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updated: 1/10/2013 5:59 PM

Report: Candidates, parties dwarfed SuperPACs' legislative spending

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SPRINGFIELD -- SuperPACs contributed money in key statewide suburban races in the 2012 elections. However, their money paled in comparison to that spent by the candidates themselves or political parties, according to a new report.

An Illinois Campaign for Political Reform report showed that of the more than $29 million raised in statewide legislative races, just $1.7 million was spent by SuperPACs.

SuperPACs are organizations allowed to raise and spend limitless amounts of money on campaigns so long as they remain independent of candidates.

One race highlighted in the report was the open seat contest for the 31st Senate district between Republican Joe Neal, of Wadsworth, and Democrat Melinda Bush, of Grayslake. Bush had the edge in funds, reporting $750,400 to Neal's $453,400. In addition to the funds raised by the candidates, Personal PAC paid $159,600, 13.3 percent of both candidate's total, to oppose Neal.

With her resource advantage, Bush won with 51 percent of the vote.

By contrast, in the race between Republican Arie Friedman of Highland Park and Democrat Julie Morrison of Deerfield, Friedman got more SuperPAC support but lost the race.

University of Illinois Springfield political scientist Kent Redfield, who contributed to the report, said Illinois legislative leaders control which races will receive help from party resources.

"In Illinois, legislative leaders really are the SuperPACs," Redfield said.

The report was read at a public hearing of the campaign reform task force, which is assigned to propose ways to better regulate SuperPACs in upcoming elections.

Looming large over the hearing is the 2014 gubernatorial election, which Redfield expects to have much more SuperPAC involvement.

Among the possible 2014 contenders are current Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, and suburban Republicans Rep. Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale, and former Congressman Joe Walsh, of McHenry.

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