Friday, August 04, 2006

Big Money

We're still refining the data from the recently-filed campaign disclosure reports so that we can post it to the Sunshine Database -- check back in a week to 10 days for that -- but in the meantime, I looked at how reliant statewide candidates are on large contributors. Donors who give more than $10,000 to a candidate represent a tiny fraction of all donors, but can account for a huge chunk of that candidate's total receipts. In 2002, most of the candidates for statewide office got most of their funds from these large donors (read our report, Attack of the Gigantic Campaign Contributors, for the figures from the last election).

We're not done standardizing the names of the donors, so it's possible, likely even, that I'm missing some cash here, but I took a preliminary look at how much money comes from large donors this time around. Remember, checks of this size are illegal in most states, and in most instances in all federal elections. How did our statewides do?

Gov. Blagojevich reported $6.7 million in receipts in the first half of the year. Of that, at least $4.2 million came from large donors -- 64% of his total take. About a fifth of his haul came from donors who gave more than $100,000. His Republican opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, reported $3.4 million in receipts, of which 42% came from large donors. Green candidate Rich Whitney, if you're wondering, reported $1,757.40 in total receipts, and none if it, obviously, came from large donors.

For AG, Lisa Madigan reported $1.3 million in receipts. Just oover half (54%) came from large donors. Challenger Stu Umholtz reported $108,000 in receipts, none of which came from large donors. Secretary of State Jesse White shows $581,000 n receipts, 36% from large donors, and Dan Rutherford reports $356,000 in receipts, 7% from large donors. The Green candidates did not report committees.

Campaign disclosure reports can be read in several ways: to see who's trying to curry favor with whom, who draws support from where, who knows people who give them money. An over-reliance on a small group of donors can be troubling because it calls into question the candidate's ability to put voters' interests ahead of their contributors'.

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