CHICAGO (AP) — Republican Bruce Rauner has made a $500,000 donation to his campaign for Illinois governor, lifting the caps on political contributions for everyone in the 2014 race and ensuring a big-money battle for the state’s top job.
The personal donation removes from the race a key piece of campaign finance reforms that lawmakers approved in the wake of the scandal involving now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And if Rauner doesn’t win the four-way GOP primary, his move could end up providing an unintended fundraising advantage to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has no major challenger for the Democratic nomination.
Rauner campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said the donation was made Wednesday. It will help pay for television ads that the wealthy businessman and political newcomer plans as he tries to increase his name recognition.
Rauner’s goal is to use his wealth — and his ability to raise money from others — to drown out his primary rivals and wage a full-throttled attack on Quinn. But his opponents and political observers note the contribution and the ads are also a sign Rauner needs to spend money that the others don’t feel they need to spend at this point in the campaign.
His fellow GOP candidates — state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford — all are better-known to voters because they’ve held public office for years.
“Clearly (the Rauner campaign) felt like they need to raise his visibility,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield. “It’s necessary for him to do this. Whether it’s going to work or not, it’s hard to say.”
State campaign finance law limits how much money may be donated to campaigns: $5,300 for individuals and $52,600 for political action committees. But it also states that if any candidate contributes more than $250,000 to his or her own race, the limits come off for all candidates vying for the office.