Illinois Federation of Teachers puts $350,000 into Kilbride retention effort

The Illinois Federation of Teachers has a keen interest in the retention campaign of Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride.

Just how keen, you might ask?

$350,000 keen.

Two campaign finance disclosure reports filed with the State Board of Elections (here and here) show that over the last two months, teacher’s union has given the Rock Island justice $350,000.

Kilbride was elected to the state’s high court from the 3rd Judicial District as a Democrat in 2000. Now at the end of his 10-year term, Kilbride must receive at least 60 percent of the vote in his district on this November’s ballot in a retention election in order to hold the office for another term.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers primarily supports Democratic candidates for General Assembly and statewide office, so it’s a little peculiar that the group is putting so much money – $350,000, its largest aggregate contribution to any one candidate this election cycle reported, by far – into a judicial campaign.

The IFT's endorsement note on Kilbride may shed some light on why the union is so involved in this election: the Supreme Court "makes critical decisions on matters that often directly impact IFT members and their families, including pension protections and the scheduled statewide legislative remap."

On Aug. 25, 2010, the Illinois Federation of Teachers transferred $100,000 to Kilbride’s committee for what the union noted was a fundraiser, according to IFT’s D-2 semi-annual report, which details contributions and expenditures between July 1 and Oct. 3.

A few weeks later, on Sept. 21, the IFT gave Kilbride $150,000, according to that same report.

And in the evening yesterday, Kilbride’s committee filed a notice that the justice received another $100,000 from the IFT. (That Kilbride contribution was disclosed the same day that a major opponent, the tort reform group JUSTPAC, reported receiving $100,000.)

Tort reform and business/medical interest groups have said they want to knock Kilbride off the bench in this election. Judicial observers have said the campaign has the potential to be one of the country’s most bitter and expensive judicial retention elections this year.

To learn more about judicial elections, retention elections and the Kilbride race, visit ICPR’s Retention Watch page.