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Grassroots vs. Telecommunication Giants: 1st District Campaign Funds

by Heather Momyer
Oct 31, 2012

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Peloquin raised more in individual campaign contributions, but Rush has substantially more PAC contributions.

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Most of Rush's itemized individual contributions come from Illinois.

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Peloquin received about $10,000 less than Rush in individual itemized contributions from Illinois, but his total of individual contributions exceeds Rush's total.


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The majority of contributions to Bobby Rush come from out-of-state.


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Besides itemized individual contributions and PAC contributions, Peloquin's campaign also received unitemized individual contributions. Those numbers are not included here.

If Don Peloquin, the Mayor of Blue Island, were to win the 1st Congressional District’s representative election, he would be “the first person to win the election with under $200,000 and without television ads,” the candidate said in a recent interview.


While he may not be exactly the first person to win on a campaign budget of under $200,000 and he certainly isn’t the first to win without a television ad – campaigns were around long before TV --  his point is taken. The kind of campaign financed on what is now considered a small budget generally doesn’t win elections.


But if he wins, “that is the American way at work,” Peloquin said.


Peloquin is running as the Republican opposition against longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago). His campaign is a grass-roots effort consisting almost exclusively of local individual contributions, many from the suburban areas in Cook and Will counties.


By contrast, Rush’s campaign budget dwarfs the Peloquin campaign. According to the Federal Election Commission,  contributions to the Rush campaign total $464,740 while the Peloquin campaign has received $87,361.


In terms of individual contributions, both Rush and Peloquin are near similar levels, according to FEC data. Campaigns must  report to the FEC the names of individuals who donate more than $200 to a campaign; individual donations below $200, known as “unitemized individual donations,” don’t need to identify the donors’ names. 


On an individual level, Peloquin pulls in more funding than Rush, and most of his money comes from Illinois.


Peloquin received $80,823 in itemized and unitemized individual contributions, while Rush has received only $72,709 in the same kind of contributions.


However, almost half of the total donations to the Rush campaign come from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia region. None of Peloquin’s donations come from that region.


But local and individual contributions may not be enough.


“There’s no way to defeat an incumbent with that kind of funding,” said Dick Simpson, professor of political science at UIC and former alderman of the 44th Ward.


“You’d need at least $500,000 to a million,” Simpson said. “At a minimum.”


A substantial amount  of the Rush campaign finances come from donations from political action committees that represent communications companies, including Verizon Communications, Inc., Comcast Corp., T-Mobile, Time Warner Inc. and the National Association of Broadcasters.


Rush serves on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee that deals with all telecommunications and information transmission.


The donors are “not buying votes,” UIC’s Simpson said, “but they are buying a chance to talk.”

Rush is important as a senior member of Congress, Simpson said, and his vote is important to lobbyists.


“When someone gives you $10,000, you agree to meet,” Simpson said.