While noting that the money spent on losing ballot measures was modest compared to what has been spent in previous years, Davis also shows where the $44 million was spent in unsuccessful pro and anti initiative campaigns. And some of it is surprising (at least to me, who always thought signature drives occurred at bakesales!)

Still, signature-gathering firms made millions. National Petition Management, Inc., one of the country’s largest signature-gathering firms, made more than $4.8 million working to qualify at least four ultimately failed ballot measure campaigns: Props. 23, 24, 25 and 27. Kimball Petition Management also walked away with more than $4.4 million.

This is good hole-filling work from California Watch. In an article I wrote about the shrinking Sacramento press corps last month, I praised Watch for its reporting, but noted that it “doesn’t seem to have the resources to do the kind of projects the print bureaus produced in their heyday.” I should have added that Watch is giving us a lot of with its limited resources. By taking the time to pore through Whitman’s and other big-spending campaigns’ finances, they have provided insight into an industry—elections—that doesn’t like to reveal much about itself beyond the surface. And they’ve answered the question that’s been bugging some of us since Whitman’s poll dip: Just how do you spend $160 million to not get elected?

*Correction: the post originally, and incorrectly, stated that Williams formerly worked for the Sacramento Bee.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.