Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's Not Over Until...

If you’ve been watching the A1’s come in, you’ve seen a lot of money changing hands lately. Illinois’ disclosure system provides an almost-realtime viewing opportunity for campaign money. But each report is just one snapshot of one brief set of transactions. Want to keep track of the bigger picture? ICPR and the Sunshine Project have tabulated the biggest races and the biggest donors. They’re posted to our website. Check back for regular updates between now and Election Day.

And if you’re looking for a reason to be glad when it’s over, look no further. Two days after the Election, on Thursday, November 9th, ICPR welcomes former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald, who will talk about how Patrick Fitzgerald became U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois. If concerns about corruption are motiviating your vote one way or another, you owe it to yourself to come find out how we got the current crime fighter. But let us know soon; reservations are $75, and we need to hear from you by Friday the 3rd.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fundraising Update 10/26

As the 2006 election season heads into its final two weeks, campaign fundraising by legislative and judicial candidates appears to be hotter than ever. Statewide Democrats enjoy significant financial advantages over their opponents, while Republican donors seem to be focusing on a small handful of contests in the House, Senate, and Appellate Court where they see heightened chances for victory.

Most of the money raised by statewide candidates has come in very large increments from donors who gave more than $10,000. Contributions of this size are banned in most other states and for federal candidates. Because Illinois law places no restrictions on giving, candidates have become reliant on a tiny number of very large donors.

Legislative races are hotter than usual, and have heated up earlier than usual. Only three House races in 2004 saw combined spending of $1 million or more. So far this year, three House races report total fundraising in excess of $1 million, and several more are poised to break that barrier in the next two weeks.

Half of the four Appellate Court races are uncontested. The race in far southern Illinois looks to be a replay of the 2004 Supreme Court race: a proxy war between personal injury plaintiffs on the one side and personal injury defendants on the other. The Fifth District race, stretching from the Metro East area to the Indiana border, already appears to have broken the record for spending in a state Appellate Court contest.

A copy of this report is (or will be) available for download from the ICPR website.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Trickle Down Record Breaking

The judicial race in Madison County between appointed incumbent Don Weber and challenger David Hylla proves the adage that everything old is new again. What’s old is that the vast majority of the funds come from either personal injury plaintiffs or personal injury defendants, just like the 2004 race between Gordon Maag and Lloyd Karmeier. Indeed, at least 67% of the money raised since July 1 by David Hylla came from donors who gave to Gordon Maag, while at least 81% of the money raised by Don Weber came from donors who gave to Lloyd Karmeier. What’s new is that Weber and Hylla aren’t fighting over a Supreme Court seat. They’re running for a seat on the trial court. So far, they report a combined $533K for the General Election, which is still two weeks away.

Lest there be any doubt that the same pattern continues to play out in other judicial races, witness the Appellate Court race in far southern Illinois. 91% of the funds raised since July 1 by Republican Stephen McGlynn can be traced directly to personal injury defendants and their associations. Democrat Bruce Stewart draws at least 27% of his funds from personal injury plaintiffs; adding the unions whose members are liable to get injured and he gets 44% of his funds from the other side of the tort issue from McGlynn’s donors. The Illinois Republican Party reported paying $567,125 for TV ads on behalf of McGlynn, within a week of receiving $575,000 from the pro-tort reform Institute for Legal Reform. The Party, which now hasn’t enough money to run ads on behalf of its gubernatorial candidate, could not have paid for those McGlynn ads without the infusion from the Washington, DC, based organization. This race just set a record for fundraising in appellate court contests, and it’s personal injury plaintiffs and defendants that are driving the cash.

Personal injury cases matter a lot to tort interests, but that’s not what drives court dockets in southern Illinois, and it’s not the only issue voters need to think about when electing a judge. Circuit and Appellate Court judges are far more likely to hear cases about family law, including divorces and custody battles; criminal law; commercial litigation, including contract disputes and intellectual property; and Probate, including wills, trusts, and division of property. Judges have to be expert at a wide range of legal matters. But the money in these contests increasingly comes overwhelmingly from one area; an area that accounts for a small part of the cases filed in Illinois.

Fundraising Update

Pres came in last night (or this morning) for just about all candidates, giving us the first full look at fundraising for the General.

Hot races:

In the senate the top races seem to be the 52nd (Myers/Frerichs), where the candidates are evenly balanced financially; the 49th (Demuzio/Richey), where they’re not; the 22nd (Roth/Noland), the 33rd (Axley/Bond), and 46th (Russell/Koehler). In the House, it’s the 107th (Granberg/Cavaletto), the 92nd (Schock/Spears), 91st (Smith/Dagit), 71st (Boland/Haring), 101st (Flider/Cain), and 75th (Gordon/Briscoe). Not counting the 112th, where Hoffman has a ton and Kugler does not.

Not races:

11 of the 39 Senate seats are uncontested, meaning that one out of six voters won’t really have a choice for the state Senate. In the House, 56 of 118 contests are uncontested, meaning that almost half of all voters won’t have any choice there. And it’s worse in judicial races, where fully half of the Appellate Court seats and 36 of 57 Circuit Court seats give voters no choice on the ballot. Some seats are won with money; others, by lack of opposition.

