There have been a few changes in the law that will affect how the Governor and Lt. Governor will be elected in 2014. I’ll cover those changes and their impact below but I’m still left with one unanswered question: can a Lt. Governor candidate raise and spend funds in support of his/her election and if so how does that work?
Let me begin by saying I’m not an election attorney (or attorney of any kind for that matter) so just because I have unanswered questions isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. However two key changes in the election code will be in effect for the first time in a Governor’s race for the 2014 election:
- Contribution limits – the law implementing contribution limits went into effect January 1, 2011 for the start of the 2012 election cycle. The law limits a candidate for elected office to a single “candidate political committee” and provides for contribution limits of amounts depending on the donor type and the office sought. The language on candidate committees and contribution limits can be found in Article 9 of the election code.
- Joint nomination of candidates for the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor – in 2010 HB5820 which became Public Act 96-1018 changed the election law so that the Governor and Lt. Governor would appear on a primary ballot as a team and be voted on as a joint pair. This bill was passed in the aftermath of the messy divorce between Democratic nominees for Governor and Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and Scott Lee Cohen in the 2010 primary. As you can see from reading the public act the language provides a mechanism for how the process is supposed to work to nominate a joint ticket of Governor and Lt. Governor and is silent on other concerns with this new situation.
Prior to either of these laws going into effect the Governor and Lt. Governor were elected separately and because there were no contribution limits either candidate or both could have as many committees as they wanted. Sometimes candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor would agree to campaign as a team (even though both would still be required to win independent elections) and other times the elections for Governor and Lt. Governor went forward with the candidates willing to let the elections play out and deal with any outcome.
In 2006 Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ron Gidwitz agreed to campaign with Lt. Governor Candidate Steve Rauschenberger and even though each candidate had their own candidate committee for their campaign funds (Gidwitz for Governor and Citizens for Rauschenberger, respectively) they also decided to create a 3rd joint committee called the Illinois Turnaround Team for funds that would ostensibly be used to pay for campaign activities to support both candidates. I can’t think of any legal advantage gained by creating a 3rd committee, it seemed to be only for cosmetic purposes as they campaigned publicly as part of a team (a turnaround team) working jointly. Ultimately both candidates were unsuccessful in their respective primaries but it’s a good example of the various options that were available to candidates prior to the new laws going into effect.
In the 2010 Democratic primary the campaigns for Governor and Lt. Governor proceeded independently and in the end Pat Quinn secured the Gubernatorial nomination while Scott Lee Cohen was the victorious Lt. Governor candidate. Cohen later dropped out after pressure by Quinn and other Democratic leaders. Subsequently the Democratic party selected Shelia Simon as a replacement candidate at Quinn’s behest. Simon could have legally created a campaign committee to raise and spend funds in support of this election however she never opened one in her own name. Quinn has had the longstanding Taxpayers for Quinn committee and also in the spring of 2010 they created a committee called Quinn/Simon for Illinois which was used to raise and spend a significant amount of funds in support of the Quinn/Simon ticket that fall. Again this joint committee doesn’t appear to have provided the Quinn/Simon campaign with any additional legal advantages it simply had the cosmetic effect of a ticket working together.
Looking ahead to 2014 it appears that the law that implemented campaign contribution limits for the first time will also prevent the creation of these additional joint committees as a candidate is limited to one and only one candidate committee:
(10 ILCS 5/9-2) (from Ch. 46, par. 9-2)
Sec. 9-2. Political committee designations.
(a) Every political committee shall be designated as a (i) candidate political committee, (ii) political party committee, (iii) political action committee, (iv) ballot initiative committee, or (v) independent expenditure committee.
(b) Beginning January 1, 2011, no public official or candidate for public office may maintain or establish more than one candidate political committee for each office that public official or candidate holds or is seeking. The name of each candidate political committee shall identify the name of the public official or candidate supported by the candidate political committee. If a candidate establishes separate candidate political committees for each public office, the name of each candidate political committee shall also include the public office to which the candidate seeks nomination for election, election, or retention. If a candidate establishes one candidate political committee for multiple offices elected at different elections, then the candidate shall designate an election cycle, as defined in Section 9-1.9, for purposes of contribution limitations and reporting requirements set forth in this Article. No political committee, other than a candidate political committee, may include the name of a candidate in its name.
What is less clear is how the law applies to someone running for Lt. Governor. Here are a number of questions that immediately come to mind:
- Now that a candidate for Lt. Governor is no longer elected independently are these candidates still allowed to raise and spend funds in support of their own election (primary and general)?
- If yes, can they accept contributions from donors that have already maxed out to the Gubernatorial candidate they will be nominated with?
- If yes, are they allowed to coordinate all of their electoral activities with the Gubernatorial candidate they will be nominated with including making joint fundraising appeals for twice the legal limit (half to the Gubernatorial committee/half to the Lt. Governor committee) and fully coordinated spending decisions from both committee accounts?
- Pay to play legislation outlawed campaign contributions to any candidate for an office where the donor has been awarded a contract by that officeholder. Could a Lt. Governor candidate accept contributions from donors that are prohibited from giving to a gubernatorial candidate under this provision? Could they then spend those funds in support of their ticket? Can they coordinate that spending decision with the Gubernatorial candidate they will be nominated with and who would not be legally allowed to accept such a donation?
It’s entirely possible all of these questions have very clear answers explicitly stated in the law, I’m not an election attorney and even though I have a lot of experience dealing with the Illinois election code I freely admit I’m no expert. But if some of these questions don’t have clear answers hopefully the legislature can use the upcoming spring session to clarify the election code prior to the 2014 election cycle kicking into full gear.