July 22, 2020


Governor J.B. Pritzker has $744,615 cash on hand and raised $3,026,001 since Oct. 1. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has $1,257,528 on hand and raised $42,483. County board president Toni Preckwinkle has $4,553 on hand and raised $266,794. Speaker Mike Madigan has $13,630,169 on hand.

This week's column is all about the chart, detailing who, amid the "pause" of the COVID-19 pandemic, has campaign money, is able to raise money, and whose political future will be thereby affected. The virus has shut down local political events, hitting hardest those at the lower end of the political food chain - some aldermen, state legislators and county commissioners. And also their future rivals. Those at the top can hit-up business and labor PACs and mega-donors.

For incumbents, money de-stabilizes a level playing field - unless the officeholder is egregiously incompetent and unpopular. Then it matters not. Think former Gov. Bruce Rauner. For challengers, having money equal to the incumbent levels the playing field, allowing the challenger to define himself/herself before the incumbent does so.

D-2 campaign fund-raising disclosures must be filed quarterly. This week's chart covers receipts for the past three 90-day quarters and cash on hand as of June 30. Here are my takeaways.

NO "PAUSE" FOR THE GOV: Pritzker need not to worry about social distancing. He wrote his campaign checks for $1,000,000 on Nov. 21, $850,000 on June 1, and $1,200,000 on June 26, a total of $3,050,000. Pritzker needs the money to rebut a flurry of TV attack ads, and to maintain his party-building efforts that began in 2018. He self-funded about $150 million to defeat Rauner. Given his cash-burn, Pritzker will need another $3 million by September to fund his "Fair Tax" ads.

IT'S A START: Mayor Lightfoot has $1,257,528 banked and her fund-raising has been desultory. But she raised $1.4 million between her election and Labor Day in 2019, and she can hit $3 million on hand with a couple of high-priced events. Her job-approval is over 70 percent, but COVID-19 will someday end and Lightfoot must then clean-up the fiscal damage, which will necessitate finding $1-2 billion on top of pension obligations. The 2023 election will be a referendum on her. Possible candidates (and their cash on hand) include aldermen Roderick Sawyer ($2,188) and Ray Lopez ($2,239), city clerk Anna Valencia ($194,917) and city treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin ($85,351). How the mayor handles the recovery will eclipse how she handled the crisis.

WHO NEEDS MONEY? Not "democratic socialists." Grubbing for money is a distasteful capitalistic process eschewed by leftists who aspire to capture voters' hearts and minds with ideology, not bombard them with superficial propaganda. They still do it, but not at the levels that I'm sure they would want to.

For adherents like aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd), the dream of systemic change trumps a whole bunch of "crap" in the mailbox. As of 6/30, Ramirez-Rosa had $3,837 cash on hand, and raised no money, while Rodriguez Sanchez had $6,785 on hand and raised $12,483. She will likely face concerted opposition in 2023 from a Latina backed by new Democratic committeeperson and incoming Clerk of Court Iris Martinez. Rodriguez Sanchez's quandary is to change-the-world while still providing ward services, i.e., be part of the system while trying to tear it down.

That scenario didn't work too well for Alderman Andre Vasquez (40th), a semi-"democratic socialist," on March 17 when he lost for Democratic committeeperson 6,741-5,540 to Maggie O'Keefe after beating incumbent Pat O'Connor 7,509-6,431 last April. The "hybrid" business didn't work. O'Keefe raised $12,438 and got the O'Connor base, while Vasquez raised $77,540 but lost 2,000 votes from his base. O'Keefe is running or alderman in 2023. Vasquez has $2,208 on hand and O'Keefe $284. Vasquez needs to pick a side real soon.

THE NOWHERE MAN: John Arena knows what side he's on, and right now it looks like he's on the outside.

He is a master at picking fights, arrogant in that he doesn't care what other people think, and is a political has-been. He lost to Jim Gardiner in 2019, "resigned" from his $124,000-a year senior adviser city department of planning job at the beginning of the year, and had his committeeperson candidate Ellen Hill lose to Gardiner on March 17. She spent $12,483, most supplied by Arena. He has $2,845 on hand, raised $832, and his Friends of 45 has $3,749 on hand.

MULROE'S BALL & CHAIN: It's unimaginable. Former state senator and now judge John Mulroe has $397,248 in his pre-judge political account, and CAN'T SPEND IT while he is on the bench. He must use it only for his own political activities, and he can't have any while a judge. That would violate judicial canons. And he can't give any of it to other politicians, as that would be "political activity." Mulroe has a nice nest egg for his post-judicial career.

NEXT TIME, GET IT IN WRITING: The losing 2019 39th Ward aldermanic campaign of Robert Murphy cost about $190,000, including $76,528 in debt. He lost the runoff to Samantha Nugent 7,469-5,876, getting 56 percent. Mulroe resigned to become judge in June 2019, and 41st Ward committeeman Tim Heneghan sought the senate nod. Murphy committed to Heneghan. State Representative Rob Martwick then decided he wanted the seat, and Murphy switched, providing with the 38th Ward (Martwick) and 45th Ward (Arena) the weighted-votes to pick Martwick. Heneghan and others (including this columnist) speculated that Murphy had made a "deal" with Martwick to pay down his debt. A year later the debt remains unaltered. I owe Murphy an apology.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE AND LAWYERING-UP: Unlike Jesse Jackson and wife, who used campaign funds to renovate their Washington, D.C. home and was indicted and convicted, it is entirely legal to use that money on criminal defense attorneys. Alderman Ed Burke (see chart) has $256,058 on-hand plus $7,961,636 in a segregated income-earning "investment" account at Wintrust, from which he sold $500,000 during the first quarter and put it in his regular campaign account. $442,000 was then used to pay-off IRS fines and liens, and pay lawyers Jenner & Block $180,000 and Loeb & Loeb $136,000. That's more than enough to satisfy Burke's legal fees for years to come.

Likewise for former state representative Luis Arroyo, who was arrested for alleged bribery in November, but awaits formal charges. He has $179,669 on hand, enough to get him top-notch legal talent. The collateral damage is son Luis Arroyo Jr., a county commissioner whose term expires in 2022, who had $53,726 on hand and raised $813 in the past three quarters. Without dad, junior will be toast.

SLAP SHOT: Everybody has a passion, and Alderman Anthony Napolitano's is hockey. His kids are hooked on the sport. He got the Chicago Blackhawks to fund and build a professional-size hockey rink in Norwood Park. What is not a slap shot for Napolitano is fund-raising, having $1,704 on hand, and raising $70,195 in the first quarter from the Carpenters PAC and the Chicago Joint Labor-Management PAC, and then spending $61,787 on primary mailings endorsing Bill Kilroy for Democratic committeeperson and Madigan-backed Michelle Darbro for state representative. Go figure.

To be sure, Napolitano won with 70 percent in 2019, and is pro-police and anti-tax. Joe Cook beat Kilroy and has $4,096 on hand. If Napolitano wants to dissuade Cook from running in 2023, the alderman better step up his cash acquisition. but he won't have any trouble raising cash.

THE PARKERS: Madigan's SOP is to "park" his donors' money in leadership accounts (see Willis and Manley on chart), and then direct it to candidates like Darbro. Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens has $33,894 on hand. He will need $750,000-plus to beat Madigan/Darbro.