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Congressional fundraising in a nutshell: veteran U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville has a lot of it and his Republican challenger, Kyle McCarter, needs to refund more than half of his because of sloppy bookkeeping.
Fourth quarter fundraising reports were filed with the Federal Election Commission last weekend and they show that Shimkus, a candidate for an 11th term, collected more than $386,000 during the period Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, and had $1.37 million on hand.
As has been Shimkus' custom, most of his campaign contributions came from political action committees outside of his large, rural district in eastern and southern Illinois. In the fourth quarter, Shimkus got $278,150 in PAC contributions and $107,691 from individuals.
McCarter, a state senator from Lebanon who is challenging Shimkus in the 15th Congressional District, raised nearly $79,000 in the three-month period and had $87,434 on hand on Dec. 31.
But McCarter's campaign also had to make thousands of dollars in refunds because it didn't follow FEC rules and it accepted thousands of dollars in corporate contributions — which are illegal — and took a $40,000 contribution from a single donor, which also is illegal. Individuals are limited to $2,700 in contributions per election.
The $40,000 contribution from Chester businessman James Best accounted for almost half of all the money McCarter received in 2015. A notation in McCarter's report to the FEC says that a $37,300 refund is pending.
McCarter already reported $1,750 in refunds to five different corporations. Three other contributions — $2,700 from Rural King Distributing in Mattoon and $10,008 from Total Grain Marketing in Casey and $305 from Tri Ford in Highland — were listed as "refund pending."
Altogether McCarter had refunded or had refunds pending of more than $52,000.
"The facts clearly indicate that Senator McCarter has broken FEC laws by accepting more than $55,000 in illegal contributions. Unfortunately in Illinois, this is not the first time we have seen blatant disregard for the law from an elected official," said Kayleen Carlson, Shimkus' campaign manager. "It is the responsibility of all candidates or office holders to understand the rules on financial contributions, no exceptions."
McCarter's campaign did not return repeated phone calls or emails seeking comment.
The bookkeeping missteps represent a missed opportunity for McCarter, who in the past has hammered Shimkus for being reliant on PAC funding.
According to the website Opensecrets.org, 78 percent of Shimkus' campaign contributions are from PACs.
Further, many come from corporations and industries that appear before his House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee that Shimkus chairs.
Among them, with the money contributed to the Shimkus campaign in 2015, are: Ford Motor Co. Civic Action Fund, $10,000; National Association of Convenience Stores PAC, $10,000; Exxon Mobil PAC, $7,500; Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Inc. Employees PAC, $7,500; General Electric PAC, $7,000; Dow Chemicals PAC, $7,000; Duke Energy PAC, $6,500; Chevron Employees PAC, $6,000; ADM PAC, $6,000; Abbott Labs Employees PAC, $6,000; Renewable Energy Group PAC, $5,000; Pfizer PAC, $5,000; Monsanto Citizenship Fund, $5,000; Boston Scientific PAC, $5,000; COAL PAC, $5,000; and Novartis PAC, $3,000.
Shimkus takes to TV
As a sign that he is taking the underfunded McCarter seriously, Shimkus has begun running about $110,000 worth of campaign spots on cable television stations throughout his district. The TV spots, the first Shimkus has run since 2002, will run for two weeks on channels including AMC, Discovery, ESPN, Fox, Hallmark, HGTV, History, TBS, TNT and USA. Here's a link to the ad, which is titled "Diner" ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox9FuD2LWyk
During their appearance at a forum Monday, neither Brad Halbrook nor Jim Acklin mentioned significant endorsements they had received in their 102nd House District race.
Halbrook didn't mention his endorsement by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner (that also included $5,400 from the governor and another $5,400 from Mrs. Rauner).
"I'm proud to be endorsed by the governor," Halbrook said. "The discussion about endorsements, I didn't think it was too germane this morning."
And Acklin didn't mention his endorsement by the Illinois Federation of Teachers union, although he mentioned it and others after the forum before the Active Senior Republicans of Champaign County. Acklin also said he has the backing of the Illinois Education Association and the Associated Firefighters of Illinois.
"I expect maybe sometime I'm going to get beat up on that a bit because that's organized labor. But by the same token I'm proud to be supported by and proud to represent the firefighters and teachers, especially the IEA and IFT. That's a real natural for me," said Acklin, a former teacher and school administrator.
He said he simply overlooked mentioning the endorsements, but that he was glad to have their support, particularly the firefighters.
"That's boots on the ground. They're going to go out and knock on doors, regardless of what the weather is. And although they are organized labor they don't scare people because they're firefighters. And since 9/11 everybody loves firefighters. We're really excited about that," said Acklin.
University of Illinois Professor George Gollin, who ran for Congress in the 13th Congressional District two years ago, will host a reception from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday for Mark Wicklund of Decatur, the Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, this year.
The fundraiser will be at Gollin's home, 813 W. University Ave., Champaign.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.