Prior to Illinois contribution limits taking effect in January 2011 the four legislative leaders raised as much money as they could into their own personal committees and often a caucus or party committee and then each legislative candidate raised what they could in their own candidate committees and that's how you could track the legislative elections.

But now with the contribution limit law in place the process is much more complicated. Our contribution limit law doesn't actually limit the amount of money that comes into our political system, since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision there probably is no fair way to design a law that would effectively limit the money, but our Illinois law is still in place so in order to move money through our system first the money has to come in through a much more complex but still legal process. Here's an explanation for how the money entered the system and is now moving through it for General Assembly races this cycle.

How the Republicans Are Doing It

Much of the Republican effort is being funded by the Governor. Of the $16,924,996 raised so far this cycle by the Illinois Republican Party $16,071,600 has come from either the Governor personally, his wife or his campaign fund, Citizens for Rauner.

CommitteeCycle TotalFrom RaunerPct
Illinois Republican Party$16,924,996 $16,071,600 95%

Most of that money is being passed through to the two Republican caucus committees, the House Republican Organization (HRO) and the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee (RSSCC).

CommitteeCycle TotalFrom State PartyPct
House Republican Organization$11,257,997 $10,095,000 90%
Republican State Senate Campaign Committee$3,585,919 $2,193,000 61%
Combined$14,843,916 $12,288,000 83%

Only about $2.5 million of the roughly $14.8 million that the two Republican caucuses have received this cycle came from donors other than the State Party. The two caucus leaders each have their own candidate committee Citizens for Durkin ($1,452,457) and Citizens for Christine Radogno ($958,754). So for the 2016 cycle the combined total donations for the State Party, HRO, RSSCC, Citizens for Durkin and Citizens for Christine Radogno comes to about $16 million from Rauner and about $5.8 million from all other sources, this is an operation largely funded by Rauner with probably much more to come.

How Did He Do It?

Most of the Rauner money came via his campaign committee Citizens for Rauner, and most of that came in just a few large donations. During the 2014 election Bruce Rauner had personally contributed enough money to his own campaign to lift the contribution limits in the Governor's race and that exemption from limits remained in effect until December 31st of that year. On 12/31/14 he filed this A-1 which included a $10 million contribution from himself, $8 million from Ken Griffin and $2 million from Richard Uihlein and his year end report showed his campaign fund with a balance of $20.2 million heading into the start of the 2016 cycle.

Starting in January of 2015 Rauner's campaign committee could no longer accept unlimited donations from donors like Griffin and Uihlein but he was still able to personally contribute unlimited sums and doing so did not lift the caps for the upcoming Governor's race because it is still more than 12 months before the next gubernatorial election (5/9-8.5 (h)). So far this cycle Rauner has personally given his campaign committee $2,550,000 in cash plus another $200,000 in-kind for data analysis, also he did refund himself $300,000 as well.

In a general election candidate committees are allowed to make unlimited transfers to party committees, and vice versa. The Illinois Republican Party, HRO and the RSSCC are all classified as party committees so Citizens for Rauner can legally transfer as much as it would like to any of the three during this general election period and then those party committees can contribute unlimited amounts to any of their other allied candidates either through direct transfers or in-kind contributions. Citizens for Rauner started the cycle with $20 million in the bank and added over $2 million more and has already transferred $16 million to the Illinois Republican Party to fund this legislative effort. While it's barely even Labor Day much of that money is already being spent on legislative campaigns.

