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.

Update on Campaign Finance

Some numbers from the filings:

* In the 49th Senate district, incumbent Deanna Demuzio reported another $230K in receipts, mostly from the Senate Dems. Her opponent, Sam McCann, lags in cash but has been getting regular infusions from Republican leadership. This race will likely be the first to cross the $1 Million mark.

* In the 40th Senate District, appointed incumbent Toi Hutchinson holds a fundraising lead over challenger Todd Baumgartner, who reported $20K in receipts since yesterday, mostly from Republican leadership. This race holds a tenuous hold on second place for most fundraising in a Senate contest; the 43rd, between AJ WIlhelmi and Cedra Crenshaw, is close behind.

* House races are hard to rank because Jay Hoffman is sitting on such a huge pile; the disclosure reports do not say how much of that he plans to spend. Challenger Dwight Kay has been bringing in money at a rapid clip; he may never catch Hoffman dollar-for-dollar, but it appears he'll have enough to get his message out. His latest reports show another $16K, mostly from Tom Cross and affiliates.

* Charles Landers, the Democrat seeking to replace retiring Betsy Hannig (and, before her, Gary Hannig) reports a whopping $270K in receipts this month alone, largely from the Democratic Party of Illinois. Republican Wayne Rosenthal has about half as much cash; he's relying on Tom Cross and the HRO for the bulk of his money. These candidates are more likely to spend what they raise; if they do, this is poised to be the most expensive House contest.

* In the 35th open House race, Republican Barbara Bellar filed a paper A1 showing a $15,000 donation from Kenneth Griffin of Citadel Investment Group. As we noted earlier, Griffin's been giving to many candidates, but this donation may have slipped under the radar since it was filed on paper. With this donation, Bellar will need to start filing all reports electronically. Appointed Democrat Bill Cunningham holds a slight cash advantage in this low-dollar race.

* The pro- and con- Kilbride committees have been fairly silent. No on Kilbride shows no receipts; the two pro-Kilbride committees (Vote Yes Tom Kilbride Supreme Court and the Kilbride Campaign Committee) show a total of $86K (One pro-Kilbride committee has filed a Pre-Election; none of the others have). The Illinois Civil Justice League today reported $100K from American Justice Partnership, which one might assume is headed toward that 3rd District retention race.

* Cook County Assessor candidate Joe Berrios has been sitting on a lot of money for years. He's also raised a fair bit this month, and we find he has reported $517K for the General Election, not counting some investments. Independent candidate Forest Claypool has reported raising more in recent weeks, and the combined total is now over $1 Million.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The ads and the money in the Justice Kilbride retention campaign

The retention campaign of 3rd Judicial District Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride has spent the most money out of all other state high court campaigns this year.

Research by Justice At Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law shows that through Oct. 6, Kilbride’s campaign spent $393,000 on television airtime.

Kilbride's opponents, including the Illinois Civil Justice League (which operates political committee JUSTPAC), apparently have not run any television ads. Earlier this year, JUSTPAC said it aimed to raise $1 million to try to prevent Kilbride from getting the 60 percent of “yes” votes needed to hold another 10-year term on the state’s highest court.

However, JUSTPAC did put some money into airing a radio advertisement , which the Kilbride campaign promptly denounced for having a lie and which several radio stations reportedly pulled either because of the inaccuracy or because of tone of the ad.

Who has funded the groups’ ads remains a mystery, at least for the moment. Right now we have only a partial picture.

Current Illinois election law requires candidates and committees to file comprehensive fundraising reports every six months. In the months before an election, reporting requirements increase. Committees were last required to complete disclosure reports in late July, covering the first half of 2010. Additionally, beginning Oct. 4, committees must file A-1 reports, which disclose contributions of $500 or more within two business days if such a contribution is received during the 30 days before an election.

Next Monday, Oct. 18, is the deadline for committees to file pre-election reports which detail contributions received between July 1 and Oct. 3. Once that report comes in, we’ll have disclosure of all large contributions since the start of the year.

In the meantime, here’s what has been disclosed thus far:

Kilbride fundraising

The committee Kilbride used during his election campaign 10-years ago appears to be the primary vehicle for his retention effort.

State Board of Elections Records from Oct. 12 show that the Kilbride for Supreme Court Judge committee has raised a little more than $38,750 since its fundraising efforts resumed from a 10-year hiatus that began when Kilbride was first elected.

The Democratic justice also has received some money through a special retention committee formed in August. The Vote Yes Tom Kilbride Supreme Court committee already has filed its D-2 pre-election report. During that roughly three-month window, the retention committee raised a little more than $29,000, primarily from unions and the legal community, including law firms and attorneys. The committee also has filed one A-1, which added $1,000 to the committee’s total fundraising.

This retention committee transferred $15,500 to the justice’s other campaign committee, Kilbride for Supreme Court committee, on Sept. 28, the pre-election report shows.

Kilbride opponent fundraising

JUSTPAC

The Illinois Civil Justice League’s PAC has reported two large contributions this month: $13, 920 from the American Tort Reform Association and $10,000 from the Republican Renaissance PAC.

In the committee’s semi-annual report, JUSTPAC reported taking in $33,000 in total, in addition to some $53,000 that was already in the bank. But with expenses, at the end of the period, it had a little more than $28,000 in cash.

Vote NO Kilbride

The Vote NO Kilbride committee reported $6,100 in fundraising since its formation through the end of the first half of the year. Outside of $100 from its founder, Osco resident Jon A. Zahm, the rest of the committee’s cash came from Republican Renaissance, the Carpentersville-based group which also contributed to JUSTPAC.

For more on the Kilbride retention election, please visit our Retention Watch page and follow us on Twitter @ILCampaign.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Stand for Children, and these 9 candidates

Stand for Children Illinois has filed an amended statement of organization listing the candidates they support.

