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Following the Money in Illinois

Illinois ranks second in the nation when it comes to money spent in state legislative races. (ustreasury.gov)
Illinois ranks second in the nation when it comes to money spent in state legislative races. (ustreasury.gov)
December 5, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Exactly how much money did candidates spend during the November general election? Recent data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows candidates for state House and Senate seats in Illinois alone raised more than $95 million this election cycle.

Illinois ranks second in the nation for money raised to support state legislative races. Sarah Brune, executive director for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said her group plans to discuss Illinois campaign spending and possible limits from a local and national perspective at a forum next month, because, she said, the spending has grown out of control.

"It's really mind blowing, I think, for somebody who is working hard just to make ends meet,” Brune said. "I think it's hard for people to reconcile the fact that almost $100 million was raised on politics, when there are issues that are affecting people's daily lives that didn't get talked about in this election,"

There are 12.1 million people in Illinois, and there were 61 contested races. The only state to top fundraising in Illinois was California, with $118.9 million dollars raised. But the population of that state is three times larger than Illinois', and it had a greater number of contested races in the 2016 general election.

Brune said there was an increase in state super PAC donations this election cycle. She said that’s part of why her group is pushing for more regulation and transparency.

"We've also advocated for any politically active group that's giving large donations, they need to register as a political committee and disclose their donors,” Brune said. “And we're going to be pursuing that cause to really try to make people know who's giving money to try to affect elections for public office in their area."

Illinois is the only state that has a legal provision allowing limits to be lifted by candidate self-funding or spending from super PACs. Brune said this year, more than a third of contested state House and Senate races in the state had contribution limits removed due to candidate self-funding or super PAC spending.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL