Tax Initiative Becomes Tug-Of-War Between Billionaires
As the 2020 election nears, Illinois continues to see a trend of excessive spending by a small number of wealthy individuals on either side of the aisle. Not long ago, Illinois broke California’s record for the most expensive gubernatorial race in history, with a total of $280.2M dropped by former Gov. Rauner and current Gov. J.B. Pritzker. These past few months may have stirred up a bit of deja vu for Illinoisans, as we are once again seeing jaw-dropping mounds of cash pile up on both sides of partisan politics.
Since July 2019, groups for and against the 2020 Tax Initiative have raised over $109.9M. As of October 15th, total reported expenditures for both sides reached $50.6M, approximately 46% of total contributions. This leaves a whopping $59.3M remaining between the two groups to get their respective messages out for the rest of October.
There are three committees raising and spending money on each side.
Vote Yes for Fairness is essentially Governor JB Pritzker’s committee - his donations account for all but $1,742 of the $56m raised by the group. Vote Yes for Fairness has outspent any other single PAC in the race at $27m, which is also 94% of all money spent by the pro-graduated tax coalition. The majority of expenditures ($17m) have gone into social media and advertisements.
Funds Raised: $56,501,742
Funds Spent: $27,428,261
Cash on hand: $29,073,481
Vote Yes for Fair Tax is a committee largely backed by unions, advocacy groups and community organizations and has collected more than $3m in contributions. Large donors include the National Educational Association, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law and ONE Northside, while smaller donors include various Illinois-based advocacy groups. While the contributions reveal distinct grassroots/organized labor support, some large donations were also made by big national-level groups like The People’s Lobby (a Super PAC) and Omidyar Network (a non-profit group created by the founder of eBay).
16% of total contributions raised were not direct money donations, but rather “in-kind contributions” - that is, political goods and services (such as canvassing, staff time, phone banking, event-planning, etc.) valued at a certain dollar amount freely offered by donating entities.
Funds Raised: $3,060,117
Funds Spent: $1,110,448
Yes to a Financially Responsible Illinois is the American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP) committee. The $712,567 in contributions all came either directly from the AARP or from AARP-Illinois employees (those from the latter are all considered “in-kind” contributions, or more specifically, staff salaries). The interest group, one of the largest in America, has publicly come out in favor of passing the graduated income tax amendment, citing it as a “common sense solution” to Illinois’s financial problems that will not “shift the burden” to older and middle-class citizens of the state. The committee has spent more than 86% of its funds as of October 15th, most of which ($461,424) has gone to TV media advertisements and media production.
Funds Raised: $712,567
Funds Spent: $616,109
Cash on hand: $96,548
The Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment is the largest of the three anti-fair tax committees by far. With funding totaling around $48.8 million, they have massive resources at their disposal. 96% of their funding (46m) came from IL billionaire Ken Griffin. Additional donations (a paltry amount compared to Griffin’s) have stemmed from other business owners and conservatives. The majority of the committee’s spending, over $20.5 million so far, has been directed at advertising efforts and direct voter outreach.
Funds Raised: $48,886,800
Funds Spent: $21,012,580
Cash on hand: $27,854,000
The vast majority of the Illinois Farm Bureau’s anti-fair tax committee funding comes from the Illinois Agricultural Association, over $700,000 of it’s $723,000 raised. Donations from the array of Illinois County farm bureaus total less than $1,000. This committee’s contributions are composed entirely of Illinois’ agricultural groups. The main focus of their spending has been on advertising (radio, mailings, signs), which accounts for 99% of their expenditures.
Funds Raised: $723,000
Funds Spent: $474,000
Cash on hand: $249,000
Vote No on the Progressive Tax is the smallest of the opposition committees - with less than $82,000 in funds raised. The Illinois Technology and Manufacturing Association is by far the largest contributor, with donations making up about 43% of the committee’s total funds. The majority of other contributions come from business groups, with $10,000 from both The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and NFIB Illinois, as well as $7,500 from the Illinois Farm Bureau committee. A number of individuals have donated small amounts, with only 2 of those donations exceeding $1,000. As of October 15th, 2020 this committee has spent only a small portion of their resources on mainly mailing costs.
Funds Raised: $94,457
Funds Spent: $4,738
Cash on hand: $89,719
**Meghan Coleman contributed
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