Tom Kacich: PACs prominent in Davis campaign fund
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, continues to rely more on political action committees than individual donors to finance his election campaign, his latest disclosure report shows.
Davis, seeking a second term in Congress, filed his second-quarter report with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday. It shows he raised $554,943 in the April 1-to-June 30 period, spent $174,095 and finished the period with $1.33 million on hand for the Nov. 4 election.
He holds a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Ann Callis of Edwardsville, who reported raising more than $333,000 in the same period, spending $129,773 end ending the quarter with $717,204 in her account.
But two things stood out in Davis' report: he continues to get most of his money from political action committees (61 percent in the second quarter) and he apparently is struggling to raise money in Champaign County, the largest county by population in the 13th Congressional District.
Davis received $338,040 from more than 200 political action committees in the three-month period. Many of the PACs represent businesses and industries that have legislation before Davis' two congressional committees: Transportation & Infrastructure and Agriculture.
He has, for example, received $21,918 from Freshman Agricultural Republicans Members, a joint fundraising committee supported by dozens of agriculture-related companies and associations; $10,000 each from the National Automobile Dealers Association, Koch Industries, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Action Committee for Rural Electrification; $9,500 from BNSF Railway Co.; $9,000 from Union Pacific Railroad; $7,500 each from the Associated General Contractors of America, the National Restaurant Association, Enterprise Holdings (parent of three rental-car companies) and Exxon Mobil; $7,000 from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association; $6,000 each from the American Council of Engineering Companies, United Parcel Service, CSX Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway, Croplife America and Boeing Co.; $5,500 from the Taco Bell PAC; and $5,000 each from the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Another major source of funding to Davis' re-election campaign are PACs established by other members of Congress to help colleagues in tough election contests, like Davis' will be. Among those contributors to Davis are $10,000 each from Rep. Aaron Schock's GOP Generation Y Fund, Rep. John Shimkus' John S Fund, Sen. Mark Kirk's Lincoln PAC, Rep. Paul Ryan's Prosperity PAC, Rep. Kevin McCarthy's Majority Committee PAC, Rep. Greg Walden's New Pioneers PAC and Rep. Peter Roskam's Republican Operation to Secure and Keep a Majority; $8,500 from Rep. Patrick Tiberi's Pioneer PAC; and $8,000 from Rep. Kevin Brady's Making America Prosperous PAC.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, PACs account for roughly a third of the typical House members' campaign contributions, placing Davis far outside the norm. So far in this election cycle, he has received $1.59 million of his $2.66 million in campaign contributions from political action committees.
Meanwhile, Champaign County residents contributed only $4,800 of the $190,905 in itemized contributions — or five of the 275 contributions — to the Davis campaign in the last quarter.
That's less than the $5,450 from Piatt County residents, although Piatt County makes up just 3 percent of the voters in the district. Champaign County accounts for about 18 percent.
The disparity strengthens the perception that Davis — who succeeded a Champaign County Republican in Congress (Rep. Tim Johnson) and defeated a Champaign County Republican in this spring's primary election (Erika Harold) — is having trouble gaining traction in Champaign County and is therefore vulnerable in the 13th District.
Davis spokesman Andrew Flach noted that the congressman raised $12,430 in itemized contributions from Champaign County in the first quarter, and didn't hold any fundraisers in the county in the second quarter.
"We had a pretty sizable fundraiser here in the first quarter. We didn't have an event here in Q2," Flach said.
He said there likely would be another Davis fundraiser in Champaign County in the third quarter, which ends Sept. 30.
"It's just hard to do fundraisers in the same location in back-to-back quarters," he said.
But in the quarter just ended, Davis raised $24,100 from Sangamon County after raising $15,200 from the same county in the first quarter.
Last week, I obtained a copy of the questionnaire that Republican county chairmen in Illinois' 106th House District are using to fill a vacancy on the November election ballot.
Earlier this month, state Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, withdrew as a candidate for re-election, citing family considerations.
The four-page questionnaire is available by email from the House Republican Organization at email@example.com. But applicants have to submit it by July 22 in order to be considered. The five county chairmen in the district — two of whom are among the candidates to replace Harms — hope to have a replacement chosen by the middle of August.
The questionnaire includes a lot of the standard stuff: occupation, education, military service, marital status, memberships and associations, political campaigns and "awards and accommodations received," which maybe was supposed to mean "awards and commendations" or "awards and accomplishments." Or maybe the Republicans really want to know the accommodations made to win an award.
After that came the key questions of the questionnaire:
"Are you currently active on any social-networking media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?
"Where is your current residence? Do you lease or own this property?
"Do you maintain any other residences? If so, where? Do you own or lease those properties? Has your house or any property been foreclosed by court order?
"Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
"Has any member of your immediate family filed for bankruptcy?
"Are your taxes up to date?
"Have you ever written for or in any newspaper (including op-eds, letters to the editor, magazines or blogs? If so, please elaborate.
"Have you been involved in any disciplinary action with any governing body or licensing organization in your professional career? If so, please elaborate.
"Have you ever been fined by the FEC, State Board of Elections or local election board?
"Is there anything in your past that has not been addressed in this questionnaire that may be considered a potential vulnerability in your run for State House?"
Interestingly, there were no direct questions about criminal charges, civil lawsuits, traffic offenses, campaign contributions, divorce proceedings or other issues that have proven embarrassing to political candidates. Might be something to consider, GOPers.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.