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Chris Kennedy warns high-dollar campaigns could mean “the end of American democracy”

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller


John Jackson, a professor at SIU’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, says the amount of money spent in Illinois governor’s race so far is unheard of.

“This is the earliest I’ve ever seen this much money being spent,” he said.

More than a year out from November 2018’s election, more than 100 million dollars has been raised in what is on pace to be the most expensive governor’s race in United State’s history.

Campaign Finance reports for period from July through September were due Monday, and show unprecedented levels of spending so early in the race from Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate JB Pritzker.

“They’re both spending like the election is this November instead of next November,” Jackson said.

* On to last night’s candidate forum. From the Tribune

The debate exchange on the merits of Madigan came after the candidates clashed on the growing influence of money in politics, as billionaire Pritzker defended using his personal wealth to seek office while those with fewer resources bemoaned average citizens were being shut out.

Pritzker, who is self-funding his campaign, blamed Rauner for opening the floodgates by giving his campaign $50 million late last year, contending Democrats will need cash to build up infrastructure that could defeat the GOP.

Biss said Democrats should focus on building support using people, not money. “We’ve got to decide: Do we want to have an election or do we want to have an auction?” he said.

Kennedy joked that he “thought” he came from a wealthy family before seeing the amount of money that’s flowed in the race, which prompted Pritzker to shoot back, “You do.”

* More from the Sun-Times

“Is this just a rich person’s game when we’re looking at this table? Is this just a rich man’s game of politics these days that regular people really can’t participate in?” [moderator Rick Pearson of the Tribune] asked the candidates.

“Unfortunately he set us on a course that I think is going to mean that we Democrats have got to build the infrastructure that we’ve lost. It’s important that we knock on doors, that we’re phone banking,” Pritzker said. “It also means that we Democrats have to join together to go beat Bruce Rauner. That is the campaign that I’m trying to put together. Not just here in the primary but also in the general election. For us to go out and beat Bruce Rauner and that’s why I’ve funded this campaign.”

Kennedy, heir of the famed political dynasty, too pinned the need to raise money on Rauner: “We need to respond to what they’ve done.”

But he noted his “outrage” at the amount of money in the race and the notion that you have to be wealthy to serve in politics.

“If that’s true, it’s the end of American democracy,” Kennedy said. Kennedy said people in the state must “rise up and make it clear that anybody can serve in office. You don’t need deep pockets.”

* Kane County Chronicle

Kennedy said “all of us are outraged by the amount of money that is flowing into this race, and every race.”

“I think J.B. rightly points out that this was started by the Republican Party in Illinois, and we need to respond to what they’ve done,” he said.

Biss said the Democratic Party needs to build its infrastructure “but we don’t build it with money, we build it with people.”

“I think the future of our democracy is at stake here,” Biss said. “We gotta decide if we want to have an election or do we want to have an auction.”


  1. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    It should be noted that it was Chris Kennedy himself that broke the caps on the race for governor.

    This argument is as silly with that fact when another person broke the caps and decided not to run at all for an office.

    Why be THE one to break the caps then complain about… campaign spending?

  2. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:12 am:

    What a load of ****. The unions have been pumping huge sums into Democratic campaigns for years. Pat Quinn wasn’t outspent. Neither were the Dem party committees in 2016.

  3. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:14 am:

    ==It should be noted that it was Chris Kennedy himself that broke the caps on the race for governor.==

    It should be noted, and repeated. I’m not very interested in a Kennedy, getting fundraising support from a Daley, lecturing us about what an outsider he is.

  4. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    The message rings true in general, but I just can’t get over hearing a descendant of an “old money” rich family complaining about relatively “new money” opponents who are richer than he is.

  5. - Epic - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:16 am:

    “Why be THE one to break the caps then complain about… campaign spending?”

    Because now he’a getting smoked in fundraising, and he can’t even say it’s unfair due to JB because even Biss is raising more. So just like with endorsements he’s going to pretend he does not need to raise a lot of money to win because he’s the “people’s candidate”

  6. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:17 am:

    And Biss proposes getting the people how? Magic wand, fairy dust? Sanders got people because there is a pretty robust national media that gives progressives plenty of time and space. IL does not.
    BTW could provide a vision of the post Madigan era of Speaker or Chairman. What issues ignored? Terms limits — right, lets fill the joint with newbies to get led around by the lobos and staff. Remap — sure that will protect Voting Rights Act. Not.
    Spending limits — Ah so some are hog tied while the dark money whacks everyone.
    Seems like these guys need to tell us vision rather than offer the visionless jumble.

  7. - Seats - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    I disagree that being rich is a requirement. Getting the support of someone that is rich is pretty close to being a requirement though; if you are already wealthy then you have the option of skipping that step or like Rauner you can allow them to assist you.

