HOPF: Reform doesn't deter campaign spending

Posted: Nov. 3, 2012 5:55 pm Updated: Dec. 16, 2012 2:15 am

Illinois lawmakers said they would address campaign finance reform after the impeachment and removal of Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009 gave the state yet another black eye.

Legislation took effect for the 2010 election cycle that provided Illinois with campaign contribution limits for the first time. The measure limited candidates to receiving $5,000 from individuals, $10,000 from unions, businesses and interest groups, and $50,000 from political action committees during each election cycle.

However, political parties and legislative leaders could still give unlimited amounts of money to candidates during the general election.

The legislation hasn't stopped the flow of money into campaigns in the 2012 election cycle.

The record for the most expensive legislative race in the state has been broken east of Quincy. The race for the 48th District Senate seat between Macoupin County Board Chairman Andy Manar, a Democrat, and Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy, a Republican, has seen more than $2.3 million in combined campaign contributions.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform found nine Illinois Senate races with more than $1 million contributed to candidates and eight races in the Illinois House. This doesn't include independent expenditures from outside groups not affiliated with the campaigns.

These include the 47th District Senate race between Democratic incumbent John Sullivan of Rushville and Republican Randy Frese of Paloma.

Sullivan has received $926,822 for his re-election campaign and Frese $405,353, for a combined $1.33 million, the fifth-most in the state. The total does not include the $152,000 of independent expenditures -- mostly opposing Sullivan -- that have been spent on TV ads and mailers.

The two candidates have been blasting each other on the airwaves trying to sway any remaining undecided voters in recent weeks, and Sullivan has also been blanketing voters with mailers the past two weeks.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform also released a list of the top 20 donors to legislative candidates in Illinois who have contributed a combined $19.36 million.

The Illinois Democratic Party of Illinois doubled the second highest contributor with $4.95 million. The Illinois Republican Party contributed $2.24 million, while the Senate Democratic Victory Fund ($2.03 million), the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee ($1.29 million) and the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education ($1.05 million) round out the top five contributors.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved amending campaign finance laws that will allow candidates to ignore contribution caps if a political action committee spends more than $100,000 in municipal or legislative races, or $250,000 in a statewide race.

So much for taking money out of elections.