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Arcadia Kust and Lauren Cook/MEDILL

According to the most recent financial reports from the Center for Responsive Politics, challenger Tammy Duckworth leads U.S. Rep Joe Walsh in PAC contributions by almost $15,000.

PAC and Super PAC financial contributions may tip scales in tight 8th District race

by Lauren Cook and Arcadia Kust
Oct 25, 2012

The 8th Congressional District – dramatically redistricted to make it more Democrat-friendly – is up for grabs. With Democrats seeking to reclaim control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans determined to retain their grip, the fight between U.S. Rep Joe Walsh (R-Fox Lake) and Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth has attracted a flood of outside money.

The result? With less than two weeks until Election Day, voters across the Chicago area are being bombarded by attack ads funded by political action committees and big-money Super PACs.

Duckworth’s “Deadbeat Dad” ad has highlighted Walsh’s unpaid child support, for example. And Walsh, who was voted into office in 2010 with the backing of Tea Party voters, has drawn attention to allegations that Duckworth misused taxpayer revenue, and sought to link her to the administration of disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The heavy broadcast rotation of the ads costs a lot of money. But much of the funding isn’t coming from the campaigns themselves. Instead, with so much at stake in the district race, both sides are getting financial help from outside. The aid comes from political action committees, which are organizations that are allowed to work with candidates; and from Super PACs, which are barred from working directly with candidates and aren’t required to disclose their donors.

The House Majority Super PAC, a group that hopes to reclaim Democratic dominance in the House, has worked in support of Duckworth to fund the negative Walsh ads.
In Walsh’s fiscal corner is Now or Never, a Super PAC interested in limiting the size of government.

Both campaigns have drawn almost the same amount of funding from PACS. But the hazier disclosure rules that govern Super PACS leave a lot of question marks.

Documents show that Now or Never has chipped in close to $2 million on advertising for Walsh, but that may not be the total amount contributed. Figures for the House Majority Super PAC’s contribution couldn’t immediately be obtained.

Super PACs, which came into being after a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, are controversial, and both candidates – even as they benefit from Super PAC funds – have criticized their opponent’s Super PAC associations.

Duckworth, who has been pounded by Now or Never, returned fire by alleging that her opponent helped found its main donor – Americans for Limited Government – over two decades ago. Under campaign rules, that link would be improper.

In a recent press conference, Duckworth also emphasized her disdain for Super PACS in general. “They need to be out because they take away the voice of the individual,” she said, “and at the very least, we need to pass a disclose act so we know where this money is from.”

Walsh has hit back with his own claims of impropriety, by saying there’s a “clear link” between Duckworth and House Majority Super PAC that purchased a $2.4 million ad attacking Walsh.

“It seems like more than a mere coincidence that just 21 individuals and couples, who are major supporters of Ms. Duckworth, funneled over $3 million into a Super PAC. Then that Super PAC used that money to attack me,” said Walsh in press release last week.

The tussle has left voters weary.

“I’d just like to see...both sides be truthful. If you’re getting Super PAC money, then tell people,” said Steve Tucker, 45-year-old resident of the 8th District.
“That’s what I would like to see; more truth and more detail.”