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Pritzker’s and Rauner’s $207M buys lots of TV, pals — caffè lattes and Munchkins

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker met in a debate earlier this month at the Sun-Times. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker met in a debate earlier this month at the Sun-Times. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

More than $22,000 on Ubers alone.

Another $16,170 at Dunkin’ Donuts, and $1,984 at Starbucks.

And a whopping $80.1 million on campaign ads.

Those are just a few of the highlights of Democrat J.B. Pritzker’s record-breaking spending on the Illinois race for governor.

The billionaire’s campaign has spent $135.9 million since late March 2017, nearly twice as much as the $71.5 million Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner spent since January 2017, according to a Sun-Times analysis of reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Both men insist they are not trying to buy the election. Ultimately, that will be up to the voters to decide. But the Sun-Times decided to look and see exactly what the two men were spending their millions on.

The unsurprising answer: TV ads, staff, food and friendship.

And lots and lots of all of it.

Pritzker’s spending includes the $13.45 million he’s contributed to other Democrats and Democratic organizations — for example, $3 million to the Democratic Majority fund, which is overseen by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, $2.6 million to the Rock Island County Democratic Central Committee and $1.42 million to the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and challenger J.B. Pritzker participated in a televised debate Wednesday night put on by ABC 7 with the League of Women Voters. | ABC7 Chicago

Gov. Bruce Rauner and challenger J.B. Pritzker participated in a televised debate put on by ABC 7 with the League of Women Voters. File Photo. | ABC7 Chicago

Rauner has shipped over $14.86 million to help bolster other campaigns and Republican organizations, including $7.68 million to the Illinois Republican Party and $6 million to the House Republican Organization, records show.

Both men are spending money hand over fist, but on nearly every measure, Pritzker is outspending the Republican governor nearly two to one.

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Rauner has dished out $45 million on advertising, a little more than half of what Pritzker has spent. And with just a bit over two weeks to before the election, there’s no doubt Pritzker will spend even more to get his message out on multiple platforms.

In total, Pritzker has put more than $80.1 million into ads and an additional $19.8 million in strategy, which includes voter outreach, data gathering and campaign consulting. The campaign spent $19.9 million in September, by far the most expensive month of the campaign.

In addition to advertising, Rauner’s campaign has spent $5 million on other strategy efforts. In September, just as Pritzker was shelling out millions, Rauner’s camp pulled back — spending just $5.1 million, a third of its $15.1 million in spending a month prior.

No matter what happens in the final weeks of the campaign, the spending will make history, according to Jay Young, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause Illinois. But Young highlighted some concerns about the impacts of the exorbitant spending — and said it will highlight a need for campaign finance reform.

Pritzker has pumped more of his own money into a campaign than any other self-financing candidate in U.S. history. The Democrat’s $161.5 million beats Republican Meg Whitman’s 2010 record. The former eBay honcho spent $144 million of her fortune into her losing battle against Democrat Jerry Brown.

But so far, the combined $234 million that Pritzker and Rauner have raised — and not yet fully spent — in the contentious battle falls short of the combined $280 million that Brown and Whitman ultimately spent.

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At $234 million, rich-guy rumble hasn’t broken U.S. record — yet
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“Governor Rauner spent $65 million four years ago, and we all expressed our concerns about what this meant for democracy in our state. Now, another self-funding billionaire has spent $100 million on advertising and voter outreach efforts alone, according to your analysis,” Young told the Sun-Times. “I fear that when ordinary people see this level spending, they start to believe that their political system isn’t meant for them.”

Young also noted the millions aren’t just fueling the race for governor.

“We have a fractured campaign finance system that will allow much of the money that has been spent by both sides to end up in other campaigns’ coffers,” Young said. “There’s already more than 20 statehouse races that have crossed the $2 million threshold in our state. Something has to change.”

The record spending is completely unsurprising for Pritzker, who in April 2017 started his campaign with a bang — contributing $7 million to his fund just eight days after announcing his run. He nodded to his own vast wealth the day of his announcement, saying the state should tax millionaires and billionaires rather than the middle class. Still, he insisted the race was not about his wealth but his “progressive values.”

Rauner, too, started his re-election campaign with a bold statement, contributing $50 million to his war chest in December 2016. His campaign then called the massive contribution — which broke a state record for the largest single individual contribution to a campaign – a “first installment.”

Pritzker — an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune — has repeatedly blamed that “installment” on why he began pouring millions into his fight to unseat the embattled governor.

Pritzker’s campaign said the billionaire political newcomer has more than 200 staffers, 33 field offices across the state and a headquarters in Chicago.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, speaks to reporters in June. File Photo. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times; Democrat J.B. Pritzker, right, at a campaign stop in July. File Photo. | Jane Recker/For the Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, speaks to reporters in June. File Photo. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times; Democrat J.B. Pritzker, right, at a campaign stop in July. File Photo. | Jane Recker/For the Sun-Times

Including health insurance, Pritzker’s campaign has spent $12.2 million on pay. Rauner’s campaign reports $3.7 million on salaries and health benefits.

Pritzker’s top paid campaign staffer is his campaign manager, Anne Caprara, whom he has paid $307,016.13 since April 2017, records show. Rauner’s top paid staffer is his campaign manager Betsy Ankney, whom he has paid $147,386.05 since April 2017.

On food, events and travel, Pritzker’s campaign spent $4.7 million to Rauner’s $335,000. That includes money that went to large-scale event planners, caterers, local eateries and national chains.

On Ubers? Rauner’s campaign ponied up just $2,918.75. Another $163.94 went to Lyft, a fraction of the $22,957.85 Pritzker spent on Uber and $13,783.76 on Lyft.

And while Pritzker’s campaign apparently runs on Dunkin,’ Rauner’s campaign staffers are more of a Potbelly crowd, spending $2,388 on the restaurant chain. Pritzker campaign, too, got some sandwiches — spending $5,754 there.