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Super-PACS Making Their Presence Felt in Illinois PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 28 October 2012 10:31

Independent expenditures in state legislative races are closing in on the $2-million mark since July 1, with most of that spending coming in the month of October, Illinois State Board of Elections records show.

In March, a federal judge struck down Illinois’ law capping contributions to so-called state super-PACs. Since then, according to the State Board of Elections’ Web site, $1.8 million has been spent by groups on Illinois campaigns, and – as of late last week – $1.3 million of that has been spent in the month of October alone.

Super-PAC money is expected to increase exponentially in 2014, when the governorship and other statewide offices are up for election. So far, just 11 independent-expenditure committees have been formed, but more will surely come after this cycle ends.

 
An End to One-Party Rule? Rock Island County Republicans Put the County Board in Play with “Clean the Slate” PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:59

It doesn’t take a genius to see through the “Clean the Slate” effort. Its newsletter, promoting 23 candidates for the Rock Island County Board, asks: “Tired of one party controlling all jobs in the county? Unless you are related to or know key people in the county government; your chances of being hired or promoted are unlikely.”

There’s no mention of party affiliation – and no branding by the Rock Island County Republicans – in the newsletter, which notes that it was paid for by the Clean the Slate PAC. On the other hand, its Web site (CleanSlate2012.net) includes a photo showing the Rock Island County Republicans logo, and the county-party Web site includes a link to Clean the Slate.

Even if the connections aren’t explicit, Clean the Slate is a pretty naked attempt to recast the county-board election in nonpartisan, good-government terms. Republicans are clearly hoping that common-sense critiques will loosen the grip held on the body by the Democratic party.

Yet you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the initiative doesn’t have valid points. The 25-seat Rock Island County Board presently has four Republican members, and the issue is less philosophical uniformity than organizational comfort. Because most county boards operate with little public or media scrutiny, the absence of oversight or internal opposition can result in their members acting with collective near-impunity. And Clean the Slate has articulated a handful of areas in which the Rock Island County Board needs improvement – from being more flexible with public comment to stopping nepotism to ending the practice of paid absenteeism for board members.

 
Two Races Show the Perils of Independence PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 21 October 2012 05:20

Ever since I published a poll last month showing indicted former state Representative Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) leading third-party candidate Lance Tyson in the 10th Illinois House District race by a mind-boggling 47 percent to 9 percent, there’s been a lot of grumbling about how Chicago voters ought to know better. Smith was arrested and indicted, after all. It was all over the news. People should know that, for crying out loud.

At the time the poll was taken, however, Tyson hadn’t spent much if any money on his campaign. He isn’t a known quantity in the district. And he’s not a Democrat – at least, he’s not a Democrat on the ballot. Likely voters were given the choice between Smith and Tyson and told their party affiliations. Smith won the Democratic primary; Tyson belongs to the newly created 10th District Unity Party.

Convincing voters to take a look at third-party or independent candidates is never easy. Go back to 1986, when some members of Lyndon LaRouche’s cultish organization won some statewide Democratic primary races here. Democrat Adlai Stevenson’s running mate was beaten by one of those candidates, and Stevenson had to form a third party to run for governor.

 
How Political Money Finds Its Target PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 14 October 2012 05:28

One way of getting around the state’s new campaign-contribution caps is by forming a lot of different campaign committees. State law forbids people from forming more than one committee (except for independent expenditures, political parties, and state legislative leaders), but nothing in the law prevents “friends” and allies from forming their own committees to receive and give money.

For example, House Republican Leader Tom Cross has his own PAC (Citizens to Elect Tom Cross) and his allowed “caucus” PAC (the House Republican Leadership Committee), and he also appears to control or at least influence four other committees: Illinois Crossroads PAC, Citizens to Change Illinois, the Illinois House Victory Fund, and the Move Illinois Forward PAC.

Before we go any further, let me stress that none of this appears to be illegal. The House Republicans don’t deny they’re doing this, with one official saying that they even include these campaign accounts in the presentations they give to large donors.

 
Congressional Campaigns Trickle Down to Local Races PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 07 October 2012 05:30

There’s not a lot that a state legislative candidate can do when his or her party’s presidential nominee starts to tank.

The presidential race drives turnout to the point where down-ballot candidates must struggle mightily to rise above the noise and get their messages heard by distracted voters.

And because there are no statewide races in Illinois this year, that means there are no truly high-profile campaigns to “break up” any presidential advantage or momentum. Congressional races are all that state legislators have now to cushion the blow from the top, and down-ballot candidates are increasingly pinning their hopes on those contests.

 
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