Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Loss of IL Congressional seat likely to hurt state GOP more than Democrats

Illinois' Congressional Republicans are likely to shoulder the brunt of the impact of newly released Census figures -- which confirmed that Illinois is a loser, at least in terms of seats in Congress -- in 2012, thanks to Illinois' malformed redistricting process.

The population data released by the U.S. Census bureau Tuesday serves as the basis for reapportionment, where states gain or lose Congressional districts -- and as a result, pull in D.C. -- to accommodate for population shifts and to uphold the principle of "one person, one vote."

This new 2010 headcount showed that although the number of Illinoisans have increased since the last Census 10 years ago, there have been greater gains made by other states.

As a result, the Land of Lincoln will lose one of its current 19 Congressional districts; come the next general election in 2012, there will be 18 elections for U.S. Representative from Illinois.

But Democrats can -- and are expected -- to use population data, skilled mapmakers, and political voting data to draw a new Congressional map which will minimize the GOP's chances of winning election in as many of those 18 districts as possible.

That's because Illinois gives the General Assembly the power to create and approve the Congressional districts, subject to the approval of the governor, just as with other laws. (The congressional redistricting process is created by state law, and does not follow the same process as the state legislative redistricting process.)

While at first glance, that may suggest there's some desired independence between the map-drawers and Congressional incumbents/candidates, there is not much in practice.

Both chambers Illinois General Assembly are currently controlled by Democrats, who can use their power to increase their party's likelihood of electoral success by strategically lumping voters into districts to minimize the number of seats Republicans will be able to win.

Equally troubling is that in the past -- notably, the 2001 redistricting cycle, where Illinois again was faced with the loss of a Congressional seat -- Illinois' delegation has played a "hands on" role in developing the districts in which many would go on to run. Back then, Democrat Rep. David Phelps was assigned the short stick by the other members of the Illinois delegation, as he was re-drawn into a district composed primarily of voters who leaned Republican and which he had never represented (but where incumbent GOP Rep. John Shimkus had). Phelps lost the election.

An Associated Press story earlier this week noted that State Sen. Kwame Raoul, the chairman of the Illinois Senate's Redistricting Committee, believes that the General Assembly is not inclined to defer to the Congressional delegation this time around ... or at least there's no such plan currently.

But while that's far from a guarantee that the Congressional delegation will not play a significant role in the process, there's also no guarantee that the General Assembly won't play political games with the new Congressional map.

The confirmed loss of one Illinois Congressional seat Tuesday only drives home the need for transparency and public involvement in the redistricting process.

We hope that just as Democratic leaders in the General Assembly have voiced support for such opportunities in their district-drawing process, they would recognize the need for such opportunities at the Congressional level and follow through.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reporters get the scoop on contribution limits, FOIA at ICPR co-sponsored workshop

Two wonky topics near and dear to ICPR’s heart – campaign finance reform and the Freedom of Information Act – were the subject of a media workshop sponsored by ICPR, the Chicago Headline Club and the Attorney General’s office today.

The Monday morning forum was designed to provide reporters with information about changes to the laws and answer their questions about their implementation. Audio recordings of the presentations can be accessed here.

Andy Naumann, the deputy director for disclosure at the Illinois State Board of Elections (SBE), and ICPR director Cindi Canary, outlined the state’s first-ever campaign contribution limits bill, which takes effect Jan. 1 – smack dab in the middle of the municipal campaign season, including the contest to be Chicago’s next mayor. (Check out ICPR's briefing book for reporters on the statute here.)

Until the law is fully implemented, some questions about how the limits and enforcement provisions created by the statute will remain unanswered. Those questions may linger well after the new year, when the law takes effect, because the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) and the SBE are poised to announce an extension on the rule-making for the contribution limits law, Naumann said. Those rules, which the committee is tasked with approving, provide the SBE with direction on how to implement the contribution limits and disclosure system approved by lawmakers last year.

It’s unclear what affect, if any, the delay in rulemaking will have on the implementation of the bill. Even with their absence, the law takes effect Jan. 1.

The date those contribution limits go into effect will mark the one-year anniversary that Illinois’ updated open records law, FOIA, took effect.

One of the most significant improvements in that law was the permanent creation of the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor, the state’s official open records czar. Cara Smith holds the PAC position and is responsible for mediating records request disputes and training officials on their duties to provide the public with access to government information.

Smith said her work has mainly been addressing three types of inquiries: general questions about the law, requests for review of records denials received by individuals, and pre-issuance reviews of records denials public bodies seek to make in specific instances.

These inquiries have inundated the Public Access Counselor’s office, which includes about 11 attorneys, Smith said, because public officials are paying attention to the need to abide by the law. For years, reporters and members of the public have complained that public bodies illegally ignored or denied records requests – which spurred the law changes, which took effect Jan. 1, 2010.

Smith offered a few suggestions for records requestors:

- Consider discussing lengthy or detailed requests with the public body. A conversation can help ensure that a request is understood correctly, and may help tailor broad request into a more specific (and useful) inquiry.

- If a public body requests direction from the Public Access Counselor for only a portion of your request, ask the body to provide the rest of the information that isn’t in question. That way, you will get timely access to at least some of the information sought.

- Specify the type of format in which you would like to receive your sought records. The FOIA specifies that units of government must provide records in electronic format, if feasible, if requested by the information-seeker.

- If your request has been denied, you have 60 calendar days to file an appeal with the Public Access Counselor. In return, the PAC has 60 days to respond or issue a binding opinion, with the option of issuing 21-business day extension to complete the response. Appeals can be mailed to:
Public Access Counselor,
Office of the Attorney General
500 S. 2nd St.
Springfield, IL 62706
Or e-mailed to publicaccess@atg.state.il.us

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

One after another, editorial boards tell lawmakers IL needs sunshine in redistricting process

Some of the fiercest advocates of government transparency – the news media – have joined the choir of Illinoisans who are demanding stronger sunshine requirements in a pending redistricting proposal.

Within the last day, the Bloomington Pantagraph, Champaign News-Gazette noted and the Springfield State Journal-Register each have editorialized in need of improving the public participation portion of Senate Bill 3976.

The bill, which is pending in the House, would mandate that after the release of Census data next spring, lawmakers hold four public hearings to discuss the state’s House and Senate districts and …

And that’s it.

Lawmakers wouldn’t have to show the public proposed maps before they’re approved. They wouldn’t have to take public input on ways to improve those districts. And legislators wouldn’t have to share tools and resources with the public which would empower residents to create their own redistricting proposals.

As the News-Gazette noted: “There's nothing wrong with pre-map hearings. But what about holding public hearings on the map Democratic leaders ultimately propose? How about releasing the census information and allowing various interest groups to draft and propose their own maps? Democrats rejected amendments to do that.”

The Bloomington Pantagraph correctly notes that: “There is nothing requiring public input after the maps and have been drawn — the most critical part.”

And a baffled Springfield State Journal-Register questions why, as we approach the two-year anniversary of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s arrest on corruption charges, lawmakers have yet to embrace one of the simplest reform possible: Sunshine. “It’s as if legislative leaders simply can’t quite let go of the old ways,” the editorial board laments.

We agree.

The bill currently awaits action in the House, which is scheduled to come back into session in early January.

That gives lawmakers ample time to respond to these criticisms by beefing up the transparency mandates in the proposal.

Contact your state representative and state senator and tell them what you think.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Death by AV

The just-concluded Veto Session ended substantive work on bills that were passed by the legislature but vetoed by the governor. The session presented a teachable moment on the use and misuse of amendatory vetoes.

Among the bills returned to the legislature were four dealing with the Election Code: HB 723, HB 4842, HB 5206, and SB 1662. Each of these were amendatorily vetoed by Gov. Quinn. Two of the vetoes were overridden, while the other two bills died. None of the AVs were enacted.

All four amendatory vetoes added new language without changing what was already in the bill. The two bills enacted over the veto were HB 723, which addressed the filling of ballot vacancies after a primary, and HB 5206, dealing with the removal of dead people from voter rolls. Gov. Quinn added language to both of them to put advisory questions on the ballot. The two bills that died in Veto Session were HB 4842, which directed the State Board of Elections to produce an on-line voters guide during primary elections and which Gov. Quinn amended to create open primaries; and SB1662, changing the timeframe in which a new political committee must file a statement of organization during the 30 days before an election, to which Gov. Quinn added language dealing with local ethics ordinances.

