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Big Money Dominant in State Legislative Races

Analysis of pre-primary campaign finance reports for 45 candidates in 15 state house races in 14 state legislative districts shows that 86 percent of money raised came from donors giving $1,000 or more, while only 5 percent came from donors giving less than $150. The selection of races was chosen for its geographic diversity, includes both Republican and Democratic primary contests, as well as races with and without incumbents. More details and analysis available here.

Candidates who ultimately won in these 15 races received 92 percent of their campaign funds from big donors giving $1,000 or more, and only 2 percent from donors giving $150 or less.

While the candidate with the most money does not always win, primary results show that 12 of the 15 contested races across the 14 districts were won by the candidate with the most resources.

"After Citizens United, there is little we can do to limit candidates funding their campaigns by relying on a small number of mega-donors, and as a result we see the impact of big money at all levels, including state legislative districts," said Illinois PIRG Education Fund Advocate Hannah Kim. "However, through a small donor matching program, we can ensure voters have real choices on the ballot. Small donor matching programs can help candidates with broad support but without access to or support from big donors to remain competitive with candidates funded by big-money."

Even without self-funding candidates as wealthy as Governor Rauner or J.B. Pritzker, these state legislative district races mimic the pattern of big-money fundraising apparent in the broader, statewide races for attorney general and governor.

While there is some variation among candidates, across the board the bulk of campaign funds raised have come from a small, wealthy pool of donors who have resources to give at levels the average citizen cannot afford.
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This "money primary" is why good government groups have coalesced around small donor matching programs, which allow candidates to run competitive campaigns even if they do not have access to, or choose to forgo, big money.

There are successful, proven models to empower small donors so that their voices play a more central role in our democracy.

For example, in New York City's 2013 city council campaigns, small donors were responsible for 61 percent of participating candidates' contributions when funds from a matching program are included.

Similar program have been recently approved at the county level in Maryland and in Washington, D.C.

This analysis is based on the information most currently available for individuals contributions, loans, transfers, and in-kind contributions made in between January 1, 2017 up through March 20, 2018.

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Also released today elsewhere: Rahm's Campaign War Chest Holds 18x More $ Than All Competitors Combined.

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Previously in small donor matching:
* The Secret Money Machine.

* lllinois' Top Campaign Corrupters.

* Illinois: The King Of Dark Money.

* Rahm Biggest Campaign Fund Cheater; Used Loopholes To Keep Donations Secret.

* Former Illinois Congressional Candidate Sues IRS In Quest To Bar Political Ads Funded By Dark Money Groups.

* Your Government Now Brought To You By 1% Of The 1%.

* A Few Rich People Vs. The Rest Of Us In Illinois' Governor's Race.

* 17 Mega-Donors Vs. Everyone Else.

* Rapid Rise In Super PACs Dominated By Single Donors.

* Chicago Mayoral Election Dominated By Big, Out Of Town Money.

* Big Money Dominated Chicago Mayoral Elections.

* New Study Shows Potential Impact Of A Small Donor Matching Program On 2016 Presidential Race.

* TV Ads To Illinois U.S. Senate Candidates: Knock It Off.

* Which 2016 Presidential Candidates Would Win And Lose Under A Small Donor Matching Program?

* How The Cook County State's Attorney's Race Would Be Reshaped By A Small Donor Program.

* Small Donor Matching System Bill Passes State Senate.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on May 1, 2018


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