This kind of spending is almost completely unheard of. It is seriously a lot--a whole, whole lot--of money.
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has spent just over $26.8 million in her race for governor in California over the last three months. That's right: from Jan. 1 through March 17, Whitman has spent as much as it takes to win some statewide races, according to recently released financial disclosures.
This massive disbursement of cash was facilitated by Whitman's personal wealth: the candidate has contributed just over $39 million to her own campaign so far.
Whitman's spending rivals that of some presidential campaigns. By contrast, John McCain spent just over $31.1 million in the first three months of 2008--at the same point in his election cycle as he sought the GOP presidential nomination. And McCain's financial disclosures actually include spending through March 31, covering two more weeks than Whitman's filings. That was before McCain opted for public funding, as he was allowed to spend unfettered in early 2008 (McCain did later return some contributions from this period). (UPDATE: While this comparison does illustrate the point that Whitman is spending a lot, I should probably note that McCain wasn't exactly rolling in cash at this point in his campaign. Six months earlier, news stories had been written about how his campaign was running out of money.)