Killer Donor

Killerspin has emerged as a reliable Democratic donor. In the last two years, not only have they sponsored championship table tennis teams (ping-pong to novices) around the globe, but they’ve given $58K to candidates, all of them Democrats, including $27K to Todd Stroger, $15K to Rod Blagojevich, $10K to Alexi Giannoulias, and $2.5K to David Miller.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Preparing for the Pres

Campaign disclosure reports tell you who gave, how much, to whom, and when. What they don’t tell you is why, and yet, why is often the most interesting part of the story. With that in mind, here are some donations we’ve spotted in recent weeks that strike us as interesting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Tony Peraica is getting a serious look by many big donors. Not that there’s blood in the water, but Republicans are far more interested in him than in … that guy who ran in 2002. (The answer to this trivia question is Christopher A Bullock, who spent $4,476.58 on his losing effort). Peraica reports donations of $1K or more from prominent Republicans like Roger Claar, Don Stephens, Tyrone Fahner and James B. Pritzker. He also shows $20,000 from Sam Zell, who usually gives to Democrats (and who gave $75K to Forest Claypool’s primary run). Todd Stroger hasn’t filed his Pre-Election yet, but he’s showing far more traditional Democratic money, including Daley & George, the carpenters, the pipe trades, and SEIU. And (go figure) The Dynasty Group.

Richard Duchossois and his family have been reliable Republican donors for years. Between 1993 and June 30, 2006, they and their companies gave $3.6 million to Republicans and just $400K to Democrats. Any idea why Arlington International Raceway, which they co-own, just gave $50,000 to Senate President Emil Jones?

The Coalition for Jobs, Growth, and Prosperity PAC reported raising $15K since July 1. Where’d they get it? Why, from the Coalition for Jobs, Growth, and Prosperity. No, really; where’d they get it?

Chicagoans the world over cried when the White Sox missed the playoffs. But there was a silver lining for some Democrats, as it meant that Friends of Michael J. Madigan got their ticket deposit back.

Dan Hynes is running statewide for re-election against Republican Carole Pankau. But he’s giving a lot of cash away in the process. So far, reports indicate that he’s given $22,750 to other politicians since July 1, including Democratic challengers in the 27th, 33rd, and 46th Districts, and embattled incumbents Sen. Demuzio, Rep. Granberg, and Rep. Smith. Republican Pankau, meanwhile, hasn’t even reported raising that much over the same period (she hasn’t yet filed a Pre); she shows $14,250 in receipts so far. Reports do show $3,025 in transfers out from Pankau, all to Collar County Republican organizations.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Power Surge (Updated)

As of 8 am this morning, electric companies fighting legislation to freeze rates have given at least $201K to legislators’ PACs since July 1, on top of the $1.3 million they gave between January 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006. These figures may increase as additional legislators, including the Four Tops, file their Pre-Election reports between now and tomorrow night. And, electric company giving will likely increase further through Election Day.

Senate President Emil Jones and Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson are the top two recipients, at $41,200 and $23,000 respectively. This is consistent with the earlier identified pattern of giving heavily to the upper chamber, which is typically done with an eye to killing legislation.

Two-thirds of the giving to President Jones since July 1 came in the last three weeks, after House Speaker Michael Madigan called for a special session to consider a rate freeze. Likewise, 60% of giving to Leader Watson came after the Special Session call. House Republican Leader Tom Cross got 44 % of his $17,200 after the call; significantly, Speaker Madigan’s PAC received at least $20,000 before the call, but not a dime since. The Democratic Party of Illinois, which he chairs, currently shows no electric receipts since July 1.

Top industry donors to legislators include Exelon and subsidiaries at $98K, Ameren at $54K, Dynegy at $20K, and Midwest Generation at $14K. While some of the funds come from employees, much of this giving would be illegal in other states and at the federal level, where direct corporate contributions are banned.

Other recent recipients of electric company giving include trade associations. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce reported receiving $20,000, while the Illinois Merchants PAC, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, and the Illinois Manufacturers each report $10,000. As with giving to Senate Leaders, this non-candidate giving is consistent with an effort to mute calls for modifying the 22% - 55% rate hikes due in January.

Check back to ICPR’s website later this week for fundraising updates in the hot statewide, legislative, judicial, and Cook County races.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Third Time's a Charm?

Today's Tribune reports on a leaked report from the governor's Inspector General, this one finding that a state employee engaged in political work with taxpayer resources. This is the third time that a report of the governor's IG has been leaked to the press. News coverage of the report give the strong impression that the IG investigated this instance thoroughly and reached a reasonable determination. However, for reasons we find totally indefensible, the law requires these reports to be confidential.

Since the IG's office was created in 2004, the office has concluded over 685 investigations. The Ethics law allows the IG to announce only the number of investigations it has conducted. The public, by statute, is kept in the dark unless and until the IG sends a complaint to the Ethics Commission. To date, the Commission has received only one report, out of over 2500 allegation filed, and that one has not yet been resolved.

