Friday, January 29, 2010

Top Races in Cook County

Today we conclude our look at races up and down the ballot with listings of the top races in the state's largest county, the County of Cook. The race for Board President clearly leads the list, but some smaller races also deserve attention.

The four Democrats seeking nomination have raised about $4M, but that cash is not shared evenly. On paper, incumbent Todd Stroger has the most money at $1.5M, most of it raised years ago, though he invested $500,000 of that in CDs last August and it's not clear that he can access that money for next Tuesday's race. This year he has reported a $100K loan from former Senate President Emil Jones. Challenger Toni Preckwinkle shows $1.3M in cash for the primary. Her largest contributors include SEIU at $150K and Fred Eychaner at $50K. Current Water Rec District head Terry O'Brien reports $636,382 in cash for the primary. Over half of that comes from himself, his other political committees, or his family. Current Clerk of Courts Dorothy Brown lags in fundraising, showing $500K in cash for the primary. Top contributors include $25K in loans from a Dorothy Brown who shares the candidate's home address but is listed as General Auditor for the CTA, which position the candidate held some years ago.

The Republican and Green races are far quieter. The Green nomination is uncontested after former Democrat Sean Burke was removed from the ballot, leaving Tom Tresser unopposed. Two Republicans are seeking their party's nomination. John Garrido III reports $81K in funds for the primary, mostly from himself and his relations. Roger Keats reports $21K in cash, with none giving more than $1K.

The race for Democratic nomination for County Assessor shows $1.5M in total receipts, nearly all of that held by current Board of Appeals member Joe Berrios, and nearly all of that from his own many political funds. Berrios, in office for decades, has amassed a fortune spread among 4 active political committees; he has been shunting the monies to one fund for the purpose of this primary. New money to the committee is coming primarily from attorneys. Robert Shaw, the former Chicago alderman and mayor of Dolton and twin brother of the late state Senator William Shaw, reports $36K for the primary, including $5K from former Senate President Emil Jones. Former judge Raymond Figueroa shows $28K for the primary, including $20K from Citizens for Maldonado, the political committee of the former Cook County Board member and current Chicago 26th Ward Alderman and Committeeman Roberto Maldonado.

Tracking contributions in County Board seats has been complicated by the large number of candidates who are filing reports on paper despite raising well above the threshold mandating electronic disclosure. Most egregious is Friends of Derrick Smith, who filed a paper D2 showing $22K in receipts (more than twice the limit for paper filings) and has since filed 4 paper A1s with another $3,600 in receipts.

The hottest county board contest is in the 4th District, between incumbent William Beavers and two challengers. Beavers took over the seat after John Stroger suffered a stroke, leaving the Chicago City Council to do so. He reports $214K for the primary. Main challenger Elgie Sims shows a lead in fundraising, with $268K. Sims, a lobbyist, is largely self-financing, but also shows $5K each from AFSCME and the Chamber of Commerce. Third candidate Karen Sommerfield has yet to form a fundraising committee.

The race with the second highest fundraising is actually the grudge match that wasn't. The race to succeed Forest Claypool was expected to be spirited, as former Chicago Ald. Ted Matlak faced state Rep. John Fritchey. Fritchey has reported $329,602 for the race,, most of it raised before he started circulating petitions, but Matlak hasn't formed a political committee, so if he's campaigning, he's not spending any money on it.

Third is another lopsided race, this for the Democratic nomination in the 16th District. McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski reports $182,974 for the primary. He faces two opponents, neither of whom has an active fundraising committee. The winner will face either incumbent Republican Tony Peraica, who reports $71,843, or challenger Brian Sloan, who shows $5,760; and a Green Party nominee, either Alex Matos or Alejandro Reyes, neither of whom has formed a committee.

Other races do appear to be more closely contested, even the dollar totals are lower. In the 1st District, five candidates combine for $102,420. Challenger Adekunle Onayemi leads with over half of combined reported receipts at $58,807, while a previously mentioned paper filer, Derrick Smith, claims $25,881 and incumbent Earlean Collins is in third with $17,078. Onayemi, an architect, draws heavily from personal funds for the contest.

In the 6th District, incumbent Joan Patricia Murphy shows $69,768 while challenger Nick Valadez reports $63,490. Murphy's money comes from labor (SEIU and the operating engineers) while Valadez is relying on family support. John Fairman, also in the race, shows $24,384 in his paper filings.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top Statewide and Legislative Contests for Next Tuesday's Primary

We continue our look at downticket races today with some statewide and legislative contests.

What's striking about the races for the Lt. Gov. nomination in both parties is how self-funders dominate both contests. Two candidates, one D and one R, account for virtually all of the $4.5 million that the 12 candidates have reported. Over 98% of Democrat Scott Lee Cohen's $1.9 million came from his own pocket, while Republican Jason Plummer has drawn on family and the family lumber yard for over 95% of his $1.1 million. No other candidate in either race has reported more than $350K.

