Gangbuster Spending

08.04.14

New Ager Marianne Williamson Was a $2 Million Congressional Flop

She counted celebrities, a healer, and a ‘Child of God,’ among her backers—but though Marianne Williamson spent the most, she only managed fourth in the race to succeed Henry Waxman.

Money isn’t everything—even in Malibu.

Marianne Williamson, the spiritual guru and author of the New Age classics A Return to Love and Emma and Mommy Talk to God, spent close to $2 million in her bid to replace the retiring Rep. Henry Waxman in California’s 33rd Congressional District.

The 33rd winds its way up the California coastline from Rancho Palos Verdes to Pacific Palisades, passing through some of the country’s richest communities, including Brentwood, Santa Monica, and yes, Malibu. But in the open June primary, one of the nation’s most closely watched congressional races this summer, voters rejected Williamson’s largesse. Instead they opted for Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu and Republican Elan Carr, an Iraq War veteran and assistant district attorney for Los Angeles County, despite the fact that Williamson, an independent, vastly outspent both of them.

Williamson, who put $1,934,466 into the race, won 13 percent of the vote, enough for fourth place. Carr spent $631,335 for second place; Lieu, who is expected to cruise to victory in November in the heavily Democratic district, spent $1,054,416. Wendy Greuel, a former Los Angeles comptroller, came in third.

Williamson, a first-time candidate, ran for Congress, she said, because “I believe that a wave of independent candidates, all committed to a huge course-correction, is necessary to turn our ship around. I feel my campaign, and most importantly my win, can help inspire such a movement.”

But though she promised to run an outside-the-box campaign, her race proved to be a boon to some of Southern California’s best-known political consultants.

John Shallman, the specialist behind Shallman Communications and the architect of Greuel’s losing 2013 bid for mayor of Los Angeles, was paid more than $300,000 for his work on the Williamson campaign. EMC Research, an Oakland, California-based polling firm, was paid more than $30,000. A review of campaign filings shows that the campaign contracted at least 13 vendors to do videography work, in addition to dozens of regular paid staffers and nearly 40 outside consultants of one stripe or another.

Williamson was able to spend so freely because she kept up a gangbusters fundraising pace, one bolstered by her many friends in the world of Hollywood celebrity, including Nicole Richie, Katy Perry, and Kim Kardashian, all of whom attended fundraisers or gave testimonials on her behalf (“I have had the opportunity to listen to Marianne, to get to know her, to listen to her message. And it’s given me the strength to send the right messages to my children, because the children of America are our future, and we need to make sure that we are not only living up to our past, but taking it even further,” said Richie in one video endorsement.)

Williamson also, however, was able to raise a lot of money from sectors of society not often associated with the grubby world of political fundraising. Donors to political campaigns are required to state their profession in federal disclosure forms, and among the occupations to appear in Williamson’s filing were an astrologer, a “healer,” two life coaches, and one Williamson supporter who listed his occupation only as “Child of God.”