Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is at a fundraising disadvantage in many parts of California, including her home turf in the Silicon Valley, as she tries to unseat three-term incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, an Associated Press review of campaign finance data shows.
That means the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive will have to look outside California for donations or write checks from her personal fortune if she hopes to be competitive in a state where it's notoriously expensive to campaign statewide.
Although Fiorina is a multimillionaire, it's unclear how much of her personal fortune she's willing to spend in her first run for public office. When she announced last fall, Fiorina said she would not self-fund her campaign and so far she has given $5.5 million in loans, meaning she expects to be repaid.
By contrast, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, a billionaire, already has spent more than $90 million of her own money in her campaign, not in the form of loans.
The money race is important because of the high cost of running a statewide campaign in California, where millions of dollars are required for candidates to buy television and radio ads critical for making an impression on voters and driving up name recognition.
According to the most recent campaign-finance reports, Boxer had raised $17.3 million through June 5, compared to $3.5 million for Fiorina when not counting her personal loans. Of that, 39 percent of Boxer's total, or $6.8 million, came from out-of-state donations, compared with 32 percent, or $1.1 million, for Fiorina.
"The fact that she has not done as well in raising money from sources other than herself compared to Boxer may suggest a certain lack of enthusiasm among her potential donors," said Marty Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication.
Fundraising totals since Fiorina emerged victorious in a three-way Republican primary on June 8 are not available. The next campaign reporting deadline is Thursday.
Fiorina's campaign spokeswoman said the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive has been gaining momentum since winning the GOP nomination. A recent Field Poll showed Boxer and Fiorina in a statistical tie, providing a boost to the campaign, spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said.
"Boxer's had six years to stockpile cash for this race and Carly, on the other hand, has had eight months to raise and compete and win a three-way primary," Soderlund said. "We certainly start at a deficit, but there's such a high level of enthusiasm for beating Barbara Boxer."
Fiorina recently embarked on a fundraising tour to Washington, D.C., and New York, which included speaking with officials from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Committee officials won't say how much the organization will invest in Fiorina, but said she definitely will get help.
"We will work to make sure Carly has all the resources she needs to run a competitive race and win in November," said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the committee.
The committee can cut a check of up to about $42,000 straight to the Fiorina campaign. It also can help cover up to about $4.8 million in expenses in coordination with the Fiorina campaign, and it can spend unlimited amounts on independent expenditures, as long as the spending is not coordinated with Fiorina.
Walsh said he did not believe a recent Supreme Court decision to maintain the limit on donations to political parties would harm the senatorial committee's efforts to assist Fiorina.
California's Senate race is expected to rank among the priciest ever. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now secretary of state, spent nearly $41 million in the 2006 campaign for her New York seat, while Jon Corzine spent $62 million in New Jersey in 2000. That was the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Without knowing what Fiorina will spend, Boxer's campaign is gearing up to spend between $35 million and $40 million.
"This is the first time we're facing someone who has great personal wealth that they have shown they're willing to invest in their own campaign," said Boxer's campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski.
Despite receiving a $21 million buyout when she was forced out from HP, Fiorina describes herself as the underdog, saying she expects Boxer to have a financial advantage.
"I think they're going to raise a lot of money on their side and the party is going to throw a lot of money on the table," she said during the recent stop in Washington, D.C. "And I think we're going to raise a lot of money on our side and people who care about the outcome are going to play."
Boxer, whose liberal leanings have made her a top target of Republicans this year, has already locked up California's donor-rich pockets, including Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
Campaign fundraising reports show Boxer also has the backing of Hollywood heavyweights such as Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. "Lost" co-creator J.J. Abrams and actress Sally Field are among her celebrity donors.
Boxer also has raised $3 million in San Francisco and the three neighboring counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda, compared to just $418,000 for Fiorina, according to an analysis by the AP that examined campaign donations by zip code.
By comparison, Whitman, the former eBay chief executive, has been able to coral the support of numerous tech leaders in her gubernatorial bid.
Boxer can tout the support of tech leaders such as Yahoo founder Jerry Yang and Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers. She also is supported by Oracle Corp.'s Larry Ellison, Netflix Inc.'s Reed Hastings and eBay CEO John Donahoe.
They are standing behind Boxer in part for her record of support on research-and-development tax credits and visas for skilled worker.
Fiorina's list of Silicon Valley supporters is shorter but includes Intel Corp. chief executive Paul Otellini. Last week, her campaign announced support from a group of business executives, including Craig Barrett, former chief executive of Intel, and former Kellogg chief executive Carlos Gutierrez.