Silver Election Lining: Ego-Fueled Millionaire Candidates Went Down in Flames


Those suffering the slings and arrows of Tuesday’s election results should avoid the big map in the Times today showing a shower of nasty little red-colored and rightward-surging darts flowing across America. Each little arrow shows a Congressional district where the Party of No gained ground. But if the graphic makes you wince, there is some small solace found in this statistic: Tuesday night was even more painful for most of the multimillionaire candidates who saw their money go to waste in failed bids for office.

Here’s how the Center for Responsive Politics puts it:

Of the 58 federal-level candidates who contributed at least a half-million dollars to their own campaigns, fewer than one in five won the seat they had sought, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis finds. It’s proof that not all political money is created equal, and that even the most wealthy candidates are often tripped up by factors ranging from poor name recognition to lousy campaign structures to a lack of mass appeal.

Leading the parade of what Gail Collins dubbed the “thwarted egos” is Meg Whitman, who saw $142 million go to waste in her failed bid to beat once and future Governor Moonbeam Jerry Brown in California. Also out on the Left Coast, Hewlett-Packard tycoon Carly Fiorina shed $7.5 million of her fortune trying to take Barbara Boxer’s senate seat.

Then, next door in Connecticut there is the shellacking — what a fine word — that wrestling Queen Linda McMahon took even after spending $50 million to put a hammer lock on Richard Blumenthal in the senate race.

And there’s Carl Paladino, who took $10 million out of his government-subsidized real estate riches to try and grab the governor’s job here in blue New York. And Harry Wilson, the millionaire hedge-funder spent more than $5 million of his cash and couldn’t even beat the much-damaged Tom DiNapoli for comptroller.

OK, a plastics millionaire out in Wisconsin did manage to beat Russ Feingold, thus taking out the most progressive United States senator since the late Paul Wellstone’s plane went down. And there’s a squirmy little fellow down in Florida named Rick Scott whose $73 million knocked out the Democratic gubernatorial candidate named Alex Sink. But what do you expect when your name sounds like a character in a Carl Hiaassen novel?