As candidates ramp up their campaigns with just over 75 days until Election Day, the need for fuel only grows. That fuel, whether it’s for campaign events, advertising or, literally, gas expenses, is campaign finance contributions.
In the finance battle, Democrats are far ahead in the races for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and comptroller in terms of available funds as of the latest quarterly campaign finance report released in July.
As the Republican leadership in Illinois stated last week, this is a change from the past, as they are no longer the party of the rich, but the “party of working families.”
“Now, Democrats represent woke corporations, other elites and special interests who have the money that dominates places like Illinois,” party chairman Don Tracy said last Thursday at the Republican State Central Committee meeting from Illinois to Springfield.
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Having that identity, however, poses a big challenge for the GOP heading into November: fundraising.
Pritzker’s wealth carries his campaign, fellow Democrats
Democrats are driven in many ways by the personal wealth of Gov. JB Pritzker, whose campaign committee had more than $27 million in spending during the April 1-June 30 quarter. More than $2.5 million was transferred to Democrats statewide, including three $500,000 contributions to the Illinois Democratic Party.
Spending this quarter has already totaled $5.5 million, as JB For Governor contributed $1.5 million to DPI, $1 million to the Senate Democrats’ ISDF, and $3 million to the Democrats for the Illinois House, as first reported by Capitol Fax.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey, by comparison, had $9.2 million in expenses in the previous quarter. Seventeen contributions to fellow Republicans also came from Bailey’s campaign for Illinois totaling $17,128.
While Bailey calls Pritzker “out of touch” because of the Democratic governor’s inherited wealth, he likely wants those in a similar financial situation to be in touch with his campaign. During the primary, mega-donor Ken Griffin contributed $50 million to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, but since moving to Florida, he has yet to contribute to the GOP gubernatorial ticket.
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An endorsement from former President Donald Trump helped Bailey, who won the June 28 primary with 55 percent of the vote over the five other candidates on the ballot. However, the more than $8 million the Republican received from Richard Uihlein, heir to the Schlitz beer fortune and co-founder of Uline with his wife, Elizabeth, also played a role.
Like Griffin, Uihlein has yet to send funds directly to the Bailey campaign since the primary — the largest amount received has been two $50,000 contributions. That’s more than any contribution to Pritzker, who is mostly self-funding his campaign, but with $60.8 million on hand as of the latest quarterly report, his need for funds isn’t that great. Bailey had $363,918 on hand at the end of the quarter.
Races for the Illinois General Assembly understandably don’t attract big money like they do for top-voted candidates, but money plays just as big a role.
State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, ended the quarter with the most funds available from local lawmakers and has already begun receiving funds this quarter. Ending the quarter with $467,172 in available funds, nearly $400,000 more than Republican challenger and incumbent Rep. Sandy Hamilton of Springfield, the Friends of Doris Turner campaign had significant donations, including $52,400 from the IBEW Illinois PAC and two contributions from the Illinois Labor Legislative Committee totaling $33,900.
This quarter, ISDF made several contributions to Friends of Doris Turner, most notably a $325,750 donation reported on August 12.
The Senate Republican Victory Fund made three donations last month to Sandy’s Senate campaign totaling more than $5,550. Last quarter, Hamilton received several transfers of $1,500 from Dent-IL PAC, Farmers Employee and Agent Illinois PAC and IFAPAC IL. The campaign ended the quarter with $80,252.
Analysis of quarterly post-primary campaign disclosures by local lawmakers also revealed some shared donors regardless of party affiliation and major funding sources.
A common donor among Democrats and Republicans was Springfield’s Ameren Illinois PAC. Ameren, an electricity and natural gas provider that covers 75 percent of the state according to its website, distributed $41,000 in transfers last quarter mostly to GOP candidates.
While his largest donation was the $15,000 he sent to the House Republican majority, Democratic Sen. Doris Turner and Senate President Don Harmon were also beneficiaries. State Sen. Sally Turner, R-Bleason, and state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, also received contributions from Ameren.
In response to why he supports both Democratic and Republican candidates, an Ameren Illinois spokesman said he supports candidates who share views with the company.
“Specifically, we support candidates who share our goal of providing safe, reliable and cost-effective energy delivery,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “These candidates will best represent the interests of our customers, our co-workers, the communities we serve and the state.”
Sen. Doris Turner received $2,000 from Ameren PAC, while Butler received two contributions totaling $3,500 and Sen. Sally Turner got $1,000. In that quarter, state Rep. CD Davidsmeyer received $3,000 from the group, according to a July 22 campaign disclosure.
Butler is now running unopposed in Illinois House District 95. His largest contribution was $5,000 from Comcast Financial Agency Corp. At the end of the quarter it had $139,386 in available funds. Sen. Sally Turner had $38,185 on hand, and the $1,500 she received from the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois PAC was her largest contribution.
The $211,024 Davidsmeyer had on hand at the end of the quarter was the second most from local candidates, with $2,000 from Airsman-Hires Funeral Homes the top donation. State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, came in with $203,021 but had a significant margin over GOP challenger Lisa Smith in the House District 96 race.
Facing competition in the primary, but handily beating Donald Debolt, was state Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield. McClure’s $12,377 in available funds was the lowest of any local candidate, but he also had the most contributions by far.
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The Republican senator received multiple contributions exceeding $30,000, with the lion’s share of the funds transferred coming from the ChicagoLand Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC. The Countryside-based committee had nearly $1 million in expenses last quarter on both sides of the political aisle, including $150,000 to Harmon.
The four contributions to McClure totaled $97,000, highlighted by a $50,000 contribution in late June. With funds coming from the Realtors Political Action Committee ($45,000) and the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education ($50,000), transfers to the Friends of Steve McClure campaign were more than $250,000 more than the previous filing quarter.
Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter