Friday, February 18, 2011

Updated Aldermanic Numbers (more on the website)

The Sunshine Database has numbers for all the Chicago candidates. Go have a look. Here's an update on the top donors to Aldermanic candidates, as of this morning.

Top Contributors to Chicago Aldermanic Races (10 or more races) (Excludes self-funders)
$339,840 For a Better Chicago-PAC (19 races)
$249,820 AFSCME IL Council No 31 (25 races)
$222,220 General Iron Industries & Labkon Family (21 races)
$179,900 SEIU Unions SEIU IL Council PAC - SEIU Healthcare IL IN PAC (18 races)
$145,494 UFCW Unions Political Fund of IL UFCW - Local 881 – UFCW DC (15 races)

For a Better Chicago is pulling away from other donors, now nearly $90K more than the second largest donor. They have yet to disclose the source of their funds.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

For a Better Chicago is the Top Donor to Aldermanic Candidates

Below are updated numbers on giving to aldermanic candidates, as of last night. Note that these exclude giving to other Chicago candidates (the citywides), to other PACs, or to state or county officials.

Top Contributors to Chicago Aldermanic Races (5 or more races) (Excludes self-funders)
$243,223 For a Better Chicago-PAC (17 races)
$240,320 AFSCME IL Council No 31 (25 races)
$196,230 General Iron Industries & Labkron Family (18 races)
$171,400 SEIU Unions SEIU IL Council PAC - SEIU Healthcare IL IN PAC (18 races)
$133,494 UFCW Unions Political Fund of IL UFCW - Local 881 – UFCW DC (14 races)

For a Better Chicago has reported one $10,000 donation from an identified person, the only other reported receipts are listed transfers from itself. The organization could not make these donations without the use of secret money. ICPR filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections to compel disclosure of those funds.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Put Black Boxes on Airplanes, not in Campaign Finance

The Container Store sells all sorts of boxes. So do Crate and Barrel, and Target, and Sears, and you can also find boxes at Office Depot or Staples. Clear plastic boxes so that you can see what's inside of them, and boxes with solid walls that you have to open to know what's in there. Each has a purpose. There is a place and time for each. If you want to put things where they cannot be seen, choose a solid box with thick walls.

Some people think campaign disclosure belongs in boxes with thick walls. After all, it's one way of obscuring their public policy objectives. For years, there have been people who have tried to hide the extent of their role in financing candidates. Illinois has long allowed corporations to give to candidates, and the public disclosure reports are littered with donations from trusts, partnerships, and other entities with complex ownership chains.

It can be very hard to tell who is making the decision to give money to a candidate. Generally, we can untangle the reports to see where the money is coming from. But when people hide boxes within boxes within shells within shrouds, it can get nearly impossible to clarify the true interests behind the contributions.

The thing is, corporations cannot write checks. People write checks. They may do so out of a corporate checkbook, but there is always a flesh-and-blood person behind every contribution listed in candidate disclosure reports.

The goal of campaign finance disclosure is to alert the public to conflicts of interest, to situations where a donor may get special treatment. That can work only when the public knows who is giving to candidates. In order for the public to trust that their government is working in their best interest, it is essential that the public knows who, precisely, is making a contribution.

Putting donations in a black box makes disclosure meaningless. If anyone can form a non-profit and use that to hide their identify, then there is no point in following the donations. Save the boxes for moving day, and protect the public's right to know.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Clerk Candidate Mendoza Holds Big Financial Advantage with Assist from Schock

The race to replace outgoing City Clerk Miguel Del Valle remains the "other" contested citywide race. Nearly all of the attention has gone to the Mayoral, and for good reason, but the election of the Clerk plays an important role in city politics.

There are just two candidates: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Patricia Horton and State Rep. Susana Mendoza. Horton's campaign fund shows just $17K for the race. (She has another fund for her MWRD seat that has very little in it) That's considering cash on hand on the first of the year and all money raised since then. Her four reported donations this year include $1,500 from "Citizens for Good Government," a new state PAC formed by US Rep. Danny Davis that, in turn, reports a single $3,000 donation from Cecil Butler of Pyramidwest Development Corp. a Chicago real estate developer. Other Horton checks include $2K from State Sen. Rickey Hendon; and $7K from two individuals.

By contrast, Mendoza shows roughly 20 times as much cash as Horton. Mendoza's biggest contributors this year include two political committees associated with US Rep. Aaron Schock (R- Peoria). The GOP Generation Y Fund, a federal leadership PAC, gave $5K, as did Schock for Congress, his candidate PAC. Schock, who represents Peoria, served in the state House with Mendoza.

Mendoza's other top donors include AFSCME at $15K, and $10K from Tim Rand and another $10K from Midway Airport Concessionaires. A host of names are at the $5K level: 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly's campaign fund, nursing home owner Morris Esformes, Clifford Law Offices, Fred Eychaner, and David Herro. She's also tapped donors with Springfield connections, including Midwest Generation and lobbyist John Potts. James Tyree of Abbott Labs gave $5K, and the Abbot Labs Employee PAC gave another $1.5K. (Mendoza lists him as President of Abbott Labs, though it appears he's actually President of a subsidiary called Abbott Biotech Ventures.) Colleagues in the House of Representatives have combined for $9K.

Mendoza is running away with a clear financial advantage. She was uncontested in her re-election effort last fall, and used the time to add more than $60K to her campaign coffers. Horton was mid-term at the MWRD; she was not on the ballot and did not raise much.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Labor Tops Giving to Chicago Council Candidates

Candidates for Chicago City Council have reported over $5M for the elections later this month (if you don't count the $6M uncontested 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke has sitting in his fund). What's interesting about that is where the funds came from. And how muchy is still sitting on the sidelines.