Justin Oberman's $662,100 in reported receipts accounts for two-thirds of the money raised by the three people seeking the Democratic nomination for Treasurer. The largest share of his money, $260K, comes in the form of loans from Coloradoan Steve Belin. Robin Kelly's $309,312 accounts for the other third of total fundraising, and Mark Doyle's $49,420 pales in comparison. On the Republican side, Judy Baar Topinka reports $77K; far less than the two leading Dems but more than the other two candidates in her race.

For Comptroller, Democrat Raja Krishnamoothi leads with $1M, but David Mililer remains close at $800K. Krishnamoorthi and his relations account for only about $20K of his total; his largest contributor is Dr. Siva Sivananthan who, directly and through companies, has given $57K. Miller is relying on the Illinois Education Association ($100K) and the Dental Society ($50K; Miller is a dentist) for his largest contributions. Clinton Krislov's $79K came mostly from his own pocket. Republican Dan Rutherford reports $823K, and is unopposed for the Republican nomination, while Green Scott Summers has yet to form a committee.

The high number of legislative retirements resulted in an abnormally high number of open seats, but the hottest legislative race is in the 23rd House District, where incumbent Dan Burke has raised $541K to fend off Rudy Lozano and two others. Lozano reports $87,152; the other two candidates have yet to form political committees and so have not reported any receipts.

In second place for House races is the contest for the Democratic nomination to the seat now held by Julie Hamos of Evanston. Five candidates combine for $397,656. Former Citizen Action legislaive director Patrick Keenan-Devlin leads the group with $153,403, followed by Maternal Health Coalition head Robyn Gabel at $116,047. Attorneys Jeff Smith and Eamon Kelly have raised $68,720. and $47,732, respectively, and former Evanston Ald. Ed Moran reports $12K.

For seats in the state Senate, the two-way race for the Democratic nomination in the 9th District shows the most money. Challenger Jim Madigan reports $125, 468 against incumbent Heather Steans' $245,403. Madigan shows a couple of $10K contributions, none higher; while Steans reports the bulk of her money from herself and her relatives. Close behind is the race in the 13th Senate district between incumbent Kwame Raoul and challenger Al Hofeld, Jr. Raoul reports $237,728, with no donors in the five-figures, while Hofeld's $103,227 comes largely from himself.

US Senate
In the US Senate race, Republican Mark Kirk has raised more than any other candidate, of any party, since the start of the year. He claims $230,826 on his 48-hour reports. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias claims $105,400 on his 48-hour forms, and David Hoffman lists $103,200 on his, while Jacob Meister loaned himself another $78K and Cheryl Jackson lists $21,750.

Andy Martin, again seeking nomination to the US Senate, this time in Illinois, today issued a press release touting a "whistle stop" tour of central Illinois. While the release claims the focus will be on high speed rail issues, the press release makes plain that it will also discuss his Senate campaign.

Late last year, Martin ran several radio spots attacking another Republican seeking the Senate nomination. The ads ran on several radio stations in the weeks before the Christmas holidays.

These expenditures come despite Martin's decision not to form a political committee to raise funds for his Senate bid. Yet each of these events must cost something, and whether he is paying for them out of his own pocket or soliciting help from others, federal law requires that he disclose the source and use of his campaign funds.

Andy Martin is not the only Senate candidate without a political committee. LeAlan Jones, the lone candidate for the Green Party nomination, also has not formed a committee.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Top Judicial Races for Next Week's Primary Election

ICPR's website has updated fundraising totals for the US Senate, Illinois Governor, and Cook County Board President candidates. For the Democrats, Pat Quinn reported big receipts since Tuesday, showing $250K from SEIU and another $50K from another of Chicago Ald. Ed Burke's committees. How odd that the lifelong reformer now relies so heavily on the Regular Chicago Democrats and Rod Blagojevich's biggest campaign contributor. Hynes has raised about $250K recently, including $100K each from the laborers and the IFT.

For the Republicans, Kirk Dillard reported another $100K, including another $50K from Ron Gidwitz and $25K from the Operating Engineers. Dan Proft also had a $50K check from Richard Uihlein, who has been popping up a lot in the disclosure reports this year. The head of Uline Industries gave $50K to Matt Murphy last summer and $5K to another Republican seeking the nomination, Andy McKenna, though the $95K he's given to Proft is the bulk of his recent giving.

