News Column

Record-setting $2.5M donation raises ante in Illinois' race for governor

June 17, 2014

By Kevin McDermott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

June 17--Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat facing one of the toughest re-election bids in the nation this year, has focused his campaign largely on the allegation that his Republican challenger, wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner, is trying to buy the governor's office.

It doesn't hurt Quinn's argument that Rauner's camp last week collected what might be the largest single contribution to any American candidate (other than self-funding) in modern political history.

The $2.5 million contribution came from Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin, a hedge-fund CEO. Illinois does have a $5,300 campaign contribution limit in gubernatorial elections, but under state law, that limit disappears for all the candidates if any one candidate spends more than $250,000 of his own money. Since Rauner so far has spent more than $6 million of his own money, he and Quinn both are allowed to accept any level of contribution.

(The rationale behind that exception to campaign limits is that non-wealthy candidates shouldn't be restrained in fund raising if they're facing wealthy candidates who, courts have ruled, can spend unlimited amounts of their own money. The idea is to level the playing field for those non-wealthy candidates. This time, obviously, it didn't work out that way.)

The $2.5 million donation is the biggest single contribution to any Illinois candidate -- and possibly to any candidate in America -- since the campaign reform movement of the Watergate Era.

Quinn's campaign calls it "the single largest campaign contribution in modern United States history," and wasted no time in hammering that point home in a new campaign video.

"Do you think the ultra-wealthy should have more or less influence on the political process?" asks the video. It then answers with a series of person-on-the-street interviews with average Illinoisans who, as you might guess, say the wealthy should have less influence.

Quinn himself has been accepting big money from deep pockets, including more than $1 million since last year from wealthy Newsweb Corp. owner Fred Eychaner.

Follow Kevin McDermott on Twitter @kevinmcdermott


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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

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