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The rise of self-funders

Monday, Jan 13, 2020

* Politico

Mike Bloomberg and [Cook County state’s attorney candidate] Bill Conway are grabbing headlines lately for fueling their own campaigns — the former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate has dropped $200 million, while Conway’s billionaire father has given his son $4.85 million. There are other self-funders in Illinois, too, spending a combined $7.58 million so far this election cycle.

Documents filed with the state Board of Elections show Appellate Court Justice Shelly Harris just last week donated $1.4 million to his campaign for state Supreme Court justice, bringing his war chest to nearly $2 million. And attorney Daniel Epstein has donated $300,000 to his own run for the state Supreme Court.

Jacob Meister, an attorney running for Cook County clerk of the Circuit Court, has given himself $100,000 for the primary race. Like many self-funders, he’s distinguished himself as an outsider. […]

Self-funders have a critical advantage in any race. They don’t have to work a day job and then “bust their butts” at night trying to fundraise, Ken Snyder, principal and co-founder of SnyderPickerill Media Group told Playbook, whose firm has managed campaigns across the country. “Lots of mistakes or gaffes a candidate makes can be attributed to fatigue.”

Of course, self-funding doesn’t guarantee victory, either. Just ask Jim Oberweis, the state senator now running for a congressional seat. In the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary, he spent nearly $3.3 million of his own money only to lose to Judy Baar Topinka (who lost to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich). Self-funders are known to make rookie campaign mistakes in spending. […]

Judicial races tend to see more self-funders than most campaigns. That’s because they aren’t allowed to personally solicit donations — though friends can on their behalf. And many see self-funding as an investment of sorts. […]

Though Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his predecessor, Republican Bruce Rauner, found success in self-funding, the odds of those candidates winning aren’t great. That’s because self-funders tend to be inexperienced in politics. Or they rub voters the wrong way (People might think they’re trying to buy an election).

All good points. Until Rauner came along, self-funders just didn’t click at the state level for one reason or the other.

* Speaking of money, check out this video by Illinois Supreme Court candidate Daniel Epstein about the need for conflict of interest rules and procedures at the appellate level and above

Epstein is a self-funder.

* Related…

* Democratic state’s attorney challenger Bill Conway gets another $2.35 million from his wealthy father, records show

* In this race, nobody passes the purity test: But one other aspect of this is worth noting. That’s where Conway is getting his money: from his father, William Conway, and other executives at Carlyle Group, a Washington investment firm known for parlaying political contacts—George H.W. Bush was on its payroll for a while, as was former U.S. Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci—into shrewd investments in the right defense contractors when wartime rolls around. They’ve donated roughly $5 million so far to the younger Conway’s campaign.

* Bill filed in Illinois to bar private pay for public employees after Gov. J.B. Pritzker shells out $3 million for staffers

- Posted by Rich Miller        

10 Comments
  1. - @misterjayem - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 11:05 am:

    Bill Conway’s daddy is the billionaire co-founder of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C.

    – MrJM


  2. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 11:10 am:

    Will Epstein release his banking, investment, and tax records? How else would we know he’s being ethical?


  3. - Boone's is Back - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 11:10 am:

    I’m no fan of Kim Foxx but I think this is a pretty apt point by Hinz:

    ” But it’s not unreasonable to ask whether using D.C. political contacts to make money is any less noteworthy than using Chicago political contacts to make money.”


  4. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 11:12 am:

    The Epstein idea has some merit, but I’m not willing to vote a guy with less than five years experience as an attorney on to the IL Supreme Court to get it.


  5. - Silver Spoon Society - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 11:13 am:

    Calling Bill Conway a “self-funded” candidate is pretty rich… almost as rich as his dad and his dad’s buddies.

    Carlyle Group isn’t a mom and pop. As you note above, they’re the clubbiest and chummiest DC insiders investment group there is. If Conway is “self-funded” then so is every candidate who gets millions in donations from DC insiders.


  6. - DIstant watcher - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 11:20 am:

    Judicial recusal is tricky, not only because judges cannot solicit PAC donors but also because plenty of lawyers would be happy to give a judge $10 grand or more to know that judge will never rule on their cases. That kind of insurance is priceless.


  7. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 11:34 am:

    There is stereotyping of billionaires by many on the left and others, that they’re too rich and should not be supported. Grateful that this didn’t happen to Pritzker. Columnist Ben Joravsky warned his listeners about this on his radio show just before Pritzker’s election—to not let Rauner win just because Pritzker’s a billionaire or any other purity leftist hang-up. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, a billionaire, was pretty progressive as governor—just like Pritzker.

    Bill Gates said he should be taxed more—totally the opposite of the super-rich who fund right wing “think” tanks.

    It can be upsetting that someone is too rich and is buying an election, but it’s completely relative to who’s running against that person. Pritzker vs. Rauner was a ridiculously easy choice.

    This being said, I totally support political finance reform, like overturning Citizens United.


  8. - Ice Scream - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 12:11 pm:

    Peter Fitzgerald was probably the first self-funder in Illinois to have electoral success.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 12:19 pm:

    === Peter Fitzgerald===

    Why was that?

    Carol Moseley Braun was so terribly unpopular.

    Rauner went after an unpopular Democratic Governor with millions to frame Quinn as a failure.

    Pritzker, with his millions, went after an unpopular Governor Rauner with his millions, framing Rauner as a failure.

    The formula must include, apparently, a failed incumbent. Worked for both parties.


  10. - City Zen - Monday, Jan 13, 20 @ 2:18 pm:

    As long as this forces the likes of CTU and SEIU to spend more than they’d otherwise have to on their preferred candidates, go nuts.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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