Illinois is unusual among the 50 states in giving the governor the power to recommend changes to bills, in addition to vetoing a measure outright. But the power is limited, and should be used sparingly. As it is, the legislature plays enough games that short circuit the deliberative process. The governor should take the high road and find sponsors for his bills in January, just like everybody else.

We hope that Gov. Quinn will work with the legislature in the next session, both to enact the bills that failed as a result of his intervention and, separately if necessary, to move bills to address the new areas of his concern. The deliberative process should be allowed to work, especially when the amendatory veto merely adds new sections that have not previously been deliberated by the legislature.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Senate redistricting proposal falls short on transparency

Redistricting is among the weighty issues the General Assembly took a crack at this veto session. But like so many other reform issues lawmakers have tackled, this well-intentioned legislation falls a little short.

Senate Bill 3976, sponsored by Senate Redistricting Chairman Kwame Raoul, touches on two important portions of the map-drawing process: Minority voting rights and transparency.

The first section of the bill requires map-drawers to create crossover, coalition and influence districts, whenever possible, after following federal and state rules including the Voting Rights Act. These types of districts help minority voters who constitute less than a majority of an area’s voting age populations to elect representatives of their choice and influence the outcome of elections. (See p. 16 of this redistricting guide from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund for more information.)

ICPR endorses this portion of the bill.

But the second portion, which purportedly seeks to bring sunshine into the redistricting process, leaves much room for improvement. Historically, map-drawing – which is of huge importance to both Republicans and Democrats, and a process which one party tries to single-handedly control – has been conducted in secrecy. While both chambers have held some committee meetings to discuss the public’s needs, when it’s time to put the pen to paper, the public hasn’t been invited.

Public involvement and oversight in this process is sorely needed.

But the legislation would mandate that lawmakers hold four meetings in different parts of the state following the release of Census data, which is expected in early 2011 … and that’s it.

There’s no requirement that the public be given an opportunity to chime in on draft maps, before they become law and establish the districts that will stand for 10 years. And there’s no mandate that the state provide Illinoisans with the tools to draw their own maps for consideration.

ICPR testified on this bill in committee Tuesday. Democrats who control the committee and chamber swatted down proposed GOP amendments which mirrored ICPR’s suggestions to improve transparency.

Despite those concerns, Republicans are joining Democrats in supporting the bill because it is an improvement over the status quo. It passed the Senate on a 53-4 vote and is now awaiting action in the House.

ICPR urges you to contact your lawmakers and tell them you don’t want them to shut out the public this redistricting cycle. Urge them to support additional public hearings, and tell them that when next Spring rolls around, you want to provide input on redistricting maps.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Petition Follies, 2011

Today is the last day for candidates to file their nominating petitions for municipal office, including the 2011 Chicago elections. But we won't know who's actually on the ballot for another couple of weeks. That's because candidates can be removed from the ballot if challenged for not meeting all of the criteria in state law. Many challenges are brought for good reason, but all too often, challenges, including successful ones that remove candidates from the ballot, are not based on good policy.

Much of the attention on challenges, as with the rest of the Chicago elections, appears to be focused on residency issues. Rahm Emanuel may face a challenge based on his residency, just as other candidates have in the recent past. Other common reasons for bringing challenges include the failure by the candidate to submit the necessary number of petition signatures, the invalidity of some signatures, and errors by petition passers.

And yet, challenges often become tools for narrowing voter choice or diluting the votes of blocs of voters. We hope that every candidate who filed petitions and who also filed their Statement of Economic Interest remembered to file the receipt for their Statement with their election authority. Failure to file the receipt, as readers of this blog know, is grounds for dismissing the petition, even if the candidate did actually file the Statement itself. Candidates can, legally, be tossed from the ballot if there are problems with the status of their petition passer, or the notary who signed the petition; otherwise legitimate voter signatures can be rejected if there are problems with binding and numbering petition pages.

We hope that challengers and election authorities will remember the legitimate public policy reasons candidates file petitions and why challengers object. The point of elections is so that voters can choose who among them is best suited to represent their interests in public office. Public officials have to meet basic qualifications (typically age- and citizenship-based). Any serious candidate with sufficient support in the district should be allowed to run; anyone who is not serious about holding office or who lacks support in the district should not.

Elections should offer voters an honest selection of qualified people willing to serve. Too often, voters are denied that right to choose, and petition signers are ignored, because someone on the campaign failed to color within the lines. Such challenges are a travesty of democratic process, and should not be used to disregard the clear will of the voters.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ICPR Supports Chicago's Asset Lease Taxpayer Protection Ordinance

This morning I was proud to stand up with our friends at Illinois PIRG in support of the Asset Lease Taxpayer Protection Ordinance. We were joined at the event by Ald. Joe Moore (49), Ald. Bob Fioretti (2), Ald. Joe Moreno (1), and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), who all spoke on behalf of the 19 members of the Chicago City Council who have signed on in support of the proposal.

My comments at the press conference are below.

Statement of David Morrison, Deputy Director, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform
November 17, 2010


I am honored to be here with so many reformers, some of whom are in public office and some of whom are not, to show support for enhanced transparency in city contracting. Despite the efforts of so many good people, Chicago has a broad and deep history of tolerating the abuse by a few of public resources in order to secure private, personal gain for themselves.

Seeing this large and growing group, so close to a majority of the full City Council, give me encouragement. These people, standing here today and those who have signed on as sponsors of the proposal, get it. We understand that the public has a right to know that their interests come first.

And so just as the public has a right to freedom of information, just as the public has a right to open meetings, just as the public has a right to transparent campaign finance disclosures, just as the public has a right to know what economic interests may cloud officials' vision, these people standing here and the others who have signed on as sponsors understand that the public also has right to know public assets are being used for the best interests of the public.

This proposal is about good and proper stewardship of public funds. And I thank you all for coming and declaring your support.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Parties, Common Donors

Some of the biggest donors to candidates for Illinois governor aren't from Illinois. The largest donor to Republican Bill Brady was the Republican Governors Association, which is based in Washington DC.

Among Democrat Pat Quinn's largest donors was the Democratic Governors Association, which is also based in Washington, DC. These two groups are fundraising arms of the two main national parties, and from the acrimony of the election, you'd think there are stark differences between them.

Turns out, not so much. An analysis by our friends at OpenSecrets.org found that the two groups draw on very similar lists of donors. Indeed, in many instances, the same corporations gave six-figure donations to both the Democratic Governors Association *and* the Republican Governors Association.

The Democratic Governors Association created a political committee under Illinois state law and reported donations to that political committee from the original donors. It is easy to see where the money directed to Pat Quinn's effort came from.

The Republican Governors Association chose a different path. The RGA created a committee under state law but then transferred money to that committee directly from its own treasury. The RGA does not disclose its funding on the same calendar as do political committees. They disclose donors to the IRS, not with the State Board of Elections. Only a portion of what the RGA raised for races across the country was spent in Illinois, so it is much harder to know if RGA donors were motivated by the opportunity to influence the Illinois election. The public may never have the kind of detail that the DGA provided, as to where the RGA obtained the $7.8 million it gave to Bill Brady.

The OpenSecrets analysis is based on the national groups' most recent filings with the IRS, which overlaps slightly the 2010 General Election period.

With that caveat, it is still interesting that so many donors have given to both parties. Among the largest 100 donors to either partisan fund, OpenSecrets found that aalmost half, 48 donors, including 45 corporations and 3 associations, gave to both.

Not only were these donors playing both sides of the political fence, they are also often in conflict with each other: Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, for example, all made six-figure donations to both.

It should be clear that many of these donors are giving not for ideological purposes but for access to people in power. That so much money is hitched to parties, which then use it for elections that have broad ideological impacts, should be concerning.

Take a look at OpenSecret's list and let us know what you see.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lawmakers look to chip away at disclosure law in veto session

Just months after updates to Illinois’ open records law went into effect, some members of the Illinois General Assembly are seeking to roll back a part of the statute.

The House is scheduled to try to override a gubernatorial veto in the fall session, known as the veto session, as early as this week.

ICPR urges lawmakers to support transparency by not overriding the governor’s veto.

Earlier this year, the Illinois General Assembly approved a bill, HB 5154, which would prohibit the disclosure of performance evaluations of state employees. The move to shield these documents from the public came without any examples or incidents of problematic enforcement.