In addition to those who have already reported contributions, others named in the filing include Democrats Mark Walker and Daniel Biss and Republicans Ryan Scott Higgins and Richard Morthland.

That brings to nine the number of candidates who may be reporting $50K checks in the next few days, including six Democrats and three Republicans. Four of the nine candidates the group favors are challengers or candidates in open seats.

More A1 Reports

A1 season is well underway and the money flows are beginning to tell a story

We flagged the giving from Stand for Children earlier this week. The group formed a political committee in Illinois just last month, and has yet to file any of their own disclosure reports. Look for the Pre-Election Report, due within the next 10 days, to show where all of their cash came from.

We’ve seen a number of very large checks from individuals this week. Don Wilson, a commodities trader in Chicago, gave $50K to the House Republicans. Suzanne Murray, a “homemaker” from Chicago, gave $50K to Lisa Madigan. And spouses Ann Dias Griffin of Aragon Global Management and Kenneth Griffin of Citadel each gave $50K to Bill Brady's campaign. Kenneth Griffin also gave another $25K each to state rep candidates Lenkowski, Montelongo, and Oliver, plus $25K to the House Republican Organization. That's $200K from the couple this week. Donations of this size from individuals will become illegal on January 1, so this may be a last hurrah for this sort of giving (indeed, Ms. Murray made her debut in the campaign disclosure reports with her contribution).

The Illinois Fairness Fund, which supports legal recognition of gay couples, gave $25K to the Senate Democratic Victory Fund. The Fairness Fund formed last December and raised $80K in the first half of the year, including $25K from Laura Rickets, $15K from Robert Kohl and $10K each from Heather Steans, Tim Gill, Sarah Schmidt, and Henry Van Ameringen.

The Democratic Party of Illinois shows $230K to candidates including state Reps. Farnham, Mussman, Flider, Sente, McAsey, and Jehan Gordon. The Illinois Republican Party doesn’t appear in the A1s yet. And the House Republican Organization (DPI has also served as Speaker Madigan’s caucus committee) is under $5K in transfers out to candidates this week. We'll know better what happened last week when those Pre-Election reports come in.

SEIU shows almost $200K out to candidates, net of internal transfers. Recipients include state Reps. Rita, Jakobsson, Brauer, and Mike Smith, along with Quinn/Simon and Toni Preckwinkle (who, if you’re not from Cook County, is the Dem nominee for Board President).

A1s will come in for the next month or so. Pre-election reports are due in less than two weeks. Keep an eye on the reports, and let us know if you see anything interesting.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A1 Season Has Begun

Monday marked the start of A1 reporting, when candidates have two business days to report donations of more than $500.

The first few reports show that Jonah Edelman is making a name for himself as a generous supporter for Illinois candidates. His group, a non-profit called Stand for Children, gave (apparently) $100,000 yesterday, including $50K to state Rep. Keith Farnham, and another $50K from the group to former state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger. Farnham is a sitting rep in the senate district where Rauschenberger is running (Farnham is taking on former state Rep. Ruth Munson in a tier one race, while Rauschenberger is facing incumbent state Sen. Mike Noland in what is also a tier one race).

Edelman is the son of Marion Wright Edelman. He lives in Portland, Oregon, but has an office in Massachusetts that sent the checks (there are several state affiliates for Stand for Children, including one in Illinois).

For what it's worth, the biggest single donation yesterday was $55K from the Illinois Health Care Association PAC to the Health Care Council of IL PAC. These are both nursing home PACs; anyone want to speculate on why they’re passing money back and forth?

Follow the A1s here. Since we started writing this, more $50K checks have appeared; go see for yourself. If you see anything interesting, send us a note or comment.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Strenghening the Pay-to-Play Ban

One of the biggest legislative actions of 2008 was the enactment, over Rod Blagjevich's veto, of the ban on campaign donations from state contractors, better known as the pay-to-play bill. The measure was a direct response to widespread charges that Rod Blagojevich had shaken down companies for campaign donations before they'd even be considered for state business.

Somewhat famously, the bill was the spark that led to the "crime spree" which culminated in Blagojevich's arrest on December 9, 2008. As he said on one taped phone call, the bill meant he wouldn't be able to "bully" campaign donations after the end of the year.

Shortly before he was arrested, though, the US Department of Transportation wrote a letter outlining objections to the new law. US DoT claimed that the law would shrink the pool of companies eligible to bid on federal highway projects, and that the smaller pool would increase the cost of those projects. US DoT was writing to demand an exemption to the law.

US DoT did the same thing in New Jersey (also a state with a fearsome reputation for corruption) when New Jersey barred contributors from bidding on contracts. Illinois' law was different, though. Our bill didn't ban anyone from bidding; it did the opposite, banning bidders from contributing in the future. Perhaps this nuance was lost on the US DoT analysts, but they were clear that the new law jeopardized Illinois' eligibility for federal construction funds.

After Blagojevich's arrest, the General Assembly approved an exemption to the Pay-to-Play bill for projects funded by federal highway dollars. But not without some grumbling on all sides. Now, at the prompting of US Rep. Mike Quigley, the US House has approved a change to federal law to allow US highway dollars to flow to states that have pay-to-play bans similar to our original, stronger law. Should the US Senate concur, and the president sign the measure (remember, it was a phone call from then-candidate Obama that prompted the veto override vote in the first place), Illinois could go back to the original stronger pay-to-play ban and eliminate the loophole.

We applaud the US House for recognizing that pay-to-play bans can save money. We encourage the US Senate to follow suit. And we await the day when Illinois can again apply the pay-to-play ban to highway projects.