What a difference two years makes for Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, the likely Democratic opponent next year to Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, which includes Champaign-Urbana.
Two years ago at this time, Londrigan had recently announced her candidacy, barely had any campaign money and was one of six candidates (eventually five) who had either jumped into the Democratic primary election or was considering it.
This time she’s the only announced challenger to Davis, she already has more than $450,000 on hand, she has lined up support from a number of Democratic members of Congress including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and she’s got the name identification from a 2018 campaign in which she came within about 2,000 votes or less than a percentage point of upending a man who has been a member of Congress since 2013.
In the fundraising quarter that ended June 30, Springfield native Londrigan reported raising an impressive $504,627 — far more than the $382,350 brought in by Davis. The Taylorville Republican still has more cash on hand than Londrigan — $532,913 versus $453,326 — but the trend favors her.
As is often the case with Davis and other incumbent congressman, most of his campaign contributions came from national political action committees based outside of the 13th District. In the last quarter he received $279,050 — or about 73 percent of all his money — from PACs.
Londrigan got most of her money — $430,130 — from individuals and just $78,903 from PACs.
And she’s made a point early in her campaign to say that she will not accept corporate PAC contributions this time, although she will take money from PACs operated by members of Congress or from non-corporate special interests. In short, she would take money from, for example, the United Mine Workers but not from corporate mine operators like Peabody Coal.
Her PAC donors in the last quarter included the United Food and Commercial Workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Emily’s List, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and several members of Congress, including Sen. Dick Durbin’s Prairie PAC ($5,000), Rep. Cheri Bustos’ CherPAC ($3,000) and Nancy Pelosi for Congress ($2,000).
Many of the latter group get some of their campaign funds from corporate PACs. Bustos, for example, has received money from the BNSF Railroad, Rite Aid, Walmart, Humana, FedEx, Exelon and other corporations.
So what’s the distinction? Not much.
“Rodney Davis has taken over $2.4 million from corporate PACs over his time in Washington. He’s taken over $600,000 from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries and he’s sided with them to raise the cost of health care and try to strip protections for preexisting conditions,” said Londrigan’s campaign manger, Jacob Plotnick. “Those special interest donors are who Rodney Davis works for, and that’s who he votes for in Congress.”
But it could be just as valid to criticize a Democrat for taking money from a gun control or an abortion rights PAC that is a special interest group.
More troubling are the contributions Davis receives from the political action committees his House Transportation and Agriculture committees supposedly oversee and regulate: airlines, automobile companies, trucking companies, railroads, ag chemical makers and others.
Davis continues to rake in PAC money from group PACs (the National Pest Management Association, National Emergency Medicine PAC and National Association of Wheat Growers), corporate PACS (Marathon Oil, Lockheed Martin, Goldman Sachs, Union Pacific), union PACs (United Mine Workers, International Association of Firefighters, National Air Traffic Controllers, American Postal Workers Union) and congressional PACs (the Tuesday Group, Volunteers for Shimkus and the Majority Committee PAC of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California).
Among Davis’ individual donors is hedge fund manager Ken Griffin ($5,600), the richest man in Illinois.
Londrigan’s individual donors include a host of Champaign-Urbana residents plus $5,600 from Gov. J.B. Pritzker (identified on a Federal Election Commission form as “Jay Pritzker”) and another $5,600 from his wife M. K. Pritzker (who listed her occupation as “mother”). She also got $500 from Meredith Ebel, the wife of Jon Ebel, who was one of Londrigan’s primary election opponents in 2018, and $2,800 from Stephen Cox, a past candidate for Congress from Urbana.
15th Congressional District
In the 15th Congressional District (which includes Danville, Rantoul and much of southern Illinois) 22-year incumbent Rep. John Shimkus reported having more than $1.1 million in his campaign fund.
The only Democrat in the race so far is 38-year-old John Hursey of Collinsville, a high school English teacher who is brutally honest about his chances.
He called Shimkus, who received nearly 71 percent of the vote last year, “almost completely unbeatable.”
“Frankly I don’t have a chance in hell of beating him,” Hursey said of Shimkus. “So instead of throwing away money on T-shirts and yard signs, our campaign is trying to actually make a difference in people’s lives.
“Every day on our Facebook and social media pages we highlight and share the stories of people in the 15th District and beyond who need our help. Instead of soliciting donations for our campaign, we encourage supporters to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors and fellow citizens by giving directly to them via crowdfunding apps.”
Hursey urged potential supporters to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Kacich’s column runs on Sundays in The News-Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.