The bill’s passage came just a couple months after updates to the Freedom of Information Act, which the General Assembly passed in the wake of the arrest of Gov. Blagojevich on corruption charge, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2010. Unlike HB 5154, those improvements were intended to increase sunshine – not block it out.

Gov. Pat Quinn issued an amendatory veto on HB 5154, arguing in his veto message that the proposal was a “departure from groundbreaking legislation that I approved just last year, making our State’s open information laws among the most robust in the entire country.”

In rejecting HB 5154, Quinn suggested that the exemption be more narrowly tailored to keep private only the performance evaluations of law enforcement.

While Quinn’s proposal is slightly less acrid than the original, ICPR believes that even his proposal is unnecessary. Transparency in government is of fundamental importance; limiting such transparency is not in the public's interest.

The General Assembly has three options:

- Accept Quinn’s amendatory veto with a simple majority vote, thus codifying the exemption for law enforcement evaluations only; or
- Override Quinn’s amendatory veto with a 3/5 supermajority vote, thus approving the broad exemption which prevents disclosure of all employees evaluations, in HB 5154;
- Fail to do either, thus allowing HB 5154 to die and continue to allow disclosure of performance evaluations.

ICPR joins the Better Government Association, ChicagoAppleseed for Justice, Citizen Advocacy Center Illinois, Illinois PIRG, the Illinois Press Association, and the League of Women Voters of Illinois, in urging the General Assembly to choose transparency and reject the governor’s veto and the legislation.

For more information, check out a story from the State Journal-Register, and editorials from the Chicago Tribune, the State Journal-Register and the Rockford Register-Star.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dollars per Vote

The Washington Post ran a story yesterday about spending in California elections where candidates burned through the equivalent of $97 for every vote they received. Those figures always seem like an invitation to armchair quarterbacking. Here in Illinois, Scott Lee Cohen led statewide candidates, spending upwards of $26 for every vote he received. For that kind of money, he could have taken his supporters out for a pretty nice meal. At the other end of the spectrum, Robert Enriquez spent just one penny per vote. (Enriquez, in case you've forgotten, was the Republican nominee for Secretary of State). But since both lost, it's hard to see how this analysis illuminates what candidates should be doing in order to win.

The issue isn't so much the amount candidates spend as the source of their funds. When a candidate spends a lot, the barrage of mail, broadcast and cable communications often forces their opponents to re-think their own voter outreach efforts. Often, these re-evaluations lead candidates to boost their fundraising targets. Most incumbents raise between $50K and $100K over the course of their terms, and for most of them, that's plenty. Every cycle, though, the parties decide to duke it out in districts around the state, and those races quickly zoom upwards in combined fundraising.

It is not necessary to spend the most to win. Indeed, many of the Democrats who lost last week vastly outspent their Republican opponents. But it is necessary to have the resources, financial and otherwise, to get your message out. When responding to a sudden tsunami of messaging from an opponent, candidates turn to sources of ready cash -- PACs, parties and the legislative leaders -- in order to keep their message before the voters. The problem is less how much they spend as where they get the money to spend. What obligations might they feel toward those donors who helped them out?

We'll be watching the disclosure reports in January and throughout the next year to answer that question. And we'll be rebuilding our website to make it easier for you to develop your own answers.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Kilbride wins retention, but campaign illustrates need for action

Illinois’ most expensive and bitter Supreme Court retention campaign ended yesterday as Justice Thomas Kilbride garnered enough votes to serve another 10-year term on the state’s high court, despite targeted opposition.

Kilbride, from the 3rd Judicial District, received about 65.5 percent of the vote. He needed a supermajority of 60 percent to retain his post.

By contrast, Justices Charles Freeman and Thomas Fitzgerald – who ran for retention in the 1st Judicial District (Cook County) this general election – garnered 74.8 percent and 76.7 percent of the vote respectively.

Although Kilbride’s victory was no squeaker, the “yes” vote percentage he received was the smallest of any Illinois Supreme Court retention candidate in the last 30 years.

In 1980, 5th Judicial District Supreme Court Judge Joseph Goldenhersh received 67.4 percent of the vote on way to winning another 10-year term. Outside of that, all other retention-seeking justices netted 70+ percent of the vote. (Voters have never failed to return a retention-seeking Illinois Supreme Court justice to the bench.)

Kilbride’s successful retention bid was the state’s most expensive such campaign, with proponents and opponents raising more than $3.2 million since July 1, and unprecedented by the degree to which opponents actively campaigned against his candidacy.

First elected as a Democrat in 2000, Kilbride was targeted for ousting by business interests and tort-reform proponents, who fundraised, campaigned and advertised against him.

Leading opponent group JUSTPAC put Kilbride in its crosshairs, in part, for his participation on a 4-2 majority decision striking down a 2005 law which capped medical malpractice awards.

Opponents also sensed an opportunity because Kilbride’s district, which stretches along I-80 from Joliet to the Quad-Cities, leans Republican. The majority of Kilbride’s funding, both in this retention election and in his 2000 campaign, came from the Democratic Party of Illinois.

While Kilbride was victorious, just over the border in Iowa, three Supreme Court justices there did not fare as well. Incensed by the Iowa Supreme Court’s 7-0 decision that legalized gay marriage, conservative organizations spurred voters to boot the three judges who were up for retention this November.

As in the Kilbride race in Illinois, the opponents targeted the Iowa judges because they disagreed with one ruling, not because of the justice's failure to correctly apply the law, or out of temperament or corruption concerns. In both, opponents used attack ads to slam the justices’ decisions.

Judicial campaigns have grown increasingly bitter and costly over the last two decades, which has resulted in growing public concern about the independence of the judiciary. This November’s contentious retention campaigns in several states appear to be an extension of this disturbing trend.

And the well-funded interest groups and political parties who dominate these acrid campaigns show no interest in slowing their spending or involvement. On the contrary, the results in Iowa – and perhaps even Illinois – may only encourage such involvement.

Illinois must not allow its judicial system to be further degraded. Fortunately, there are options on the table which would insulate the judiciary – such as optional public financing systems to pay for candidates’ campaigns – and help restore voter confidence in the courts. If anything, we hope this year’s disturbing judicial campaigns nationwide spur action on such proposals.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Who’s funding the party?

If you are the shallow type who picks their election night celebration based on where the best food and drink may be, we have some late breaking news for you.

Since late yesterday afternoon, Senator Bill Brady has reported over $1.2 million in new receipts. Granted, $700,000 of that was for an in-kind media buy from his very good friends at the Republican Governors Association, but there is still plenty in the kitty for quite a lavish array of hors d’oeuvres.

Last night, Governor Quinn’s two committees reported combined new receipts of $316,799, including $100K from DPI, $75K from AFSCME and $50K from SEIU. He, too, should have no problem laying on a nice spread.

Scott Lee Cohen has loaned himself an additional $65,000. It may sound paltry in comparison, but he can always write another check if the bar starts to run dry.

Finally, if you’d prefer not to party with the statewide crowd, Cook County Assessor candidate Joe Berrios has brought in $144,500 in the past 24 hours, including $25K from Citizens for Suarez.

Enjoy the party!

Statement of Economic Interest 'does not apply' to Government Transparency

Scott Lee Cohen describes himself as an entrepreneur and small business owner. The press often describes him as a pawnbroker.

No matter what words you use to describe him, he seems to have money to burn. He has almost 100% self-funded both of his campaigns this year. First, he dropped $4.2 million into his abortive campaign for Lt. Governor. More recently he has anted up nearly $3.5 million in his run for governor.

To understand the depths of his pockets, one might decide to look at his official Statement of Economic Interest (SEI).

Unfortunately, like the SEI forms completed by so many candidates and public officials, Cohen’s most frequent response to the eight-question form is “does not apply.” In addition to the pawnshop, he does indicate stakes in two Chicago properties, as well as an interest in a green cleaning supply company.

While they may be thriving businesses, it is hard to imagine that someone who doesn’t come from either the upper echelons of corporate America or great family wealth would be liquid enough to invest nearly $8 million of his own money into a quest (or quests) for Illinois elective office.

