Friday, August 11, 2006

Have Wallet, Will Travel

We’re almost done with the new disclosure data; check back in bit for the grand unveiling. But in the meantime, here’s some observations on campaign receipts from out of state during the first six months of this year.

Illinois, as is widely recognized, has the loosest campaign finance regulations in the country. Where most states limit individuals and ban corporations and unions, or rely on targeted limits as between a regulated company and the public official who regulates it, Illinois’ law is anything goes. Since the laws apply to the candidates’ PAC and not to the donors, Illinois candidates can take far more money from donors in other states than those states’ officials can take from those donors.

For instance, Gov. Blagojevich raised $1,139,674 in itemized giving from outside of Illinois. Much of this giving would have been illegal if the donors had tried to give it to their own governors. Donors in California gave $117K, including $25K from ACC Capital Holdings. Donors in California can’t give more than $20K to their own gubernatorial candidates. Wisconsin accounted for $92K in giving, including $39K from Bulk Petroleum, $25K from Edison Liquors (a Wirtz company), and $20K from Miller Brewing. All of that giving would be illegal under Wisconsin law, which bars direct contributions from corporations to candidates. Likewise the $50K from Chess Financial in Ohio, the largest donor from that state, where direct corporate giving is barred. Indiana-based Bernardin Lochmueller and Associates gave the governor $25K. Of that, $7,500 came directly from the corporation, which is $2,500 more than Indiana law would allows corporations to give to its own candidates. The rest came from individuals, in amounts allowed under Indiana law for Indiana candidates.

There’s less to write about in Treasurer Topinka’s reports because she raised far less money: only $195K from outside Illinois. Very little of her giving would have been affected by limits elsewhere, were she running elsewhere. She reports $5K each from Ameren and Anheuser Busch, both Missouri companies, where companies are limited to $1,175 in giving to gubernatorial candidates. But the comparison does reveal something else about her donors – many of them actually gave more to her opponent. Ameren gave Blago $15K, while Anheuser Busch gave him $26K. She reports $5K from Teamsters DRIVE, headquartered in DC; Blago got $55K from the same group. She got $4.5K from Barnes and Thornburg, an Indiana company that also gave Blago $5K.

Donors from out of state are bound by the laws of Illinois, not the laws of their own states. It’s perfectly legal for them to give as much here as they want to, since our laws allow that. Why they would want to give here is, of course, another matter.

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