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Columns

EYE ON ILLINOIS: Campaign sites full of details for those who like to follow money

What could you do with $13,115,649.73?

That would cover the 2020 salary for Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks or White Sox MVP candidate José Abreu. It’s enough to buy a Gold Coast condo — specifically a full-floor unit in a 35-story West Walton Street building. You could finance production of something like “Black and Blue,” an October release that grossed $22 million at the domestic box office.

Or, you could make campaign contributions in advance of the Nov. 3 election.

That $13 million figure represents the total donated — so far — on the nine most expensive General Assembly races in Illinois, according to illinoissunshine.org. Each of those races — seven House contests and two in the Senate — have a nine-figure total so far, topped by the 82nd House race between House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, and challenger Kaseem Moukahal, D-Homer Glen, an entrepreneur.

A few clicks in makes it clear campaign cash isn’t the same as campaign spending. The entire balance of the $3,595,280.88 “total funds in race” figure is on Durkin’s side of the ledger. Of that, nearly $3.5 million is attributed to Durkin directly and just $105,000 in independent expenditures supporting his campaign.

The wealthiest Senate race is more balanced, but still heavily favors the incumbent. Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, has raised $935,942.53, while GOP challenger Mary Burress has $330,002.91. 

Campaign disclosure reports on the Illinois State Board of Elections website (elections.il.gov) show Burress spent $8,431.43 on yard signs in April. Koehler’s second-quarter expenditure list is larger: staff salaries, rent, phone bills, invitations to a golf outing, car lease payments, taxes, insurance, office supplies, chamber of commerce membership dues and more — 29 itemized expenditures totaling $16,628.99.

Today’s topic comes courtesy of Joliet reader Shauna Gunnink, who emailed about last week’s columns regarding the special House committee investigating Speaker Michael Madigan.

“I was absolutely shocked to see the name of Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, on the list of committee members,” Gunnink wrote. “She is on record as receiving over HALF a MILLION DOLLARS in campaign funds from Madigan. She is totally indebted to this man for her position in the Legislature. How can she POSSIBLY be expected to be fair or impartial? He must be laughing his head off about this. I think that sort of information would have been very pertinent in this article.”

I verified Gunnink’s claim, then learned the other Democrats on the committee have much smaller war chests, though all three have uncontested re-election bids. 

There’s not enough space here (or in any newspaper) to detail all the revenue and expenses, but for those who like to follow the money, these websites are endlessly interesting. Campaigns are big business in Illinois — $13 million only scratches the surface.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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