Too bad the SEI doesn’t offer more insights into the sources of Scott Lee Cohen or any public figures investment interests. In fact, the dearth of information available about this eight million dollar man illustrates the woeful inadequacy of the state’s primary reporting tool to prevent conflicts of interest. ICPR has long advocated that the SEI forms capture the source and amount of income; the value of investments held both inside and outside Illinois; the purchase and sale date of investments; and who the income accrues to, i.e. the individual, spouse or minor child.

It's not the fault of Scott Lee Cohen or any of the candidates that their economic interest reporting is so thin. They are simply answering the questions put to them. But if Illinois’ incoming General Assembly doesn’t seize the opportunity to address a problem in plain sight, shame on them.

You have until 7 pm

I got a kick out of Brewster Rockit today.

As viewers, there's not much to do about negative ads but to laugh about them. Paul Simon used to say that if airlines advertised the same way candidates did, nobody would ever get on a plane. To the extent that people associate elections with negative ads, and so choose to stay home, that's more than unfortunate.

Much as we abhor negative ads and wish candidates would focus on issues, voters can't always set the tone for how candidates run campaigns. Our job as voters is to discern which candidates best reflect our views, and to vote for them. Today is your chance to be heard. Please take the opportunity and get to your polling place before 7 pm. If you need to know where your polling place is, the State Board of Elections can help.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Don't forget the judges: Resources to help Cook County voters puzzled by judicial candidate choices

Below candidates for high-profile offices like governor and state legislator, Illinois voters will find a number of office-seekers that are rarely in the limelight: Candidates for judge.

These relatively obscure contests can surprise unprepared voters once they step into the voting booth, forcing them to make uninformed decisions or skip over the question altogether.

Luckily, Cook County voters have a number of resources to tap which can assist them in voting on judicial candidates. We've organized these in level of detail, from the most basic to the most detailed.

-- This year, the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and the Chicago Council of Lawyers organized a model Performance Commission to evaluate and make retention recommendations on the judges seeking new terms in the county. (We wrote about the project here.) To access the Performance Commission's recommendations, visit its website to review which candidates the body thinks should hold another term, and which don't make the cut.

-- The Chicago Council of Lawyers has made recommendations on all judicial candidates -- both those running for vacancies and standing for retention. Its recommendations are accessible here.

-- The Cook County Bar Association Alliance has charted the recommendations of all local bar associations, so that recommendations from each can be easily compared. Check out its workproduct here.

Candidate Sighted!

Two weeks ago, we flagged candidates who had not filed Pre-Election reports listing their campaign contributors between July 1 and October 3, as state law required them to do. As of last week, all but one of the five had filed the report late. Edwin Reyes, the incumbent and unopposed candidate for the Cook County Board in the 8th District was the only one who had not yet filed. Well, he still hasn't. But today, he filed an A1 report listing four donors who gave more than $500 within 30 days of the election.

It's a start!

DPI Supports the Incumbent in the 22nd House District (who also chairs DPI)

Speaker Michael J. Madigan wears many hats, including Mr. Chairman. As head of the Democratic Party of Illinois, he plays a key role in doling out state party funds to assist candidates around Illinois. This year, he's spent a goodly amount of DPI funds on his own race for re-election.

According to reports filed with the State Board of Elections, the Democratic Party of Illinois has spent $87K on Madigan's 22nd District re-election effort, including $40K on printing, $41K on postage, and $5K on polling.

That's more than DPI has ever spent on Madigan's races before (we found $5K in DPI spending on Madigan's re-election in 2002, and another $5K in 2004). And it's more than DPI spent on some of this year's high profile races, including Careen Gordon's re-election race in the 75th District and Dennis Ahern's efforts to hold Mike Boland's 71st District seat.

And maybe it goes without saying, it's more than DPI has spent helping Jay Hoffman in his million-dollar race to hold the 112th District. Of course, DPI hasn't spent a dime on Hoffman. Which is probably telling in another way.

Changing where the money is from

On Thursday we noted that House Republican Leader Tom Cross had moved money from his personal campaign fund and the House Republican Organization to Citizens to Change Illinois, a committee that has reported receipts from no other donors this year. Today we can update the destination of those funds. Of the $486K that went into Citizens to Change Illinois, here's who benefited:

Hamilton Chang (R-17): $47K
Billie Roth (R-44): $47K
David Harris (R- 75): $47K
Dan Sugrue (R-59): $17K
Maripat Oliver (R-85): $8K
Sue Rezin (R-75): $8K
Nick Been (R-79): $8K
Ruth Munson (R-43): $6K
Jeffrey Junkas (R-37): $4K

That still leaves almost $300K unaccounted for, FWIW.

Citizens to Change Illinois will likely need to change it's name to include Cross as an official sponsor, but that won't happen until after this election cycle. It's possible the group could drop the sponsoring entity tag before the next elections, if it raises enough money from other donors in the interim.

Citizens to Change Illinois is not affiliated with the reform organization CHANGE Illinois, of which ICPR is a member.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Catch a Wave: Cash for Keats

Fundraising in the race for Cook County Board President has changed considerably in the last few days. Republican Roger Keats, who had previously reported just $30k for next week's election, got a massive infusion from Jack Roesser's Republican Renaissance committee. The Renaissance money -- $122K in less than a week -- has allowed Keats to go up on radio and do some mailings. Over the same time period, Democrat Toni Preckwinkle reported raising another $250K and she still has a 6:1 advantage. Green Tom Tresser's numbers are unchanged but it looks like someone (Roeser) hopes to catch a wave in this race. Time will tell.

Earlier today we put out a press release on legislative races; get your copy here.

More than $3.2 million raised between Kilbride, opponents; WGN dubs race "one of the most bitter campaigns" in state

Over the last week, retention-seeking Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride and opposition group JUSTPAC have filed new campaign fundraising reports showing that more than $3.2 million has been raised between the committees since July 1.

Kilbride, who is completing a 10-year-term on the state's high court, has reported raising about $2.59 million in his bid to serve another term. The justice must secure 60 percent of the vote to do so.

JUSTPAC, the political committee of the tort-reform/business group the Illinois Civil Justice League, has raised about $670,000 to support its bid to oust Kilbride from the bench.

Most of the justice's overall financial support has come from the Democratic Party, which this week chipped in another $50,000 in support. Elected as a Democrat in 2000, Kilbride has now received $1,475,000 in state party support this year (although like all other Supreme Court retention campaigns, Kilbride's retention election is a non-partisan one). Other significant contributions have come from the Illinois Federation of Teachers ($460,000), the Illinois Laborers' Legislative Committee ($75,000), other labor organizations and individual lawyers and law firms.

JUSTPAC's funding remains staked in the insurance and business sectors. The American Justice Partnership, which was formed by the National Association of Manufacturers, has chipped in $180,000. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has contributed $150,000. Today, the committee reported receiving $5,000 from the Illinois Chamber PAC.

WGN Channel 9's report on the Kilbride retention campaign and opposition aired last evening, but it's available online here as well. If you haven't already, check it out!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Million$ in Motion in Lead Up to Last Weekend

The last weekend approaches and looking through the disclosure reports shows how the candidates are filling up for their final push. Some interesting deployments of money.

* The Republican Governors Association has moved $900K to Illinois in the last two days. We can guess where that’s going; Bill Brady has reported $100K from the RGA the day after some of these transfers, and more is likely. Where the RGA money came from is much harder to figure out. We wish the RGA would identify the sources of funds used in Illinois in real time, as the DGA does.

* Other large recent donors to Brady include Lake Forest business owner Ernie Semersky ($35K), Glenview businessman John Miller ($25K), Molex honcho John Krehbiel ($25K) and the Illinois Republican Party ($208K). In all, Brady reports $735,600 in the last two days

* House Republican Leader Tom Cross moved $125K to his Citizens to Change Illinois committee. Expect to see in-kinds from CCI to favored legislative candidates in the next few days. Note that CCI is in no way affiliated with CHANGE Illinois!, the reform organization of which ICPR is a member.

* House Speaker Michael Madigan gave $250K to the Democratic Party of Illinois (which he also chairs). DPI gave $250K to Gov. Quinn’s campaign. Madigan also reported $100K from the same DC-based Engineers local that previously gave Quinn $400K. The reports show only that all three of these transactions took place on the same day (October 26); it’s impossible to say which occurred first or whether there's any correlation.

* In addition to the DPI, Quinn shows $38K from the Health Care Council of Illnois, a trade group of nursing homes, and another $50K from JB Pritzker. In all, Quinn has reported about $450K in the last few days.

