Where money is coming from in the 14th Congressional race

  • Upper, from left, Anthony Catella, Ted Gradel, Jerry Evans, Catalina Lauf, and lower from left, James Marter, Jim Oberweis, and Sue Rezin are Republican candidates for the 14th Congressional District.

    Upper, from left, Anthony Catella, Ted Gradel, Jerry Evans, Catalina Lauf, and lower from left, James Marter, Jim Oberweis, and Sue Rezin are Republican candidates for the 14th Congressional District.

  • Lauren Underwood

      Lauren Underwood Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/10/2020 5:56 PM

More money is flowing into the campaigns of Illinois 14th Congressional District candidates than any other congressional race in the state, with funding sources ranging from themselves to political action committees to law and investment firms, many of them out of state.

The cash flow is inspired, in part, by the sheer number of candidates in the race. The seven Republicans vying for the GOP nomination have raked in $2.7 million to date. Yet, incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood is beating that combined total with $3.07 million raised. That's three times as much money as any single GOP candidate has raised in the primary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The nearly $6 million total is a mountain of money compared to the next most expensive race, the 8th Congressional District, where Democratic incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi has raised $3.96 million.

There are several patterns in the campaign donations.

About 65% of the money coming to Underwood is from out-of-state sources. That's not unusual for an incumbent candidate at the federal level. Members of Congress deal with a wide range of issues, giving them a broad circle of influence beyond their home districts.

More noteworthy is the amount of money flowing from outside Illinois to the Republican challengers.

The majority of donations to both Catalina Lauf (59.3%) and Ted Gradel (57.9%) comes from outside the state, according to analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Gradel's largest contributor is Levin Papantonio, a Florida-based personal injury firm. He's also received several contributions from Arizona. That likely stems from the endorsement Gradel received from childhood friend Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona. Most of Gradel's donors report being employed by law firms, securities and investment corporations or as retired.

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All of the Republican candidates raising significant money have a sizable amount of contributions coming from retirees.

Nearly 50% of Lauf's donations are less than $200. That is, by far, the largest percentage of all the candidates. Lauf is backed by the Maverick PAC, a group that specifically identifies and supports conservative millennials running for office.

Despite that, there's a relative dearth of money flowing from either the state or national party to any of the GOP candidates so far.

The biggest single chunk of conservative money is being spent in opposition to Jim Oberweis rather than in support of any of the candidates.

The Illinois Conservative PAC, formed at the start of March, is in the midst of a $710,000 ad buy to run commercials opposed to Oberweis. Few public details are available about the PAC, but Oberweis campaign spokesman Travis Akin said he's not surprised people who might be trying to conceal their support for other candidates are coming after the dairy magnate.

"This is the big leagues, and Jim has been the front-runner from day one," Akin said.

The conservative New Prosperity Foundation has also spent more than $150,000 in opposition to Oberweis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Oberweis has primarily relied on his own money to fund his campaign. He gave himself a $1 million loan. However, his FEC reports show he's already repaid himself $500,000.

Oberweis also faces an FEC complaint from fellow state Sen. Sue Rezin. In the complaint, Rezin accuses Oberweis of a scheme to lobby Republicans for donations to his federal campaign with a promise of repaying the favor with larger donations from his state campaign fund. By law, Oberweis cannot use his state funds to run for federal office. Oberweis' campaign has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Rezin has pumped $250,000 of her own money into her run for Congress. She's also received the most PAC money of any GOP candidate. That includes significant contributions from the Jet PAC, which is affiliated with Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger from the 16th District. Kinzinger has also directly contributed to Rezin's campaign. Rezin has seen an inflow of cash from electric utility companies, Caterpillar, and the Operating Engineers Local 150 labor union.

James Marter, Jerry Evans and Anthony Catella each have raised less than $100,000 in contributions to date.

Marter has raised just shy of $60,000. His largest single donor is Overflow Entertainment. The Wauconda-based company is perhaps best known for its production work with local conservative icon Jack Roeser.

Evans has seen a high percentage (84%) of contributions of amounts greater than $200. He entered the race in late October, giving him a significant obstacle to fundraising. He's pulled in about $17,000 since Jan. 1 to bring his total raised to $55,000.

Catella has attracted only one campaign donation, a $25 contribution from his employer.

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