokesman, Sterling Clifford. "That's certainly where Jerry's time and attention are focused."
Brown's donors — inside and outside California — include a who's-who of celebrities and media tycoons, including $15,000 from USA Network Chairman Barry Diller and $25,900 from New York producer James Nederlander.
State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a Silicon Valley multimillionaire who Whitman leads by a wide margin in the Republican primary, collected just $20,000 outside California last year, out of about $2 million raised.
The amount of money raised outside the state by both candidates illustrates that despite its ongoing financial turmoil, California matters.
"There are a lot of businesses and a lot of unions with a national constituency that recognize the importance of California. It's not surprising that they'd give to candidates for governor here," said Dan Schnur, director of the University of Southern California's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.
The next governor also will have to confront critical choices about the future of the state, said Sarah Pompei, a spokeswoman for the Whitman campaign. She said that is one reason donors from around the nation are writing big checks to her whether they are personal friends or not.
"California is one of the largest economies in the world. People are looking for a leader who can ensure that there are going to be jobs in the state, that it's a place where businesses can start and expand," Pompei said. "You need a strong economy and an educated work force, and they believe Meg's the person who can make that happen."
Whitman's national outreach shows no signs of slowing as she enters the election year. She just returned to California this week after spending most of January on a national tour for her new book about her time at eBay, "The Power of Many."
Associated Press Writer Judy Lin also contributed to this report.
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