DistrictCandidatePartyState PartyLeadershipTotal
Rep-20Michael McAuliffe (i)R$28,005.00 $915,898.06 $943,903.06
Sen-31Melinda Bush (i)D$0.00 $463,981.42 $463,981.42
Rep-62Rod DrobinskiR$30,771.00 $427,847.44 $458,618.44
Sen-31Mike AmrozowiczR$55,554.00 $402,968.70 $458,522.70
Rep-71Tony McCombieR$19,160.12 $434,298.81 $453,458.93
Sen-23Seth LewisR$54,672.00 $393,895.52 $448,567.52
Rep-62Sam Yingling (i)D$31,182.51 $369,243.20 $400,425.71
Sen-59Gary Forby (i)D$0.00 $400,330.49 $400,330.49
Rep-111Mike BabcockR$17,938.32 $374,536.55 $392,474.87
Rep-76Jerry LongR$35,874.00 $274,660.00 $310,534.00
Rep-112Dwight Kay (i)R$54,501.60 $232,852.99 $287,354.59
Sen-38Sue Rezin (i)R$40,006.00 $246,459.60 $286,465.60
Rep-45Christine Winger (i)R$54,655.00 $223,693.08 $278,348.08
Rep-61Sheri Jesiel (i)R$18,173.61 $208,395.60 $226,569.21
Sen-59Dale FowlerR$15,890.76 $204,942.62 $220,833.38
Sen-23Thomas Cullerton (i)D$0.00 $216,759.30 $216,759.30
Rep-95Avery Bourne (i)R$61,398.53 $147,514.04 $208,912.57
Rep-115Terri Bryant (i)R$63,028.69 $137,951.81 $200,980.50
Rep-117David SeverinR$0.00 $199,010.39 $199,010.39
Rep-56Jillian BernasR$31,569.00 $155,628.82 $187,197.82

This table shows the top 20 races (as of 9pm Sept 6th) for funding that has either come from the state party or a leadership committee and 16 of the top 20 are Republican campaigns. Lots of money, lots of early money is being funneled to Republican legislative campaigns already.

You'll notice that of the four Democrats listed above only one is from the House despite the fact that far more of the contested races are in the House, that is not an accident. The way the Democrats are managing their money is quite a bit different, especially in the House.

How the Democrats Are Doing It

You might expect that since the Dems couldn't match the $20 million in unlimited donations Rauner received on New Year's Eve 2014 and don't have his personal wealth they can't match the Republicans this cycle but as of the last quarterly filings that's actually not the case. The combined June 30th cash on hand for all the Democratic committees was about $36 million compared to about $32.6 million for the Republicans (including the Rauner funds). On the Democratic side the money isn't as consolidated in leadership, at least not yet. Of the four committees controlled by the Speaker (Democratic Party of Illinois, Democratic Majority, Friends of Michael J. Madigan and 13th Ward Democratic Organization) the combined 6/30 cash on hand was $7.8 million. The three committees Cullerton controls (Illinois Senate Democratic Victory Fund, Citizens for John Cullerton for State Senate and Committee to Support John Cullerton for State Central Committeeman) had a combined 6/30 cash on hand of $5.7 million.

But where the real cash advantage lies for the Democrats is in the individual candidate committees. Not including leadership Democratic Senate candidate committees had a combined 6/30 cash on hand of $5.6 million, compared to just $1.7 million for Republican Senate candidate committees. In the House the Democratic candidate committees had an eye popping combined 6/30 cash on hand of $13.4 million compared to $5.6 million for Republican candidate committees. Again, those figures don't include the four legislative leaders.

How Did They Do It?

For the most part the Democrats didn't have the ability to receive unlimited funds into one committee the way Rauner did (there are some exceptions to this statement that weren't utilized, like this one, I won't bore you with the details) so instead they had to get the money into their political system through as many entryways as possible. For the Democrats much of that took place in the 4th quarter of 2015. The Democrats focused heavily on their allies in labor and the legal community to raise large sums and when those donors could not give any more to leadership they gave to various candidate committees, particularly those that appeared to be likely targets for 2016 and especially in the House. In Q4 2015 (link is for a downloadable spreadsheet) not including the four legislative leaders 19 Democratic General Assembly candidate committees raised over $100K (14 House, 5 Senate) compared to only one Republican Jil Tracy ($105K). Some of those prolific fundraisers, like Lou Lang ($132K) and John Bradley ($523K), are statehouse veterans who have worked on many issues and have had the opportunity to build numerous allies over the years so it isn't necessarily surprising to see them with strong fundraising numbers. However many of the others are relative newcomers and it's clear that the vast sums of money they were raising probably weren't solely the result of their own efforts.

In the days before contribution limits the individual candidate committees were largely under the control of the individual candidates themselves. At times they may have been given direction by leadership and they were certainly asked to kick in and help the caucus when they could afford to do so (like the Republicans just recently did), but they still largely had financial control over their own committees. Under this new model it appears that some of the House Dems, the targets in particular, have given up that independence for more of a team approach. Each of these candidate committees that are sitting on large cash balances can make unlimited transfers to leadership if those funds aren't needed it seems likely that leadership will instruct them to do so. It's a model that offers these targeted candidates some peace of mind knowing that, if necessary, funds from elsewhere will be shifted to help them in their races and it gives leadership control over a much greater pool of funds, and in a contribution limit environment each fund is an additional entryway.