* The Senate Republicans transferred $275K to the Illinois Republican Party, which has done a lot of mailings on behalf of candidates. Tom Cross sent $300K at the same time.

* AFSCME reloaded its coffers with $100K from DC. AFSCME has been comparatively bipartisan this year, so it’s hard to predict where that money is going.

ICPR will have more tomorrow on the top legislative races around the state.

Tonight! Kilbride story on WGN Channel 9 Evening News

WGN Channel 9 plans to air a story on the retention campaign of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride this evening on its 9 p.m. newscast.

Journalists from the station, including Mark Suppelsa, stopped by our office in Chicago this afternoon to interview ICPR director Cindi Canary. The team already had interviewed Kilbride and had plans to interview one of his prominent critics from JUSTPAC later.

Tune in!

(But if you miss it, we'll try to find a link and post it tomorrow.)

Cook County voters have new resource for evaluating retention-seeking judges

aThe retention campaign of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride highlights one of the retention systems drawbacks: Voters often struggle to make informed decisions about judicial candidates seeking additional terms in office.

People outside of the legal community often lack credible information about the candidates seeking retention, prompting them to casting those votes, or arbitrarily picking the "yes" or "no" choice. And while many bar associations provide recommendations to voters, the groups' opinions don't always agree and their recommendations may not be based on clear criteria.

As a result, the few voters who do vote on the retention questions tend to default to giving candidates thumbs up, resulting in nearly all Illinois judges being retained in the process.

This is particularly problematic in Cook County, where voters in the most populous county are presented with dozens of retention-seeking candidates near the end of their ballots. Since 1990, no Cook County judge has failed to obtain the 60 percent threshold needed for retention, despite some receiving negative recommendations from the bar associations.

This year, voters in Cook County have a new resource to assist them in making their decisions about whether to vote to retain the 70-odd candidates in their district.

The Chicago Appleseed Fund For Justice and Chicago Council of Lawyers have organized a Model Performance Commission which has conducted research on the retention-seeking candidates' performance on the bench, and made recommendations on whether voters should vote to retain them. (Information about the Model Performance Commission and its recommendations are located here. ICPR participated on the Model Commission's advisory team.)

Comprised of lawyers and non-lawyers, the Model Performance Commission reviewed interviews and surveys of lawyers who appeared before the retention-seeking judge. That research sought the lawyers' opinion on a given judge's legal ability, temperament, fairness, diligence, integrity and courtroom management.

Upon reviewing that information, the Performance Commission made "recommended" or "not recommended" opinions on each of the judges. Each such recommendation includes a summary of the research collected on the candidate and justification of the Commission's suggestion.

A portion of the "recommended" candidates also were given suggestions on ways to improve their conduct overall -- a resource Appleseed and the Chicago Council of Lawyers hope will help improve the judiciary in the long run.

Organizers and supporters, including ICPR, hope to expand the project in coming years, but for now, Cook County voters, check out the Commission's recommendations.

Hey Brother, can I borrow $100k?

Why lend candidate money rather than donating it outright? Especially when there are no apparent tax benefits and the chances of ever being fully paid back seem something of a long shot? After all, in terms of reporting it’s all the same thing to the Illinois State Board of Elections whether funds come as a contribution, a loan or an in-kind.

It is a question that could be asked to Chicago Alderman Ed Burke and former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, both of whom have made significant loans to advance the bid of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Pat Quinn.

Quinn is in deep in hock to committees affiliated with Ed Burke. In January 2010, Burke’s political committee and his Burnham committee each loaned Quinn 100K, while Burke’s 14th Ward Regular Democratic Committee ponied up $50K. Over the past few weeks, Burke’s committee and Burnham have each loaned another 100K to the Quinn Committee bringing the grand total to $450K.

Emil Jones has also been providing financing for the campaign. This month Jones has loaned the Quinn campaign $200K; he loaned an additional $150K in January 2010, leaving Quinn with a note for $350K.

It adds up to a lot of money, and no doubt the Quinn campaign is happy to have it even in the form of a loan, especially considering that Emil Jones didn’t appear to be a big Pat Quinn fan when he was Senate President.

Maybe the better question is why a candidate would solicit and/or accept a loan which by definition is something that is supposed to be paid back in full. Are there strings like interest rates or due dates? Is payment only expected if the candidate wins the election? Are they concerned about giving new meaning to the idiom “pay back is hell?”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Like Illinois' Kilbride, retention-seeking judges in other states targeted by opposition groups

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride is in an unusual retention campaign – that being one where there is organized opposition – but he is not alone: Judges in several states across the nation are facing robust opposition from interest groups and political groups unhappy with their decisions.

These opposed retention races in Iowa, Colorado and Kansas mark a shift in judicial campaigns.

Up until now, judicial retention campaigns largely have been immune from the increasingly bitter and expensive nationwide trend of contested judicial elections.

Over the border, in Iowa, conservative groups are working to try to oust the three Supreme Court justices who are up for retention this election, citing their participation in an unanimous court decision which legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Opponents have branded the retention-seekers “activist judges” in campaign advertisements and have spent more than $650,000 so far to try to oust them.

In Colorado, new political committee Clear the Bench Colorado, led by a resident who is frustrated with the state’s performance commission evaluation system, is encouraging voters to kick out three judges over decisions the opponents say improperly raised taxes. Justice At Stake, which is tracking campaign money in judicial elections, reported last week that the group had raised less than $35,000.

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Carol Beier has been targeted for removal by the pro-life community that contends that the judge has been unfair when addressing abortion-related cases.

Like well-funded, combative judicial selection campaigns, heated and costly judicial retention campaigns seem destined to reduce public confidence in the judiciary as an independent branch of government.

The shift gives more support for the need to reform the process by which Illinois chooses judges. In a letter to the editor in today’s Chicago Tribune, ICPR director Cindi Canary explain the implications of the Kilbride race and proposes how we remedy the problem. Take a look here.

$700K More for the RGA Illinois PAC

The RGA Illinois 2010 PAC today reported another $700K from the Republican Governors Association. This came in after our earlier post on trends in RGA money around the Midwest, and is on top of yesterday's $100K from the national group.

More at the earlier posting.

Investing in the Heartland

Those tracking money in Illinois politics this election season have taken notice of the flood of funds that the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has contributed to gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Brady has received $6,915,213.97 in contributions from the RGA since winning his party’s nomination. It turns out Illinois isn’t alone.

Reform colleagues in Ohio report that their Republican gubernatorial candidate, John Kasich, has been the beneficiary of $5.5 million from RGA, and Minnesota reports $1.8 million from the RGA to gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reports that the RGA Wisconsin 2010 PAC has spent over $3.4 million on the WI race for governor. They further report that the national RGA has spent an undetermined (but very large) amount on negative independent ads in their governor's race ().

Michigan offers the most interesting, though confusing, report of all. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 501c-6 business association, contributed $5.4 million dollars to the Republican Governors Association earlier this year. The RGA then founded the RGA Michigan PAC and proceeded to raise $8.4 million in contributions from various donors throughout the country. The Michigan RGA PAC has contributed $3 million to Rick Perry for Governor of Texas and $4 million to the Michigan Republican Party, which in turn has made $4 million in independent expenditures supporting various legislative and statewide candidates. The RGA MI PAC appears to have plenty—an estimated $1.3 million--still on hand for the final stretch.

All told, over $26 million dollars has been contributed by the RGA in these five Midwestern states, alone, and we still have almost one week to go. It looks like we aren’t just “flyover” territory to some of the folks in D.C.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Overall Kilbride retention funding surpasses $3 million; NPR profiles the contest

With the disclosure of large contributions on both sides of Justice Tom Kilbride's retention effort over the last five days, the campaign has met and exceeded the $3 million fundraising mark.

An updated ICPR analysis of fundraising in the retention campaign shows that the Democratic Justice's fundraising is outpacing that of his leading opponent by almost a 4-to-1 margin. Kilbride, from the 3rd Judicial District, has raised more than $2.48 million since July 1; more than half of that ($1,425,000) has come from the Democratic Party of Illinois. JUSTPAC, the Illinois Civil Justice League's political committee, has reported more than $667,000 in contributions.

(Illinois' previous most expensive retention campaign was logged a decade ago, when Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman raised $235,799 in his successful bid to win another 10-year term.)

