Meg Whitman: Can Her $59 Million Save California?

7 years ago

I’ve never really gotten involved in politics.  But I was totally jazzed when Meg Whitman - a mother and wife who has had a successful career, including a 10 year stint as CEO of eBay, announced she was running for California Governor.  Everyone knows the state of California needs someone who can get things done, build consensus amongst wildly disparate groups and is transparent while doing it.

 

When I found that Ms. Whitman has already put in $59 million of her own money, the latest $20 million just announced today, on her crusade – more than any gubernatorial candidate in history, in any state, my gut reaction was that she was definitely on a mission.  Then with a few google clicks I learned that political pundits anticipate she’s willing to spend into the 9 figures to win.   That's getting into some serious dough and equates to more than the annual budget of the country of Grenada.

 

According to her mother, Margaret Whitman, “When she was little, she was extremely determined. Whatever she decided to do, she was going to do,” says Margaret, recalling that swim meets in particular brought out the competitor in her younger daughter. “Meg was a pretty good swimmer. But at meets, I had to be there, because if she wasn’t at least first or second, she’d be screaming with rage. There was no second best for her. She has always loved to win.”(Article by Amy Wallace for More magazine).

 

Okay so she’s driven…hard.  It's obvious that when Meg does something she does it big and does it to win…big.

Her $30M donation to her alma mater, Princeton, gained her the erection of Whitman College in her honor and the shoe-in her two sons would be accepted with open arms (even though the older son had a pesky little suspension over an unmentioned problem that delayed his graduation a year).   She also started her own Foundation with her husband and funded it with $46M.  Okay, now we’re talking real altruism!

 

So, on a gloomy El Nino-type Sunday afternoon, I went searching to learn what her Foundation, the Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret C Whitman Charitable Foundation, did for society.

 

"We don't have a system yet for how we're going to make these grants, how we're going to measure them. We don't have someone yet to run the foundation. So I would like to spend a lot of 2008 really focused on that.Meg was quoted as stating in May, 2008.

 

Nice transparency – one point for Meg!

 

But it’s now 2010 and for the life of me I cannot find a Mission Statement, funding priorities or even a website.  I did uncover the donation of a total of $300,000.  It was made to the Environmental Defense Fund which is at odds with Whitman over water policy and the Delta Smelt in the central valley.  I also discovered that they invested $3M of the Foundation’s money in hedge funds in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.   I’m no financial wizard but that smelt fishy.

 

I can't find anything she's done that hasn't been a calculated move to promote her career or family.

So I’m disillusioned.  Meg’s playing by the good ole boy rules.  'Do as I say, not as I do'. 'Whatever it takes – I want to win'.

 

Instead, I want her to be a new-age politician who plays by new-world rules.  I want Meg to take at least half of what she is willing to put into the campaign and donate it to charity.  Think of what her $59 million could do for the state.  I think she'll do a fine job if she wins - it'll be the prize she's driven to attain.  I just wonder if she could win without wasting all that money.  Money that could do so much good.  She could fund a scholarship program to help bright but disadvantaged kids get into Princeton and still have enough left over to pay for a retraining program for the 40,000 government workers she wants laid off.

 

I’ve decided that I’m not impressed with politics and, unfortunately, I’m not so enamored with Meg Whitman.  What I am excited about, though, is to join in the fight for campaign finance reform.    Make it a level playing field where the candidates have to prove they’re qualified for the job not able to direct the outcome based on the size of their pocketbooks.

 

Join me in making a difference. Send an email to info [at] vivanista [dot] com. Or just let me know your comments below.


 

Written by Layne Gray, Founder and CEO of Vivanista, the go-to community for philanthropic living and giving. Originally published at Vivanista.com on April 7, 2010.  [Photo from megwhitman.com]

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