  8. - Ducky LaMoore - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:20 am:

    This is a typical complaint of someone who is a poor fundraiser. Albeit rather over the top with the “end of American democracy.”

  9. - ANONIME - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:25 am:

    I think Biss is right about the auction. We might as well appoint a king and be done with it.

  10. - PJ - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    He’s not wrong about how awful this is for democracy. We now live in a world where executive offices are pretty much reserved for business tycoons and those who can get the financial backing of business tycoons. Or both.

    It’s not hard to see why the majority of Americans would feel like such people have difficulty understanding and representing their interests.

    That said, it’s pretty rich coming from a Kennedy.

  11. - A guy - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:29 am:

    It’s relative and it’s evolved, but “big money” has been around and mostly defeated in the past; on both sides. It can be done again. If it is; you’ll see big money become smart money and sit out a little more than it has lately.

  12. - Alternative Logic - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:30 am:

    Is this a personal observation or is it also attributable to Mr. Kennedy as the Chairman of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, Inc. or, perhaps, as the Treasurer of the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation?

    All of Hyannis Port is on the edge of its sailboat-callused seat waiting to find out…

  13. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:30 am:

    ==Sanders got people because there is a pretty robust national media that gives progressives plenty of time and space. IL does not.==

    I think IL has space for such a progressive movement, but Biss, so far, hasn’t really been able to consolidate it. Too much technocratic baggage and one big mistake, I think.

    ==What issues ignored?==

    A minimum wage hike, for one thing. Guys like Biss and Guzzardi have talked about that one a lot.

  14. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:32 am:

    Biss said the Democratic Party needs to build its infrastructure “but we don’t build it with money, we build it with people.”

    I agree and would refer them to what Madigan has done and does in his district- snow removal, graffiti removal, etc. It’s the little things done on a local scale that people will remember. Not how much did the local Party raise- that’s just competition, not community.

    That said, money is what will be a partner to the actual voter turnout to defeat Rauner. That AND someone who can successfully debate and unveil Rauner’s current “saviour” costuming. Personally, I think Pritzker will be the best candidate for making Rauner fluster.

  15. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:35 am:

    I agree with Kennedy, to a point. The question for me is, given Citizens United, what can be done about it?

  16. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:37 am:

    ==It’s relative and it’s evolved, but “big money” has been around and mostly defeated in the past; on both sides. It can be done again.==

    Yeah. It’s…cyclical may not be quite the right word, but there’s an eb and flow to this. Money is like water on pavement, it eventually finds every crack. But then someone comes along and fills that crack, and the money isn’t as effective for a while.

    There’s also variations on this. Like, big money raised from a bunch of small donors isn’t bad, and self-funding is at least preferable to wasting 3 hours a day on call time to rich folk across the country.

  17. - Anon0091 - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:38 am:

    “Pat Quinn wasn’t outspent. Pat Quinn wasn’t outspent.”

    Ummm, yea he was. About 2 to 1.

    And it’s really rich (pun intended) for Kennedy to cry about money in politics. When his Uncle was elected president, his family was among the richest in the US. Without that money, Jack doesn’t become president and his Dad doesn’t become a US Senator and presidential candidate.

  18. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 10:58 am:

    Trust me Kennedy when I write this to you - your nepotism is a bigger threat to American democracy than JB’s money.

  19. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 11:01 am:

    On top of pouring in millions of dollars into politics, Rauner’s top priority is to deal a kill shot to his opponents by crippling public unions and attacking private ones locally. How’s that for democracy?

    Democrats should make this a big issue—Rauner has purposely caused massive damage to the state because his top priority is to bust unions.

  20. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 11:02 am:

    And then there’s this:

    And look, these guys appear to be experienced campaigners, since Rush hired them for his campaigns, too. I just want Kennedy to miss me with his pious outsider routine.

  21. - Thomas Paine - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 11:06 am:

    I’m so old that I remember when millionaire Bill Daley bragged that millionaire Chris Kennedy was going to be pulling together a bunch of people with deep pockets from Illinois to blow the roof off of his fundraising.

    In fact, I remember when Chris Kennedy’s campaign was saying that one of their strengths was that they could raise money from deep pockets not just in Illinois but across the country.

    I feel like such an old timer!

  22. - Southside Markie - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    To coin a phrase. Pot. Meet kettle.

  23. - thechampaignlife - Wednesday, Oct 18, 17 @ 1:26 pm:

    On the one hand, I guess all that spending makes jobs. On the other hand, does this mean we will see another round of campaign finance reform? Maybe this time we can cap the total that can be given to any campaign (e.g., 10% of median family income or about $6k). You can give it all to one campaign or divide it up among several. We should also zero out all accounts after an election so everyone starts on an even playing field. Sweep it into GRF or make them donate to charity.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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