With combined fundraising of more than $3.1 million, the Kilbride retention campaign has become the nation's most expensive one-candidate retention election and the nation's second most expensive such contest, ever.

The campaign's oversized pricetag has drawn national attention -- even that of NPR.

The station visited Illinois, trekking through Kilbride's district and visiting ICPR's headquarters as well, to learn more about the campaign and the issues at play.

A New Voice in the Party? Plus, Dugan & McAsey get DPI Funds, and Colvin Files

A new political committee filed this afternoon to participate in next Tuesday's election. The Democratic Lieutenant Governor's Association - Illinois filed its statement of organization. Maybe they'll be helping Sheila Simon? Simon can't win without Democrat Pat Quinn also crossing the line, so while it may seem odd, this group would really be supplementing the work of the Democratic Governor's Association -IL committee.

A number of Democratic legislative candidates filed this afternoon showing big receipts from DPI. Lisa Dugan reported $20K, Emily McAsey showed $15K, and Pat Verschoore and Chuck Jefferson had smaller figures. The bigger amounts look to be cash transfers, not mail.

Marlow Colvin filed his Pre-Election report. Voters are still waiting on Edwin Reyes to file, he is now the lone holdout among the candidates for statewide, legislative, or Cook County office who had not filed as of last week.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kilbride logs more Democratic Party, teacher's union money; Opponent JUSTPAC fundraising continues but doesn't keep pace

The retention campaign of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride – the nation’s most expensive such contest in the nation this year – continues to grow more costly.

JUSTPAC, the opposition’s leading committee, reported today that it had received another $25,000 from the American Tort Reform Association. Late last week, the Illinois Civil Justice League’s committee disclosed that it had received $50,000 from Caterpillar.

The committee supporting Kilbride’s bid to serve another 10-year term on the state’s high court reported receiving another $175,000 from the justice’s largest backer, the Democratic Party of Illinois, late last week. The Kilbride committee also reported another $100,000 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and $25,000 from the SEIU Illinois Council PAC Fund, in addition to some smaller contributions from individuals.

With these contributions accounted for, the Kilbride race has raised more than $3.1 million, including supporters and opponents. The justice's committee has reported raising more than $2.48 million since July 1, while JUSTPAC has netted more than $667,000 in support.

NPR was in our office Friday to interview ICPR director Cindi Canary on this record-setting retention election. Check back here tomorrow for a link to that report.

Scott Lee Cohen at $5.7M

Last week, we listed five active candidates who had failed to file timely Pre-Election reports showing the sources of their funds in the summer months.

Today we can say that three of the five have filed. We're still waiting for Edwin Reyes and Marlow Colvin, but we are glad to see the campaigns of Scott Lee Cohen, Linda Healy and Kimberly Lightford have all now complied with the Election Code.

Scott Lee Cohen filed earlier today and reports $2,132,734.55 in receipts on his pre-election report. All told, he's showing $3,371,825 for the General Election -- of which he gave $3,253,550. His second largest contributor is Kathy Pizzo of Chicago Tempered Glass, who gave him $1,000. Another donor gave $500, and two are tied for fourth at $300. All of the money he's put into the General is in the form of loans, and while the jokes write themselves, it's not clear who else is going to give to the campaign. Including the Primary Election, he's put $5.7 million into his campaign in the last year -- more than twice what the McKennas put into Andy's campaign.

Linda Healy filed late last week and reports $7,400 in non-itemized contributions.

Kimberly Lightford filed on Friday. Her report apparently came in electronically, but is not available for viewing. We'll see if we can't find out more about the report.

In other news we noted earlier that a campaign fund called Leadership 2011 had filed non-participation for the General Election. Now, we see that they have been spending some money this fall. The group gave Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti $19K on October 2. Committees are allowed to file non-participation as long as they are not giving to candidates who are on the ballot; Fioretti is not running for any office in November. Still, that's a big chunk of money to give to a guy who's not on the ballot.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Too Much Data on the State Board of Elections Website

If you've been following the campaign disclosure reports this week, you might have noticed some odd glitches in the reporting of numbers by the State Board of Elections. Some candidates were showing astronomical fundraising totals -- far higher than one would expect.

The problems appear to have been with the way the State Board's computers handled amended reports. Most candidates filed Pre-Election reports by the Monday deadline. A few then filed amended reports. One filed three amended reports on Wednesday. The State Board's computers were struggling with the additional reports, resulting in glitches and miscalculations..

The problem with the State Board website is that it was searching both the original filing and the amended filing when listing contributions to that candidate. Usually, the site ignores original reports once an amended report is filed. But not so with these pre-election filings. Donations between July 1 and October 3 were being counted multiple times.

Some candidates had similar issues with A1 reports. If the candidate filed the same donation on more than one A1 report, or if they filed contributions on both the pre-election report and on an A1, the SBE search engine was returning those donations multiple times.

In all, several dozen candidates were showing vastly higher totals than they should have. The State Board worked to fix the problem, and they assure us they think it's under control. We'll be careful with the numbers going forward, and will let them know whenever we see more errors. If you see anything odd, please do the same.

In other news from the Pre Election reports, we were struck that two candidates reported non-itemized in-kind donations of exactly $50.54 Two state rep., Sandy Cole and Elaine Nekritz, filed Pre-Election reports showing non-itemized in-kinds of $50.54. What could one give a campaign that costs $50.54? We have no idea. And maybe they got different goods or services that happened to be at that price-point. But when looking over so many reports, few things stick in the mind like unusual numbers. Maybe there's just too much data.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Much ado about Kilbride opponents' radio ad

A radio ad from JUSTPAC, the leading opponent of retention-seeking Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride, has caused a bit of a stir the last couple of days, resulting in coverage in the Chicago newspapers, an admonishment by the Illinois State Bar Association and a response ad from Kilbride's own campaign.

The hubbub started brewing when the political committee of the tort reform group, the Illinois Civil Justice League, released an advertisement featuring dramatizations of parts of cases which the Illinois Supreme Court had decided. The Kilbride campaign denounced the ads as inaccurate, and then reported many of the stations running it yanked it. (JUSTPAC has since released a modified ad, which is here.)

Then earlier this week, the the Illinois State Bar Association issued a statement which slapped JUSTPAC for the ad campaign, saying it "is inappropriate and distorts his record" by characterizing Kilbride as allegedly soft on crime.

(In the interest of disclosure, I'll note that the ISBA has endorsed Kilbride.)

The admonishment was made by the bar association’s committee on Tone and Conduct, which considers political advertisements in Appellate and Supreme Court campaigns. (The committee was formed in 2004, with the support and urging of ICPR, as a result of the attack ads that dominated the Maag-Karmeier Supreme Court campaign in Illinois’ southernmost judicial district, the Fifth.) Composed of lawyers and non-lawyers, the permanent committee aims to discourage campaign activities that negatively affect the judiciary’s integrity and independence.

Today, the Chicago Tribune reported on the retention campaign and the ad controversy. The article quoted legal experts who explained that the Kilbride opinions referenced in JUSTPAC's ad were based on "legal procedures and points of law."

The Illinois' Civil Justice League's director, Ed Murnane, has defended the ad's content.

The Kilbride committee now has released its own radio ad refuting the claims made by his opponents and slamming its creators.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Candidates who Failed to Disclose

Have you seen these candidates? They owe voters an explanation.

Candidates for office file disclosure reports to let the public know the source of their campaign funds. Who gives to a candidate is important for several reasons. It suggests to whom the candidate may feel obligated after the election. Knowing the donors can also suggest positions that may not be immediately apparent, since big donors don't make big donations without vetting candidates.

For these reasons, candidates are required to disclosure their campaign finances in the weeks before an election. The reports are called "pre-election forms" and they list reportable receipts since July 1. But several candidates have failed to make these required disclosures.

If you should see these candidates out on the campaign trail, please ask them for their reports. They owe it to the voters.

Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Lee Cohen (I)
State Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago)
State House Candidate Linda Healy (D-Aurora)
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Chicago)*
Cook County Commissioner Edwin Reyes (D-Chicago)*

* - These two candidates filed Non-Participation for the General Election. But candidates who are on the ballot cannot seriously claim to be "not participating" in the November General.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kilbride retention race leads nation for most expensive retention campaign

Although there are two weeks before the election, the retention campaign for 3rd Judicial district Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride has broken the record as the most expensive one-candidate retention race nationwide this decade, a new analysis shows.