The Republicans are spending their money earlier than the Dems this cycle, even in the races where you can compare apples to apples that is no doubt true. But it's also true that you're seeing more financial reporting on the Republican side because the way the Republicans and Democrats are moving the money is different and those methods have different reporting requirements. For example, when Rauner transfers money to the State Party he won't have to disclose that expenditure until the next quarterly report is filed on 10/15 but the State Party has to disclose receiving that contribution within 5 business days so we see that transaction. Then when the State Party transfers those funds to a caucus committee the same scenario applies and the same when that caucus committee transfers it to a candidate. However on the Democrats' side much of that money is already in the individual candidate committees so any expenditures those candidate committees make won't be disclosed until 10/15 when the 3rd quarter filings are due. In some of the most hotly contested races, like the four that appear in the table above (Yingling in the House; Bush, Forby and Cullerton in the Senate) the Democratic leadership has already started spending there and we are seeing those transfers or in-kinds, elsewhere it's happening under the radar.

Soon the Democrats are going to start consolidating their funds into leadership. In the House you'll likely see transfers from some of the flush campaign committees that don't appear to have much of a race, in the Senate you'll likely see the same from some of the more financially secure members that aren't on the ballot this cycle. It's only a matter of time and I'm surprised we haven't seen some of it already.

The Comptroller's Race

I'm surprised by how little financial activity there has been in the Comptroller's race. It's not one of the traditionally prominent statewide offices but because of the circumstances this year it's been given far more attention than usual.

On June 30th Democrat Susanna Mendoza reported $1.3 million on hand but has reported only $39,000 since. Republican Leslie Munger had a June 30th cash on hand of $282K and has raised only $16,000 since. When Munger raised $111K in the 2nd quarter of 2015 it was the only time this cycle that she raised six figures, many General Assembly candidates are outraising her.

Mendoza will need quite a bit more money than she has so far. Looking at Frerichs 2014 as a comparable, he raised about $2.5 million in 2013 & 2014 and put about $1.6 million of that on TV, including buying $1.1 million worth of TV time in late August which were likely advance payments for airtime later in the cycle. We are already past late August, she has some catching up to do if she wants to run a campaign similar to what Frerichs ran.

It's hard to tell what Munger is going to do but it doesn't appear that she's going to raise money the old fashioned way. Perhaps she has some personal wealth that she's waiting to put in, perhaps she has a commitment from the Governor for a large sum, perhaps she's expecting that some outside groups will spend enough to lift the contribution limits and then a handful of deep-pocket donors will kick in large sums or perhaps it's a combination of the three. There must be some plan because you can't run statewide on $282K, you can't really even run a competitive House race on that little anymore.

The Others

Because it's easier to move unlimited sums around in a general election and the battle lines are more clear there is much less of a need for Independent Expenditure committees in the fall, but that doesn't mean we won't see any. Personal PAC has added $125K to their IE since June 30th when they had $580K on hand. The Governor's IE, Turnaround Illinois, had $2.2 million as of June 30th. And Liberty Principles, the conservative IE that played a big part in Republican primaries, has added $1 million to the $4 million they reported on June 30th.

We know what Turnaround Illinois is going to be used for. It has been paying for the Governor's commercials on term limits that you have been seeing on TV since the Olympics. Despite his odd protestations to the contrary the Governor has been travelling the state campaigning on this issue and using his IE to pay for the corresponding TV ads.

It's less clear what Liberty Principles will be used for. Since June they've received $2.5 million from Bruce Rauner personally, $1.5 million from long time benefactor Richard Uihlein and $1 million from Rauner ally Ken Griffin. All that money must have some purpose but so far they haven't shown their hand. Maybe it will be used to supplement the Rauner/State Party money in General Assembly races, maybe it will be used to help Munger, maybe it will be used to reach the threshold to lift the contribution limits in key races so Rauner and other wealthy allies can pour in even more money or maybe it's for some other purpose we haven't even thought of yet. Whatever it is it will have to be done independently, the one rule that emerged from the Citizens United ruling is that they cannot coordinate with the candidates and according to state law these funds are now walled off and cannot be contributed to other candidate committees, party committees or PACs.

Follow along on our Twitter feed and you will be able to see all of the above play out in real time.


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