Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is

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On New Year’s Eve 2014, after winning election but prior to taking office, then Governor-elect Rauner replenished his nearly depleted candidate committee, Citizens for Rauner, with $20 million. The Governor put in $10 million of his own money and also received contributions of $8 million from Ken Griffin and $2 million from Richard Uihlein. Here is what one Rauner advisor told Crain’s Greg Hinz at the time:

“There are a lot of legislators who he is going to be asking to make a lot of tough decisions,” said one Rauner insider who asked not to be named. “The intent is to build a large and effective political operation in order to pursue his agenda.” Some of the money may be donated directly to legislators’ campaign committees and other funds spent on their behalf. TV ads, polling and other activity on behalf of Rauner policies also is expected, the insider said. And the war chest only is “the first in a series,” part of a “multipronged effort” in which other funding vehicles will be formed, the source said. “This is the tip of the iceberg.”

Since that time the Governor has personally contributed another $2.75 million to his campaign fund and with an expected contested re-election campaign looming many wondered just how much of that money he would spend on General Assembly races versus how much he would save for 2018. It’s only August but the answer is already clear, the Governor will spend most or possibly all of that money to help elect fellow Republicans.

Because of campaign finance limits the Governor’s campaign committee cannot transfer unlimited sums to Republican General Assembly candidates directly, however during a general election candidate committees, such as Citizens for Rauner, are allowed to make unlimited transfers to party committees, such as the Illinois Republican Party, and Rauner has done just that. Yesterday Citizens for Rauner transferred another $5 million to the Illinois Republican Party bringing the total to just over $16 million for the 2016 cycle. Rauner’s campaign committee, which started 2015 with about $20 million in the bank is now down to just around $5 million remaining. It’s probably a sign of the times and the record amounts of money involved that we can casually use the phrase “just around $5 million remaining”.

And while the Illinois Republican Party has spent some of that money directly, for example they’ve had about a half million in in-kinds and about $1.4 million in independent expenditures for Republican candidates this cycle, most of the money is being transferred to the two General Assembly Republican leadership committees: the House Republican Organization (HRO) and the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee (RSSCC). Already HRO has received a little over $9 million from the Illinois Republican Party and just this morning the RSSCC received another $500K bringing their cycle total to about $1.7 million. So between in-kinds, independent expenditures and transfers to the two leadership committees the state party has already moved or spent $12.6 million of the $16 million they’ve received from Rauner, and remember the most recent transfer of $5 million from the Governor to the state party happened just yesterday.

Campaign funds are not the Governor’s only contribution to this effort. The Governor has promised the “biggest ground game ever” for legislative races this fall. Back in May the Governor personally paid $200K to Crowdskout, LLC, a data management and marketing platform. This expenditure was likely for a data enhancement on the Republican voterfile to allow for greater voter demographic targeting, something the Democrats and the Obama campaign in particular had received extensive attention for in the past.

On a number of occasions the Governor has promised to transform the party and make Illinois Republicans competitive again but oddly enough the other day when asked about his significant contributions this cycle and his involvement in winning more seats for Republicans in the General Assembly he told reporters “I’m not too involved in local races.” The Governor’s occasional odd comment notwithstanding, he promised to contribute significant resources for party building and so far he’s kept that commitment.

 

McHenry and St. Clair County Board Chairman Races

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I don’t have the bandwidth to provide resources for all local races but I do want to highlight two current county board chairman races in two of the state’s bigger counties which have had a number of interesting developments, each in some way connected to a local state rep race.

 

McHenry County

Let’s start with McHenry County. This year will be the first time that the county board chairman in McHenry County is popularly elected, in the past the chairman was selected by the county board, a change that had been advocated by State Rep. Jack Franks.

In the Republican primary Michael Walkup defeated incumbent board chairman Joseph Gottemoller by 3 points, 51.5% to 48.5%. No Democratic candidates filed to run for county board chairman in the primary so it was thought that Walkup would be unopposed in the fall for the general election. However veteran State Rep. Jack Franks decided to give up his state house seat and run for the post so the local county party appointed him to the empty slot.

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Despite coming from an overwhelmingly Republican area Jack Franks has been quite successful for a Democrat. In 2014 he won his state rep district by 17 points even though Rauner beat Quinn in the district by 34 points. If Franks hopes to win the county board race he’s going to need the same level of significantly outperforming other Democrats on the ballot. In 2012 Romney beat Obama by 9 points in the county and Rauner won it in 2014 by 35 points. Democrats can win here, Obama beat McCain in 2008 by 5 points, it’s just uncommon.