More than $2.6 million has been raised between the justice’s committee and a group that is working to oust him.

To date, Kilbride has reported receiving almost $2.1 million in checks, monetary transfers from political committees, and donated goods and services since he started fundraising in July, according to documents filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

JUSTPAC, the political committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League, has raised about $561,000 since July.

Kilbride was elected to the state’s high court in 2000 as a Democrat, but is running in a non-partisan retention election this year. He needs 60 percent of the vote to be returned to the bench.

The pre-election report Kilbride filed late Monday, which contains fundraising and expenditure information for the three-month period between July 1 and Oct. 3, shows that more than half of the justice’s support – $1.25 million – has come from the Democratic Party of Illinois.

The bulk of the justice’s other financial support has come from labor organizations and members of the legal community: more than $50,000 from the Illinois Laborers’ Legislative committee, about $354,000 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, $90,000 from the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education (IPACE).

Attorneys and law firms have contributed to Kilbride’s committee and to the Democratic Party of Illinois, which is lead by Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. A joint analysis by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s School of Law found that of the 33 contributions greater than $25,000 that the party reported receiving, 31 came from law firms.

The JAS/Brennan Center report also revealed that Kilbride has spent an estimated more than $880,000 on television ads.

Opponent JUSTPAC’s money has primarily come from players in the business and tort reform communities. Within the last month, the group has received: $50,000 from the Illinois State Medical Society’s committee, $180,000 from the American Manufacturers Association-created group American Justice Partnership; $150,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and about $64,000 from the American Tort Reform association. Other contributions have come from insurance companies ISMIE, First Nonprofit Insurance Company, and CNA, a commercial property and casualty insurance provider.

Another groups seeking to kick Kilbride out of Springfield, the Vote NO Kilbride committee, has raised $8,200 since it was formed earlier this year.

Is Cook County going Dem?

Cook County has long been a Dem stronghold. While the statewide and national trends appear to be favoring Republicans, it also looks like the Dems are making a serious run at picking up more seats on the Cook County board.

Races with the most money are those with a Republican incumbent and a Dem (and sometimes Green) challenger. In the 17th, incumbent Liz Gorman faces Democrat Patrick Maher and Green Matthew Ogean. Gorman shows $151K for the general, while Maher reports $128K. Ogean has not formed a committee. Money isn't the only factor; this is the part of Cook County where Democrat Brendan Houlihan won the traditional Republican seat on the Board of Review four years ago. Maybe there's a broader shift going on here.

In the neighboring 16th, incumbent Republican Tony Peraica shows just $45K for the general. His Democratic challenger, McCook mayor Jeff Tobolski, shows $255K, a better than 5:1 advantage. As in the 17th, the Green candidate, Alejandro Reyes, has not yet formed a committee. Here, too, one should remember that money is only one resource in a campaign, and there may be more happening than the campaign finance reports indicate.

The biggest race, if you call it that, is in the 9th, where incumbent Republican Peter Silvestri shows $317K. His sole challenger, Democrat Cary Capparelli, reports $26K. Incumbents often do not spend all that they have available, so it's hard to say just yet whether this one will see significant spending.

Other notes on Cook races:

Edwin Reyes is the Democratic nominee for the 8th District seat on the Cook County Board. He's running unopposed. But he is still on the ballot, which makes it odd that he filed non-participation for the November general. Until he files, we won't know how much he's raised since July 1, or from whom. Just because he has no opponent doesn't mean the public has no right to know about his campaign finances.

There's a neat stair-step thing with fundraising in the race for Cook County Board President. Toni Preckwinkle raised about as much in small donations from individuals as Republican Roger Keats raised in total, and Keats, in turn, raised about as much from small individual donors as Green Tom Tresser raised in total. Preckwinkle reports $25K in non-itemized receipts on her pre-election report, all told, she shows $1M for the General Election.. Republican Roger Keats shows $4K in individual non-itemized giving, and $31K total, while Green Tom Tresser reports just $4K in total. Significant non-itemized contributions can sometimes be taken as an early sign of voter support, assuming that they come from voters in the district. On that basis, Republican Bill Brady's $204K in non-itemized individual contributions compares favorably with Democrat Pat Quinn's $40K in non-itemized individual contributions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Group seeking to oust Kilbride from Supreme Court reports $165,000 in business money

JUSTPAC, the political committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League, raised $165,500 between July 1 and Oct. 3, according to the group's pre-election campaign disclosure form filed today.

The pro-business/tort reform group, which has been involved in several high-spending Illinois judicial campaigns, is a leading opponent of Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride. The Democratic justice is running in a retention election to hold another 10-year term on the state's high court.

Much of the money JUSTPAC reported receiving in its pre-election report is came from businesses and groups in the medical and insurance fields. Among the contributions received by JUSTPAC are: $50,000 from the American Tort Reform Association; $30,000 from the Illinois State Medical Society PAC; $10,000 from CNA (a commercial property and casualty insurance provider); and $20,000 from ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company.

Kilbride has been targeted by medical malpractice reform supporters and business groups in part for his participation in a 4-2 majority decision which struck down some caps on jury awards.

In addition to that money, JUSTPAC on Monday reported receiving another $20,000 from the Illinois State Medical Society today.

JUSTPAC's campaign report filing came just minutes after the Democratic Party of Illinois filed its activity report. The party's report showed it has given Kilbride's committee $1.25 million.

Democratic Party of Illinois gives Justice Kilbride $1.25 million to support retention bid

The Democratic Party of Illinois has contributed $1.25 million to Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride's retention committee, according to a new campaign disclosure filing. The huge haul suggests the party is committed to ensuring that Kilbride, one of four Democrats on the seven-person court, is returned to Springfield this winter.

The DPI, which is led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, was Kilbride's primary funder when the Rock Island Democrat first sought and won his spot on the state's high court in 2000.

Now seeking another 10-year term on the bench through a retention election, Kilbride is facing another tough election. Tort reform and pro-business groups have targeted the 3rd District Supreme Court justice, who needs to receive 60 percent of the vote in November's election to hold another term on the bench.

The party's pre-election report, which details campaign spending and fundraising between July 1 and Oct. 3, shows that it sent Kilbride's committee eight contributions totaling $1.25 million.

Kilbride's committee must file the same type of report by midnight tonight, from which we will be able to glean a fuller picture of what other entities are financially supporting the justice.

Check out earlier blog posts for more information about Kilbride's other funders and the groups and money being contributed to opposition groups.

Big checks continue flowing on both sides of Kilbride retention bid

Retention-seeking Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride and his opponents reported receiving tens of thousands of dollars over the last three days.

Prominent Kilbride opponent JUSTPAC, the committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League, reported receiving an additional $80,000 from the American Justice Partnership. (JUSTPAC reported receiving $100,000 from the Partnership, last week.) The Partnership was founded by the National Association of Manufacturers and does not disclose the source of its funds.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, which tracks campaign contributions nationally, has identified AJP as a group which traditionally advocates for Republican judges. In that sense, it's not surprising that the group would seek to kick Kilbride, who was elected in 2000 as a Democrat, off the state's high court.

And this isn't the AJP's first venture in Illinois judicial campaigns. In 2006, State Board of Elections data shows that AJP contributed $305,000 directly to Illinois Appellate Court Republican incumbent Steve McGlynn, as part of a campaign that established a new bar for appellate court campaign funding. In addition to the money AJP sent directly to the candidate, the group gave JUSTPAC $300,000 and to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's PAC, $100,000.

Kilbride's political committee disclosed receiving $25,000 from the Illinois Labors' Legislative Committee, and $40,000 from the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education on Oct. 15. Another report shows the Illinois Federation of Teachers has supported the justice's retention bid with a $1,059 worth of campaign assistance.

The education community's significant involvement in a judicial election is pretty curious.

A more comprehensive picture of the pro- and anti-Kilbride groups' supporters is just around the corner. By midnight today, committees must complete their pre-election reports, which covers campaign activity since the last report July 1 and Oct. 3.

Please check back with the blog tomorrow for an updates on the Kilbride election and other top state campaigns.

Big Transfers from the Republican Caucuses in Legislative Races

The weekend saw reports of several large transfers, as it happens all from Republican caucuses. There were also new reports from severla gubernatorial candidates.

