Kilbride retention race leads nation for most expensive retention campaign

Although there are two weeks before the election, the retention campaign for 3rd Judicial district Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride has broken the record as the most expensive one-candidate retention race nationwide this decade, a new analysis shows.

More than $2.6 million has been raised between the justice’s committee and a group that is working to oust him.

To date, Kilbride has reported receiving almost $2.1 million in checks, monetary transfers from political committees, and donated goods and services since he started fundraising in July, according to documents filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

JUSTPAC, the political committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League, has raised about $561,000 since July.

Kilbride was elected to the state’s high court in 2000 as a Democrat, but is running in a non-partisan retention election this year. He needs 60 percent of the vote to be returned to the bench.

The pre-election report Kilbride filed late Monday, which contains fundraising and expenditure information for the three-month period between July 1 and Oct. 3, shows that more than half of the justice’s support – $1.25 million – has come from the Democratic Party of Illinois.

The bulk of the justice’s other financial support has come from labor organizations and members of the legal community: more than $50,000 from the Illinois Laborers’ Legislative committee, about $354,000 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, $90,000 from the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education (IPACE).

Attorneys and law firms have contributed to Kilbride’s committee and to the Democratic Party of Illinois, which is lead by Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. A joint analysis by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s School of Law found that of the 33 contributions greater than $25,000 that the party reported receiving, 31 came from law firms.

The JAS/Brennan Center report also revealed that Kilbride has spent an estimated more than $880,000 on television ads.

Opponent JUSTPAC’s money has primarily come from players in the business and tort reform communities. Within the last month, the group has received: $50,000 from the Illinois State Medical Society’s committee, $180,000 from the American Manufacturers Association-created group American Justice Partnership; $150,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and about $64,000 from the American Tort Reform association. Other contributions have come from insurance companies ISMIE, First Nonprofit Insurance Company, and CNA, a commercial property and casualty insurance provider.

Another groups seeking to kick Kilbride out of Springfield, the Vote NO Kilbride committee, has raised $8,200 since it was formed earlier this year.