The one advantage Franks does have is in the fundraising department. He finished June with almost $575K in cash and investments. He has since added another $45K but $35K of it appears to be just converting his investments to cash. Walkup, on the other hand, had less than $2K at the end of June and has only added about $12K since, leaving him at a significant cash disadvantage.

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St. Clair County

The St. Clair County Board chairman’s race is interesting because of a man whose name will not appear on the ballot, at least not for this race, Bob Romanik. Romanik is the Republican candidate for State Representative in the 114th district (map) which runs from East St. Louis west to Scott Air Force Base. Romanik is a local radio host who is known for being outspoken and colorful, to put it diplomatically.

Romanik is no fan of current Democratic county board chairman Mark Kern and he’s paid for a series of local billboards to demonstrate as such:

Lately, though, Romanik has gained the attention of local media with his billboards in the Belleville community, which comically lambast St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern.

His current billboard pictures Kern in a bikini with the caption “Mark ‘Sweetcakes’ Kern should have been a stripper. He’s already stripped us of our tax dollars!”

A previous Romanik billboard captured Kern alongside a clown and boldly asked: “Bozo and Mark ‘Sweetcakes’ Kern; who is the biggest clown in town?”

Yet another billboard during the Christmas season pictured Kern alongside an image of a Sasquatch (described as Kern’s wife, Erin) and declared, “We really don’t care if you have a happy holiday, because we’re rich idiots. We are really bottom feeders.”

Romanik was even charged but acquitted for trespassing at Kern’s home.

What makes Romanik interesting is not his rhetoric but his money. He put $2 million of his own money into his campaign fund and pledged to spend it not only on his own race but on other local races as well. Considering his confrontational past with Kern there is significant speculation that some of that money could be spent against Kern. Kern is apparently taking the possibility seriously, he just raised $100K from two family members, an action which lifted the contribution limits for this race.

Almost lost in all of this is Kern’s actual Republican opponent for county board chairman, Rodger Cook. Cook can now raise funds in unlimited amounts but so far he’s only raised about $2K for the entire 2016 cycle and he had less than $200 in the bank at the end of June.

While Cook’s fundraising has been anemic he likely won’t be the recipient of Romanik’s funds, at least not directly. In April the St. Clair County Republican Party voted to censure and rebuke Romanik using strong, clear language. Through a weird quirk in the SCCRCC website you can see their press release on the censure here. The party makes clear that they will not support Romanik and not accept his money, and that would presumably apply to Cook as well, even though he may be the beneficiary of whatever anti-Kern spending Romanik does undertake. St. Clair County politics will likely be interesting this fall, no matter what.

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Cook will have his work cut out for him, St. Clair County has been reliably Democratic and this is a presidential election year. Rauner, Topinka and Cross all managed to win the county in 2014 so it is possible for Republicans to have success here but Quinn won the county in 2010 and Obama won it by 22 and 14 points in 2008 and 2012, respectively. 2016 is not expected to be as favorable for the Republicans as 2014 was so Cook will need a lot to work in his favor if he’s going to be successful.

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Race Profiles Available

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A few updates:

  • Race profiles are now available for every General Assembly district, not just the likely targeted races. Since it now loads 177 races give the page a minute to load.
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  • I’ve also created something similar for the Comptroller’s race. Aside from the preview there is also a financial profile plus all of the historical vote totals for statewide general elections since 1990.
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  • Using the new FEC API I was able to create profiles for all of the Illinois Congressional races as well.
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  • Last, using the FEC API I have created a profile page for the US Senate race. Aside from the preview there is also a financial profile plus all of the historical vote totals for statewide general elections since 1990.

     

Embed Your Own Election Profiles

For each of the above you can embed the code for these election profiles on your own site. Use the tool here to get the embed code.

 

A-1 Contributions and In-Kinds Now Separate

For the General Assembly elections in a lot of key races the candidates are receiving in-kind contributions of staff and other costs from leadership and these are showing up on A-1’s. These numbers are not cash and were skewing the estimated cash available line so I’ve separated the A-1 totals into two lines.

 

Embed Your Own Election Profile

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If you are familiar with our election profile pages (US Senate, Comptroller, Congress, General Assembly) you can now embed these profiles into your own page/site. For the statewide races you can embed the candidates’ financial position. For the congressional and general assembly races you can embed the whole profile or just the candidates’ financial position. Use the dropdowns below to select the race/type you want and get the embed code. If the size doesn’t look right on your site feel free to adjust the height/width values in the iframe.

 

The General Assembly and Comptroller financial data are downloaded each night from the State Board of Elections and are current as of 9pm last night. The US Senate and Congressional race financial data is taken from the FEC API. See the FAQ for further details about this financial data.

 

Statewide Races

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Congressional Races

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General Assembly Races

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