The biggest reported increases were by House candidates Adam Brown, Michael Unes, and Billie Roth, and Senate candidate Sam McCann. All reported surges of more than $80K. What they also share, in addition to the size of their bumps, is the source -- nearly all of that money came from the caucuses. Brown reported $65K from the House Republican Organization. He also got two staff people. Michael Unes showed $60K from HRO, plus another $7K in mailings from the state party (which pays a cheaper postage rate than candidates can get). Billie Roth reported just $38K in cash from HRO, but fully $18K in mail from the party. McCann got $87K in cash plus a staff person.

These transfers will continue to be legal after the first of the year. The contribution limits bill signed into law late last year does not cover transfers from parties or caucuses in general elections. We have no problem with candidates playing by the current rules; we do, however, hope that the legislature can find consensus about changing these rules with regard to transfers from parties and caucuses in general elections.

In other filings. Green Party gubernatorial nominee Rich Whitney filed his pre-election report. Whitney had earlier put out a desperate call for money to his supporters; the pre- shows why. He lists total receipts of $31,322.48 , including a loan of $61.15. His total for the November election now stands at $44,404.91, which is the very definition of a shoestring.

Among the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor, polls show voter support about evenly divided. Republican Bill Brady, though, appears to hold a slight money advantage - with pre-election reports not yet filed, he shows $600K over Dem Pat Quinn. Whether the lead is real or not depends on what's in those pre-election reports. We'll know a lot more about this race, and others, in just a few hours.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kilbride opponent JUSTPAC reports $165,000 in business, hospital group money

Opponents of a retention-seeking Supreme Court justice from Rock Island have netted another $165,000, according to campaign reports filed this afternoon.

JUSTPAC, the political committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League, a pro-business/tort-reform organization, reported receiving $150,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and another $15,000 from the Illinois Hospital Association.

JUSTPAC is working to oust Democrat Tom Kilbride, a Supreme Court Justice from the 3rd Judicial District who needs 60 percent of the vote in order to hold another a 10-year term.

The six-figure checks we’ve reported over the last two days suggests there’s going to be a lot of activity on both the pro- and anti-Kilbride sides in the final weeks before the election.

The Kilbride retention election has drawn the interest of business groups and medical malpractice reform interests in part because of the justice’s participation on a 4-2 majority decision that struck down laws establishing some caps on jury awards for victims.

Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Hospital Association were large contributors to 2004 Republican State Supreme Court candidate Lloyd Karmeier in what became the nation’s most expensive judicial contest in history. The Karmeier-Maag contest set a new record for the most expensive State Supreme Court campaign, as the two candidates, combined, raised more than $9.3 million.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was noted as one of the nation’s “Super Spenders” in judicial campaigns in a report analyzing campaign money over the last 10 years from the Brennan Center for Justice, Justice At Stake, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The report noted the Chamber’s involvement in campaigns in Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Mississippi and West Virginia.

AFSCME reports $650K, Stand for Children, Griffin Family Close Behind

AFSCME filed their pre-election report, showing $640K in receipts since July 1. What won't get press is how much of that they gave to Gov. Quinn. So far? None. Quinn took flak for extending a union agreement at the same time (and with the same staff) that the union was considering its endorsement. Of course, there's still time for the money to flow.

The House Republicans sent $25K to Dwight Kay. And took in $10K from Dave Lenkowski. Lenkowski is running for state House against incumbent Democrat Sara Feigenholtz in a Chicago district. Lenkowski previously reported $25K from Ken Griffin and less than $3K in other fundraising.

Koch Industries gave the Manufacturers PAC $10K today, on top of $3K last July. Koch was the subject of a New Yorker profile a few weeks ago, and many Democratic groups have used the family as a counter-point to Republican jabs at George Soros.

ActBlue continues to report receipts of money from individuals, even though it's those individuals, and not ActBlue, who determine who gets the money. Money from ActBlue is often listed as if it's from ActBlue, not the actual donors.

Bill Brady reports $25K from J&J Ventures. The donation ties for largest from the Central Illinois food vending company; in April, they gave $25K to the Senate Democratic Victory Fund.

Ken and Anna Griffin showed up again yesterday with $50K each to Bill Brady. So far, they've given about $500K in the last two weeks. Stand for Children haven't appeared in a few days, but net of internal transfers and mistaken reports, they're at almost $600K this month. We'll compile a list of the top donors in the next coming days.

For people who complain that the candidates at the top of the ticket don’t' inspire much confidence, know that there is a political committee called Leadership 2011 in Illinois. They filed today that they will not be participating in the November election. More's the pity.

Illinois Federation of Teachers puts $350,000 into Kilbride retention effort

The Illinois Federation of Teachers has a keen interest in the retention campaign of Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride.

Just how keen, you might ask?

$350,000 keen.

Two campaign finance disclosure reports filed with the State Board of Elections (here and here) show that over the last two months, teacher’s union has given the Rock Island justice $350,000.

Kilbride was elected to the state’s high court from the 3rd Judicial District as a Democrat in 2000. Now at the end of his 10-year term, Kilbride must receive at least 60 percent of the vote in his district on this November’s ballot in a retention election in order to hold the office for another term.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers primarily supports Democratic candidates for General Assembly and statewide office, so it’s a little peculiar that the group is putting so much money – $350,000, its largest aggregate contribution to any one candidate this election cycle reported, by far – into a judicial campaign.

The IFT's endorsement note on Kilbride may shed some light on why the union is so involved in this election: the Supreme Court "makes critical decisions on matters that often directly impact IFT members and their families, including pension protections and the scheduled statewide legislative remap."

On Aug. 25, 2010, the Illinois Federation of Teachers transferred $100,000 to Kilbride’s committee for what the union noted was a fundraiser, according to IFT’s D-2 semi-annual report, which details contributions and expenditures between July 1 and Oct. 3.

A few weeks later, on Sept. 21, the IFT gave Kilbride $150,000, according to that same report.

And in the evening yesterday, Kilbride’s committee filed a notice that the justice received another $100,000 from the IFT. (That Kilbride contribution was disclosed the same day that a major opponent, the tort reform group JUSTPAC, reported receiving $100,000.)

Tort reform and business/medical interest groups have said they want to knock Kilbride off the bench in this election. Judicial observers have said the campaign has the potential to be one of the country’s most bitter and expensive judicial retention elections this year.

To learn more about judicial elections, retention elections and the Kilbride race, visit ICPR’s Retention Watch page.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kilbride opponents report six-figure check

The first six-figure contribution in the high-profile retention campaign of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride has been reported.

JUSTPAC, the political committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League, reported receiving $100,000 from the American Justice Partnership. JUSTPAC is seeking to knock Kilbride off the Supreme Court. The Democratic justice needs 60 percent of voters in the 3rd Judicial District, which runs along I-80 and includes Joliet and Rock Island, to vote “yes” on the November ballot in order for him to receive another 10-year term.

The American Justice Partnership is an arm of the National Association of Manufacturers, although the group’s site doesn’t appear to make any reference to this relationship. It appears to have often supported Republicans.

On the Partnership’s website, it identifies its allies in Illinois as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Civil Justice League, and the Illinois Manufacturers Association. There, AJP lists among its successes, that in 2004 a “pro-reform candidate prevailed in the most expensive supreme court election in history” – a reference to current Illinois Supreme Court Republican Justice Lloyd Karmeier’s victory over Democrat Gordon Maag.

The Manufacturers-supported group has a history of judicial campaign involvement. This election season, the Brennan Center for Justice has noted the American Justice Partnership is active currently in Supreme Court elections in at least one other Midwest state – Michigan – where the group is opposing a Democratic justice.

State law requires committees to disclose within two business days any contributions of more than $500 that they receive in the 30 days before an election. That period began Oct. 4.

Two committees supporting the justice’s retention bid (Kilbride's committee and another backing his bid) have reported receiving some large contributions, as illustrated in those $500+ A-1 reports, but nothing to this degree. Still, the Kilbride campaign has paid for several advertisements, and it’s unclear at this point from where all the money needed to put those ads. We should have a better picture Monday, Oct. 18, the deadline for all active committees to file more comprehensive disclosure reports.)

For more information on the Kilbride campaign and Illinois Supreme Court retention elections, please visit ICPR's Judicial Retention Watch page.