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Reform group slams election bill days after it cleared both chambers

Tuesday, May 28, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I told subscribers about this provision last Friday. From Reform for Illinois

At a time when we are increasingly alarmed by the concentration of money and power in the hands of a few, Reform for Illinois is disappointed that the Illinois General Assembly just took another step back from a fair and equitable political system.

As the holiday weekend began, lawmakers in both chambers voted to remove all caps on transfers from political party committees to candidates during primary elections. Previously, caps were only absent in general elections.

This change will allow party leaders to funnel unlimited funds to their favored primary candidates. It will further increase the leaders’ power and the power of big donors while undermining the ability of more independent contenders to win their party’s nomination.

The extensive omnibus bill that includes the change will now go to Governor Pritzker’s desk.

Under the current law, party transfers during primaries are not unlimited but are still exceptionally high — $200,000 for statewide races, $125,000 for state senate races, and $75,000 for state house races, along with limits for judicial, county, and local candidates. Removing even these high limits is a significant move that reflects party leaders’ intent to gain more control over primary elections – often the only meaningful contests in a state with many “safe” districts.

Incumbent Democratic State Senator Natalie Toro’s recent primary election may shed some light on the motivation for the change. Toro received more than $1.8 million from Senate President Harmon’s party committee, ISDF, during her primary campaign – but still lost to a progressive challenger, Graciela Guzman. Our analysis in the lead-up to the primary showed that Toro had received more than 69% of her campaign’s total fundraising from ISDF alone. This massive influx of party cash would not have been possible had the restrictions on party primary contributions been in place. Harmon’s ISDF committee was initially capped at contributing $125K to Toro’s primary campaign until another candidate’s self-funding removed all contribution limits in that race in December.

Most states impose limits on party contributions to candidates, with the federal government limiting them to $5,000. This leaves Illinois behind much of the country in providing for fair, equitably financed elections.

“Even Mike Madigan didn’t do this,” said Alisa Kaplan, executive director of Reform for Illinois. “It’s a step backward that will increase legislative leaders’ power over their members while supercharging the election money arms race and depriving constituents of the chance to be represented by more independent candidates.”

The recently passed bill also removes limits on donations by candidates to party committees during certain periods, allowing legislative leaders to further exploit the self-funding loophole and build slush funds to control their caucuses. Reform for Illinois has proposed several ways to address problems with the self-funding mechanism that fuels this system.

Madigan wouldn’t agree with reformers who wanted him to cap his general election contributions, but he did agree to the primary race cap.

Lifting the political party caps applies to legislative caucus committees. Both Democratic leaders are also Democratic township committeepersons.

The bill is here. The House concurred with the Senate amendment on Saturday.

       

6 Comments
  1. - Dotnonymous x - Tuesday, May 28, 24 @ 4:22 pm:

    Madigan…WHEEEE!


  2. - Keyrock - Tuesday, May 28, 24 @ 4:25 pm:

    This provision is a step backwards to the days of party bosses. Do we really want to bring back the days where the leaders has full control of their caucuses?


  3. - Amalia - Tuesday, May 28, 24 @ 4:54 pm:

    so can others-entities not political party committees- just donate as much as they want? is the concern just about party groups?


  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 28, 24 @ 4:56 pm:

    ===just donate as much as they want?===

    Not until somebody busts the caps.


  5. - low level - Tuesday, May 28, 24 @ 5:29 pm:

    ==with the federal government limiting them to $5,000. This leaves Illinois behind much of the country in providing for fair, equitably financed elections.==

    Are they seriously arguing federal representatives are of a higher quality due to this provision?


  6. - Been There - Tuesday, May 28, 24 @ 6:23 pm:

    Personally I think the caps are a joke. With all the dark money committee’s nobody can really track the big money. If you are sloppy as it looks like Proft may have been, then it could be a problem. But otherwise groups or people with deep pockets and agenda just do what they want.


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