Rauner Takes Lead in Spending, Polls in Illinois’ Costliest Governor’s Race

By Emily Gray Brosious
Originally published at The Red Line Project
Sept. 2, 2014

Graphs made with Datawrapper with data from the Sunshine Project
Data from the Sunshine Project

The 2014 Illinois gubernatorial race between incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner is shaping up to be one of the most competitive — and costly — in the country.

The two campaigns spent about $8 million combined during the second quarter of 2014 alone, according to campaign finance records.

“It’s the most expensive governor’s race in Illinois history,” said Dick Simpson, University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor and a former 44th Ward alderman.

Quinn’s campaign finance records show he raised about $3.7 million during the three-month period ending June 30 and spent nearly $1 million. He started July with about $12 million in campaign funds and has since raised nearly $1.1 million more, including a $500,000 contribution from the Democratic Governors Association.

Rauner raised more than double Quinn’s total from April through June, and he spent about seven times more, according to financial disclosure reports. After spending nearly $9.5 million — largely on TV ads and consulting costs — from April through June, Rauner reported starting July with approximately $3.5 million in his campaign fund.

But the multimillionaire has shown he can easily acquire more campaign money. He reported more than $7 million since the start of July, including $2.5 million from the Republican Governors Association and $3 million in personal funds.

Charts made with Datawrapper. Data from the Sunshine Project.
Charts made with Datawrapper. Data from the Sunshine Project.

Rauner, an equity investor from the North Shore suburb of Winnetka, is one of the wealthiest candidates ever to seek statewide office in Illinois. His latest personal campaign contributions bring him to approximately $9.6 million in self-financing.

“No one’s ever self -financed an election like Rauner is doing,” said Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics and Arthur Rubloff Professor of Policy Studies at Roosevelt University. “His money was the reason he won in the primaries, and if he wins in November, his money will be the key factor.”

Green said he thinks people either don’t know or don’t care that Rauner has personally financed so much of his own campaign. Either way, it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting his public opinion polls, which show him with a double-digit lead over Quinn.

In 2014, 35 percent of all Rauner’s funding came from personal contributions, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform’s Sunshine Database. About 52 percent of his funding came from business and professional groups and 12 percent from party contributions.

The bulk of Quinn’s re-election campaign funding — about 51 percent — came from labor organizations, according to The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform’s Sunshine Database. Business and professional groups came in second with about 37 percent of contributions. Party contributions came in third at around 12 percent. None of Quinn’s campaign money was self-financed.

It should be noted that a large portion of both Quinn and Rauner’s campaign financing this cycle has been used on “outside spending,” political advertising created independently of candidates.

This pricey gubernatorial showdown impacts campaign financing beyond the governor’s race in Illinois, Simpson said. Between the small fortune Quinn and Rauner have already shelled out for TV ads, it’s going to be harder and much more expensive for other candidates running for other statewide offices to buy any desirable commercial time, he said.

Simpson predicts an increasing barrage of TV ads from both gubernatorial campaigns heading into November’s election, with less air time going to other statewide races.

“Money is the new mother’s milk of politics,” Green said. “It used to be compromise, but now it’s money.”

Charts made with Datawrapper. Data from The Sunshine Project.
Charts made with Datawrapper. Data from The Sunshine Project.

Video: Chicagoans react to campaign finances in Illinois’ 2014 Governor’s race (By Emily Gray Brosious)

McCormick Foundation Logo

This Data/Chicago project made possible by
journalism grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation

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