Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, a national co-chair of the McCain-Palin campaign and a potential 2010 Republican contender for governor of California, this week contributed $250,000 to the campaign to defeat Proposition 5, the measure designed to expand drug treatment and rehabilitation programs for nonviolent drug offenders.
Whitman wrote the check after a meeting Tuesday in Orange County with a half dozen of the state's top law enforcement managers, including Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks and District Attorney Greg Totten.
"We appreciated her interest," Brooks said. "She had been contacted previously and expressed an interest in the issue."
The measure is strongly opposed by law enforcement officials, who assert it could allow those accused of other crimes to escape incarceration if drug use is also involved.
Whitman, who amassed a personal fortune at eBay, is following a familar path of wealthy candidates testing the political waters by getting involved in an initiative campaign. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, another multimillionaire who has already formed an exploratory committee to run for governor in 2010, made friends in Republican circles this spring by bankrolling opposition to the ballot measure that would have allowed legislators to serve longer in either the Assembly or Senate.
Brooks said it was clear that Whitman had "no expectation of getting anything in return" for her contribution. Still, Whitman did hire a publicist to spread the word to the media about her contribution.