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.