Chicago Run-offs Account for $1.6 Million in Fundraising

Chicago's run-off elections are a week from today and what has been a series of sleepy races, financially speaking, are starting to perk up.

Combined, disclosure reports indicate that candidates in next week's run off elections have $1.6 million in resources since the February elections. Looked at one way, the largest donor is the New Chicago Committee, which didn't even exist when that election was held. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel put it together to help candidates in the run-offs, and that's what it's doing, accounting for $1 in $8 of what's been reported since then. (New Chicago's donor list looks much like Emanuel's).

But looked at another way, SEIU is the biggest spender on the April election. SEIU has given $148K directly to candidates in the election, but they also report an additional $115K in independent expenditures, all of it on cable TV ads in support of John Arena in the 45th Ward.

Other top donors include Unite Here at $87K, AFSCME at $68K, and For a Better Chicago at $58K.

There's a lot of overlap in the recipients from these top donors, and the divisions of the 2007 Big Box/Wal-Mart fight seem to be over. Only Che "Rhymefest" Smith, challenger in the 20th Ward, reports getting money from the unions but not New Chicago or For a Better Chicago. His opponent, incumbent Ald. Willie Cochran, has not filed any new disclosure reports since the February election. It's possible that he hasn't raised anything since then, but if he is simply not reporting contributions, his failure may result in fines of up to 100% of the unreported donations.

Other candidates also appear to be afoul of the disclosure laws. 25th Ward challenger Mike Chandler is filing his reports on paper, even though he's now well above the threshold for electronic filing. In the 15th Ward, neither candidate has filed any disclosure reports since the February election.

With a week to go, look for substantial spending on these races. Many of these top donors have plenty more in reserves, and that cash may not do them much good after April 5.