Judicial races aren't getting much press attention this year and it's a shame, because there's some big fundraising in several. There are five Appellate Court seats on the ballot, all in northern Illinois or Cook County. Here are the top races:

The race for the Democratic nomination for First District (Cook County) McNulty Vacancy race shows $632,115 in total receipts among 6 candidates, though Jim Epstein has the lion's share of that, with $516,432. A Democrat named Jim Ryan reports $56,526, while Arnette Hubbard reports $50,251, No one else has five figures. Epstein has dozens of donors in the 4-and 5-figure range, but his biggest supporter is himself, at $260,000 in loans this calendar year.

The race for the Republican nomination in the Second District Callum Vacancy race shows $509,119 between two candidates. While not evenly matched, both candidates here have significant fundraising. Ann Jorgensen reports $404,119 in total; most of that, $284,245.21 -- came in a single donation from the Ann Teresa Brackley Trust (Ann Jorgensen's middle name is Brackley). The other candidate, Kenneth Moy, reports $105,000, all from himself, all in the last six weeks.

The race for the Republican nomination in the other Second District seat -- the Gilleran Johnson Vacancy -- shows the third-highest fundraising total for appellate court seats at $454,830. Mary Schostok reports $425,472, while the only other candidate, Donna Kelly, reports $29,357. Schostok's biggest supporter is her husband, Michael Schostok, a lawyer who has contributed $108,000.

For seats on Illinois' circuit court bench, the top spot goes to the race for the Republican nomination in the 18th Circuit (DuPage County), Kilander Vacancy. Two candidates combine for $258,365. Ron Sutter reports $186,471; he gave $50K to his campaign as did Paul and Dorothy Sutter of Bloomington. Brian McKillip reports $71,894, of which $30,000 came from himself.

In the four-way contest for the Democratic nomination for the Otaka Vacancy in the Cook County 90th Subcircuit, there is $197,761 in combined receipts. Yehuda Lebovitz leads the fundraising with about half that total -- $97,604. Most of that figure -- $68K -- came from another PAC formed to support an earlier Lebovitz bid for the bench; that PAC, in turn, raised most of its money from the candidate. Abbey Romanek reports $45,652, nearly all from herself. Geary Kull reports $42,290. He's his largest contributor but, at $5K; he's also the smallest self-funder in the race. Dennis Fleming is fourth in the fundraising at $12,215.

Third highest is the contest for the Republican nomination in the Fifth Circuit in east-central Illinois for the Cini Vacancy. Matt Sullivan reports $64,200, while Frank Young shows $51,250 and Brian Bower reports $32,250. Eric James Neumann has yet to form a committee.

Fourth highest is for the Democratic nomination for the Vandersnick vacancy in the 14th Circuit in the Quad Cities area. Three candidates combine for $136,489. Clarence Darrow leads in fundraising, showing $68,835, including $36,269 from various Darrows. Trish Joyce shows $53,155, including $28,000 from herself. Maritia Griffith has $14,500, nearly all from Ronald Griffith.

Fifth highest fundraising is in another seat in Cook County's 9th Subcircuit -- this one for the A Vacancy. Six candidates combine for $127,042. Evanstonian Steven Bernstein leads the group with $79,461, which includes $25K of his own money. Previous legislative candidate Michael Ian Bender comes in second place with $33,456, none of it his and no more than a few thousand from any one donor. No other candidate has five figures.

Later this week -- legislative race totals and more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cook Knows; Why Don't the Rest of Us?

According to a Sun-Times story over the weekend, lobbyists in Cook County billed their clients $1.3 million in the second half of 2009. That includes only work to lobby officials and agencies of Cook County. For the year, billings were $2.1 million. The top five lobbyists accounted for over half of the total.

Want to do the same sort of analysis of lobbyists at the state level? Ever wonder about people who hang out around the rail and how they rank? Tough. The state doesn't require lobbyists to file reports like that.

The public has a right to know what lobbyists bill their client in Cook County and at the federal level, but the State of Illinois does not give the public access to the same amount of information. It would take legislation to change that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Court Ruling to Deliver $300M Boost to Media

Last week's US Supreme Court ruling in the case Citizens United has sparked a host of media stories about the implications for the future of campaign finance regulation. The ruling is over 180 pages long, and it will take some time before the dust all settles and the real impact can be seen.

In the meantime, here are some stories about the ruling that have not received much coverage in the press. The headline to this post is actually the banner headline in today's issue of Advertising Age. The media industry journal goes on to predict that, as a result of the Supreme Court's decision, media companies can "Expect More Money, More Clutter and No Inventory in November." In a related story, the journal predicts "Supreme Court Ruling Will Put Political Ad Spending 'on Steroids'."

Whatever the ruling may mean for democracy, it apparently also means more cash for media companies.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Happy Holidays, from your political committee

Fox Chicago ran a story last night about a Cook County Commissioner who mailed 10,000 holiday cards from her campaign fund. Since ICPR was quoted in the story, we want to clarify a few things.