In the 2007 aldermanic races, the defining dynamic was the fight over Big Box ordinance between the labor unions, led by SEIU and AFSCME, and supporters of Mayor Daley, which took the shape of the First CD Victory PAC. Both sides in that election funded opposing candidates with different ideological views on the direction of the city.

This year the dynamic is different. Unions have still given a lot, and pledged to give more. And many are looking to For a Better Chicago (FaBC) as the successor to the First CD Victory PAC as the counter balance to the labor money. But it's not clear that all this giving is wholly oppositional in nature.

In 2011, AFSCME is the top donor to candidates for City Council, showing over $180K in contributions. SEIU is second, with $137K in combined giving from either the SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana PAC and the SEIU Illinois Council PAC. In third place is FaBC at $120K.

Those are substantial sums, but they pale beside what could be coming. SEIU, for instance, announced plans last November to spend upwards of $1M on the elections. Campaign finance reports suggest that the two main SEIU committees are already sitting on another half million, and they could raise more from other locals. AFSCME has $110K in cash at the moment, and they formed a new committee last week as a giving vehicle for the DC-based national union.

FaBC also has a tidy sum. They have reported raising $865K. Of that, they've disclosed the source of just $10K from investor David Herro - of the other $855K, the PAC is reporting only that the FaBC non-profit donated the funds to the FaBC PAC, leaving the public to speculate on the original source of the funds. FaBC PAC has a net pile of $745K, even if they don't raise another dime. Whether that's in reserve for the April run-offs, or for use in the February elections remains anyone's guess.

But what's also striking is how many candidates are reporting donations and endorsements from both FaBC and labor. Of the 12 candidates that have reported getting $10K from FaBC, 5 have also reported significant support from AFSCME and/or SEIU:

• Former State Rep. Deborah Graham, the appointed incumbent in the 29th Ward, shows $50K from AFSCME, along with her $10K from FaBC.
• JoAnn Thompson in16th shows $21K from AFSCME and $10K from FaBC.
• State Rep. Will Burns, the presumptive favorite to succeed Toni Preckwinkle in the 4th, shows $10K from SEIU, $5K from AFSCME, and $10K from FaBC.
• Willie Cochran, the 20th Ward incumbent, reports $5K from AFSCME alongside the $10K from FaBC.
• Tim Cullerton, recently appointed to succeed Tom Allen in the 38th, shows a raft of union money, including $2.5K from AFSCME, and $10K from FaBC.

Giving in these elections seems to be driven more by relationship building than by a real struggle for the vision of the city's future. Money from all three of the top donors appears to be going to candidates leading in the polls, rather than supporting new candidates with a sympathetic agenda. Time will tell if the pattern holds. But on-lookers hoping for another round of knock-down council elections may have to keep looking.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Top Aldermanics

The first round of voting in Chicago's aldermanic races in just over two weeks, and the candidates are busily courting voters at every opportunity. Sometimes this takes a personal touch, but in many wards, candidates are relying on fundraising efforts to get out the vote.

ICPR looked at cash on hand on January 1, and all money raised since then. A list of the top five contested wards for fundraising is below.

43rd Ward (Lincoln Park): $759K. The 43rd Ward sees the departure of incumbent Vi Daley and a field of 9 candidates to replace her. All but one have formed fundraising committees. Current Ward Committeewoman Michelle Smith leads in fundraising with $284K, followed by Rafael Vargas at $141K and Bita Buenrostro at $113K.

27th Ward (Near West Side): $400K. In the 27th Ward, incumbent Ald. Walter Burnett is sitting on nearly all of the money, though his two challengers do have fundraising committees.

46th Ward (Uptown): $275K. With Ald. Helen Schiller's retirement, the 46th Ward is more like the 43rd - an open seat with many candidates actively raising money. James Cappleman, who ran before, leads fundraising with $113K, followed by a tight cluster of Don Nowotny at $48K, Molly Phelan at $47K, and Befekadu Retta at $46K.

19th Ward (Beverly/Morgan Park): $225K

45th Ward (Jefferson Park): $252K

In some wards, a handful of candidates are raising money at a furious clip. The top fundraisers since January 1 are:

19th Ward Candidate Anne Schiable: $92K. The 19th Ward is an open seat and as in the 43rd, the current Ward Committeeman leads in fundraising. Matt O'Shea reported $116K at the end of the year and has added $18K since then. Candidate Anne Schiable reports $103K total, including $92K raised this year The great bulk of that, $85K, came from Keith Schiable.

38th Ward Alderman Tim Cullerton: $84K. The 38th Ward has 8 candidates including Cullerton, who was appointed to the seat after the retirement of Tom Allen. No other candidate shows more than four figures.

29th Ward Alderman Deborah Graham: $81K. The 29th is a crowded field with 8 candidates, 6 of whom have formed fundraising committees. But nearly all of the money is flowing to the sitting (appointed) Alderman, former State Rep. Deborah Graham, and to challenger Mary Gardner. No other candidate reports five figures.

4th Ward Candidate Will Burns: $81K

29th Ward Candidate Mary Gardner: $79K

Our website has fundraising and cash-on-hand for all candidates, if your ward isn't here. Our district locator will also tell you who his running in your ward, based on your address. Have a look. Data updates twice a week, including, by the end of this week, the paper filers.