Illinois GOP facing dire financial straits

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Civic Federation on Wednesday proposed a five-year financial plan of recommendations for the state one week before Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to present his first budget proposal on Feb. 20. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

We all know that former Gov. Bruce Rauner was outspent by our new Gov. J.B. Pritzker during the 2018 campaign. But the actual numbers are pretty darned eye-opening.

During the final three months of last year, Pritzker reported spending $37.2 million. Rauner, on the other hand, spent just $7.1 million — less than a fifth of his Democratic rival’s expenditures.

Overall, Pritzker’s campaign committee spent $173.1 million since its formation in March of 2017.

Of that, Pritzker’s committee contributed $28.1 million to other candidates and spent $145 million on Pritzker’s campaign. Pritzker reported spending a grand total of $90 million on media buys.

Starting in March of 2017, Rauner reported spending $78.6 million, about 45 percent of Pritzker’s amount.


Of that, Rauner’s campaign contributed $15.9 million to other campaigns and committees, a little over half of what Pritzker spent. Rauner spent $62.7 million on his own candidacy, 43 percent of what Pritzker spent. Rauner’s campaign reported spending a total of $41.1 million on media buys, which was less than half what Pritzker spent.

After last March’s primary (starting April 1), Pritzker’s campaign reported spending $104.7 million, including $27.1 million in transfers to other committees and $77.6 million on Pritzker’s own effort. $47.5 million of that was spent on media buys. He spent another $7.4 million on salaries and payroll costs, which gave him a veritable army.

During that same period since the primary, Rauner’s campaign spent $41.6 million (40 percent of Pritzker’s spending), including $8.4 million to other committees (31 percent of Pritzker’s spending) and $33.2 million on himself (43 percent of what Pritzker spent). Rauner’s campaign spent $20.8 million on media buys (44 percent of Pritzker’s spending) and $2.7 million on salaries and payroll costs (just 36 percent of Pritzker’s spending).

Rauner essentially got smothered in every possible way.

By the way, Rauner ended the year with $801K in the bank, far less than the rumors that were going around in November suggested.

Looking forward, one of the biggest questions facing Republican legislators is where will their campaign money come from. Not only did their primary contributor, Bruce Rauner, depart the scene, but after losing so many seats last year combined with the possibility that President Trump will be at the top of the ballot in 2020, who’s gonna give them any cash?

And it’s not like they have a comfy money cushion built up, either.

The House Republican Organization ended the fourth quarter with just a bit over $76,000 in the bank. The Republican State Senate Campaign Committee had a mere $29,000 at the end of the year. Yes, you read that right. $29K.

The true situation isn’t quite that dire, but it ain’t great. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin ended the year with $826,000 in his personal campaign account and Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady ended with $315,000. So, they have more than crumbs, but it’s still not a pleasant situation.

On the other hand, House Speaker Michael Madigan ended the year with almost $7.9 million in his personal campaign account and about $3.4 million in his Democratic Majority account. He had expected the Republicans to spend more than they did, so he piled up as much cash as possible. He now begins the next election cycle with a gigantic advantage.

Things are quite a bit tighter for Senate President John Cullerton, whose personal account had about $261,000 in it while the Senate Democratic Victory Fund had about $447,000. But he’s in the majority, so, unlike the Republicans, raising money should not be a problem.

The Democratic Party of Illinois ended the year with about $1.4 million in the bank. The Illinois Republican Party finished with $313,000. The IL GOP is going to have to be frugal for a while until they can raise some dough.

Rauner has been the state GOP’s most reliable donor. The former governor contributed $36.9 million to the state party since June 13th of 2014. The party raised another $20 million or so on top of that since that same date, but a large chunk of that money was pass-through cash from the two legislative caucuses for direct mail costs.

The unofficial leader of the Republican Party’s wealthy Chicago-area “donor class” was Ron Gidwitz. He helped raise a ton of money for his party over the years. But Gidwitz is now the US Ambassador to Belgium, so he can’t do them any good.

Bottom line: The Republican Party in this state is in very dire straits.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

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