Illinois law does require political committees to include notice on things that the committee paid for. This legal requirement affects committees that issue things like "a pamphlet, circular, handbill, … or other communication directed at voters and mentioning the name of a candidate in the next upcoming election…" There is no exemption for holiday cards, birthday cards, or any other type of communication, and in our view, these holiday cards would be covered. This county commissioner filed petitions of candidacy last fall and is on the February ballot; these holiday cards were mailed right in middle of the window when her candidacy is active, and so we think notice should have been included on the cards. The full text of the law is here (scroll down to Section 9-9.5).

That said, paying for holiday cards with campaign funds and forgetting the disclosure is not the most egregious thing we've ever seen. We're not the State Board of Elections (hear the sigh of relief from candidates everywhere) but it would not surprise us if this did not result in a monetary fine. Nor, necessarily, do we think it should. Our goal is to improve the culture of Illinois politics; if fines are required to do that, so be it, but we hope candidates will recognize their legal and ethical obligations even if falling short of them doesn't hit them in the wallet. Candidates who slip up should acknowledge the opportunity to do better, and should strive to do better next time.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Lobbyist Registration Suspended

The General Assembly goes into session next week for three days. Anyone attending can expect to find lobbyists hanging out around the rail on the third floor. But will any of those lobbyists be registered with the Secretary of State, as required by law? That remains to be seen.

Lobbyists are required by state law to register within two business days of entering into an agreement to lobby, and before actively engaging in lobbying on behalf of a client. Registration ends with the calendar year, and most lobbyists renew their registration in January. But this year, a lawsuit over the recent increase in registration fees has closed registration for everybody.

SB 54, signed into law last summer, had a lot of provisions. There's a lot of good stuff in that bill, and the SJ-R recently editorialized in favor of some of them, dealing with public access to reports of Inspectors General under the 2003 Ethics Act. Another section made some long-needed clean-ups to the Lobbyist Registration Act. But it also increased the registration fee dramatically. Under previous law, for-profit entities and lobbyists each paid $350 per year to register, while non-profits could register for $150. Under the new law, all registrants, for- and non-profit, would be required to pay $1,000.

The fee increase is especially onerous for non-profits (and let's acknowledge here that ICPR is a non-profit). Many employees of non-profits lobby in the course of their work. If a legislator reaches out to them for advice or guidance on an issue, answering that question is lobbying and triggers registration. Testimony before a legislative committee, under most circumstances, is lobbying and requires registration. Speaking with an agency head about the implementation of a new policy is lobbying. It's difficult to be an effective advocate for a cause or organization without coming into contact with legislators and other government officials, but that contact can quickly trigger the registration requirement and the $1,000 fee. With the fee rising nearly 6-fold, many non-profits were alarmed.

The ACLU of Illinois and the Illinois Society of Association Executives filed separate suits against the increase, the former in federal court and the latter in state court. In the ACLU suit, U.S. District Judge Joan B. Gottschall issued a temporary injunction, forbidding the Secretary of State to collect the increased fee from non-profits, pending the conclusion of the case. Further arguments are expected soon, and the suit could be concluded in a matter of days or weeks. The ISAE suit has a hearing before Illinois 7th Circuit Court Judge Pat Londrigan on Friday.

But while the federal injunction applies only to non-profits, the Secretary of State ended registration for all lobbyists. They could have kept registration open, collecting the $1,000 fee from for-profit entities and no fee from non-profits, or they could have collected the old $150 fee from non-profits and, after the two suits were concluded, adjusted the fee accordingly. Instead, it now appears that Illinois is the only state in the country without lobbyist registration.

Let's hope this gets resolved soon.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Voter Registration - Today, Tomorrow, Next Week Even (but don't dally)

A string of recent news stories (or maybe it's just the headlines) have noted that today is the last day to register to vote in the February 2 primary election. While that's true, it's only part of the story, and we hope that no one who wants to vote in the primary and is eligible to do so gives up because they think they've missed the deadline. Illinois offers many ways to register and participate in elections; just as one door shuts, another opens.

Today is the last day to register with a deputy registrar and with the motor voter system. But if you want to vote in the primary, you will still have an alternative. It will require more effort, but for the next three weeks you can take advantage of "grace period" registration. To do this, you'll need to go to your local election authority and register in person. Bring two forms of ID with you, at least one with a photograph (drivers license, passport, state ID with a photo; a written lease or a utility bill or bank statement mailed to your home will also do for the second). Be prepared, though; you also may be required to vote when you register, as some jurisdictions combine grace period registration with early voting. The unregistered have until January 26th to take advantage of grace period registration.

Grace period registration is increasingly common and will allow people who did not get to the registrar by the 28th day before the election to cast ballots in the primary. If you want to vote and are not now registered, don't assume it's too late.