Linda McMahon Spends $40 Million but Lags in Connecticut Race

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Self funding is big – and increasingly popular – business. Candidates have spent $925 million of their own fortunes in an attempt to get elected, according to Money in State Politics. That's 12 percent of all money given at the state level from all sources.

In California, Meg Whitman, the Republican gubernatorial candidate and former CEO of the Internet auction giant eBay, has poured nearly three times as much money as McMahon into her campaign.

Whitman, whose estimated net worth tops $1 billion, has spent a record-breaking $120 million in her race against Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Despite spending more money in a state election than anyone in history, Whitman, a political neophyte lags behind the better-known Brown. A Rasmussen poll published Oct. 16, gave the Democrat a 5 point lead in the election (Brown, 48 percent; Whitman, 43 percent.)

This year has seen some 55 self-funded candidates, so far, and the number could rise before Election Day, according to stats compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, which defines a self-financed candidate as anyone who contributes more than $500,000 to his own campaign.

With the exception of a few successful patricians-turned-politicians, most notably New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democrat Jon Corzine, who won both gubernatorial and Senate elections in New Jersey, self-funded candidates historically fare poorly.

Linda McMahon in Connecticut: Do Rich Candidates Win?

"The top self-financers typically do very poorly," said Dave Levinthal, spokesman for OpenSecrets.org. "Bloomberg is a notable exception to the rule. We remember the guys that win, but don't remember the far greater number of candidates who lose."

An already notable loser from this election cycle was billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Greene, nicknamed the "mogul meltdown," who spent 6 million of his own dollars in a Democrat primary and lost to Kendrick Meek in the Florida Senate race.

Other millionaires trailing in the polls include former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, a Republican running for Senate in California,and Rich Iott, a Republican running for the House in Ohio.

Fiorina has donated $5.5 million of her own money and Iott, $1 million.

While running dramatically different campaigns, both candidates have succumbed to rookie mistakes typical of wealthy neophyte candidates, whose inexperience leads them to gaffe. Fiorina was caught badmouthing an opponent's hairdo into an open microphone, and photos of Iott emerged, in which the Ohio businessman was wearing a Nazi uniform.

Despite their large war chests, self-financiers often lose, by making the same sorts of mistakes, said Levinthal.

"They often lack name recognition and political experience," he said. "They lack electoral political experience and as a result have to start from scratch. They may be well known and respected in the circles they run in, but when you're a candidate you have to appeal to poorest of poor and the richest of the rich. They struggle to connect with voters and get their message out. If haven't made a compelling case, it doesn't matter how much money you have."

The number one mistake self-funded candidates make, Levinthal said, is "running against an incumbent. No matter how much money you have, it's hard to defeat an incumbent."

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