ICPR believes that the public has a right to know more about investigations undertaken by the Inspectors General. We shouldn't have to rely on leaks to determine whether our government is working or not. The General Assembly should amend the Ethics Act to allow for sunshine in ethics.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rezko, Campaigns, and Government

Although he doesn't have an "official" role, Tony Rezko emerged as a powerful figure in the Blagojevich Administration. It appears he became such a trusted advisor that many of his associates were placed in a variety of important positions within the bureaucracy.

Did he become that influential because of his expertise in government? No.

Because he helped raise huge sums of contributions that fueled the Blagojevich campaign operation? Most likely.

In most states, candidates would be prohibited from accepting contributions as big as Rezko made to Blagojevich and as big as Rezko apparently brought to the Blagojevich campaign from other sources.

Our campaign finance regulations are so wide open that Illinois campaigns breed -- there's that petri dish again -- corruption.

Laws will not stop elected officials from trusting their "friends," who may use that friendship for their own profit. But limiting campaign contributions will make it less likely that some contributors will rise to positions of power.

Like most other states, Illinois should enact strict limits on how much money can be contributed to campaign committees, and also like most other states Illinois should only allow individuals and political action committees to make contributions -- not corporations, labor unions, non-profits or associations.

Power Surge

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan last week asked Gov. Blagojevich to call a special session to address the consequences of last month's power auction and the threat of large increases in residential electricity costs. ICPR most recently addressed political giving by electric companies about a year ago in our issue briefing, Power Markets.

In light of Speaker Madigan's announcement, here are updated giving figures for the legislative leaders and gubernatorial candidates, along with their top industry donor, for the period January 1, 2005 - June 30, 2006:

Gubernatorial Candidates:

Gov. Blagojevich: $66,775, including $25,775 from Exelon and subsidiaries
Treas. Topinka: $126,500, including $110,000 from Indeck Energy Services
Rich Whitney: None reported

Legislative Leaders:

Senate President Emil Jones: $162,455, including $93,855 from Exelon and subsidiaries
House Speaker Michael J. Madigan: $85,600, including $28,000 each from Exelon and subsidiaries, and Dynegy
Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson: $127,210, including $52,000 from Exelon and subsidiaries
House Republican Leader Tom Cross: $113,000, including $47,500 from Exelon and subsidiaries

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What we know, and when we know it

People watching A-1s today would have seen the largest transfer in Illinois history, when Citizens for Frank Watson transferred $1,000,000 to the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee. And we know that because Illinois has one of the best campaign finance disclosure websites in the nation. If you count ICPR’s website, we have two of the best campaign finance websites in the nation, but the official State Board of Elections website is a terrific resource. Visitors to the SBE website can now watch A-1s come in. A-1s are reports of contributions of over $500 received in the last 30 days before an election, filed within two days of receipt.

It’s often assumed that campaigns plan for the A-1 period by pulling in big checks earlier, so as to gain that last two weeks of anonymity, but not every campaign follows this bit of thinking. Donors have given amounts larger than Watson's transfer to recipients in direct giving before, especially self-funders, and PACs have given larger cumulative amounts before as a series of smaller transfers from one PAC to another, but today’s transfer from Watson to the RSSCC is the biggest single transfer ever.

ICPR will be monitoring the A-1s and Pres as they come in. Check out our 2006 elections page for information on hot races and top donors as we get closer to Election Day.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Will Cook Shake and Bake Shakman?

On September 20, FBI agents raided the Cook County Human Resources Department , carting off caseloads of materials in an on-going investigation into corrupt political hiring. They returned on Monday, October 2, focusing on the county Highway Department. And on Friday, October 6, lawyers for Cook County went into federal court to ask that anti-corruption monitoring be stopped . With so many investigations, now is not the time for Cook County to do away with the Shakman Decree.

Just like the City of Chicago, the County of Cook is now facing serious and credible allegations of illegal political hiring while simultaneously seeking to end judicial oversight designed to monitor and curtail political hiring. Over the past three decades, the Shakman Decree has emerged as the key tool to ensure that political and electoral considerations do not dictate hiring and the handing out of taxpayer-funded jobs. Efforts by the City and the County to do away with Shakman at the same time that they are facing such far-reaching and credible allegations of corruption throughout their hiring processes are absolutely shameful.

Monday, October 02, 2006

And Now, the Debate(s)

If you’ve tuned in for the new Fall TV lineups, you’ve probably also seen a bunch of political campaign ads. It’s that time of year again: the weeks before the election is when candidates want to define what you think of them. But what happened to debates? Remember when the candidates for office used to face off with each other, taking questions from voters and saying what they believed? Gov. Blagojevich and Treasurer Topinka announced months ago that they wanted a dozen debates; now, after tonight’s radio debate in Decatur, we’ll be lucky to see a direct conversation between the two main candidates (let alone one with Rich Whitney, or broadcast on TV in prime time). But those TV ads will run nonstop until Tuesday, November 7. If you’d like to know more about the candidates than what they tell you in a completely scripted, controlled ad, give’em a call and tell them to debate. For more on this topic, see Cindi Canary’s op-ed in today’s Crain’s.