With $2 million flowing into Illinois’ 17th Congressional District race thus far, Rep. Bobby Schilling and Democratic challenger Cheri Bustos have carved out fairly distinct fundraising profiles, according to an analysis of their disclosure reports.
Schilling, who won a surprise victory in 2010 on the strength of mostly individual donations, is relying more heavily on political action committees this campaign, even as he gets most of his large-dollar individual contributions from the Quad-Cities.
Meanwhile, Bustos is competing head-to-head with Schilling in overall fundraising, an unusual thing for a challenger. Her campaign coffers have been helped by an influx of money mostly from individuals, with a notable amount coming from individuals affiliated with an abortion rights Democratic women’s group, labor unions and people living in the Chicago area.
The 17th District race is a high-profile contest for both parties, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see each
campaign raise $2 million. If that’s the case, it easily would be the most expensive race on record for the district.
There’s also the potential, if not the likelihood, that outside groups and the parties will weigh in heavily. Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved more than $1 million in TV advertising time in the Quad-Cities and Cedar Rapids, a good chunk of which might well be spent on the 17th District race.
As of the end of March, Schilling, a Republican had raised $1.1 million over the previous 15 months, while Bustos, a Democrat, raised $811,000 over the past nine months.
Both campaigns said their own fundraising totals — and the sources of their money — demonstrate broad appeal in the district.
Robin Johnson, a senior adviser to Bustos’ campaign, said that nearly 4,000 individual donors showed that “she’s drawing widespread support throughout the district.”
Terry Schilling, his father’s campaign manager, said if someone looked at the typical Schilling donor, “it would be your average American. A small business owner, a doctor ...”
They were less charitable about describing their opponents’ donor base.
Schilling pointed to funds Bustos has raised out of the Chicago area.
“It says she can connect very well with limousine liberals from the north side of Chicago,” he said.
Johnson, on the other hand, said Schilling has raised money from big business.
“A lot of companies see he’s going to represent their interests,” he said.
The incumbent’s contributors
Schilling’s contributor list includes $10,000 each from the political action committees for Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co. The PAC for Enterprise Holdings Inc., the rental car company, as well as its executives, also were significant donors.
PAC money has figured more heavily in Schilling’s fundraising profile this campaign cycle. In 2010, PACs donated 23 percent of his $1.1 million overall, according to Federal Election Commission records. Thus far this campaign cycle, PACs account for 42 percent, or $467,085, overall.
Nearly $129,000 of that came from leadership PACs affiliated with other Republican congressmen, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. PACs for House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell each have donated $10,000 to Schilling’s campaign.
Johnson said the congressman tries to talk like a centrist while in the district but his voting record shows he’s in step with Republican leaders and their agenda. He cites Schilling’s votes for House Republican budget plans and the rescission of money for the local Amtrak passenger rail venture.
“I think he voted for a very radical document in the Paul Ryan budget,” Johnson said.
But Terry Schilling said anybody who thinks that means his father is captive to the leadership is mistaken.
“He’s got a center-right voting record, which lines up perfectly with this new district,” Terry Schilling said.
He added that such companies as Deere and Caterpillar donate to Schilling because they know free trade is good for them and the alternative isn’t.
The challenger’s contributors
Bustos, meanwhile, is getting 24 percent of her receipts from PACs. Many of those are related to labor unions, but there’s also money coming from health-care PACs. Bustos is a former hospital executive. Before that, she was a Quad-City Times journalist.
Donations funneled through EMILY’s List also are notable. The donations, when bundled together, constitute her largest single contributor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. So far this campaign cycle, EMILY’s List donors have given $77,446 through the end of February, according to FEC records.
The organization has a large membership list and supports abortion-rights Democratic women across the country. It endorsed Bustos early last year.
While drawing a greater share of her money from individuals, Bustos is relying more heavily on the Chicago area than her opponent.
She raised $112,050 from the Chicago metro area, about 14 percent of her total, according to a tally of contributors of $200 or more by the Center for Responsive Politics. It was her most generous metro area. Such large donors, which constitute the bulk of individual donations to both campaigns, are the only ones who must report their occupations and addresses to the government.
Bustos raised $73,604, about 9 percent of her total, from people living in the Quad-Cities.
Schilling, on the other hand, raised $170,239 of his large individual donations from people living in the Quad-Cities, or about 15 percent of his total. The Quad-Cities was his most generous metro area. He raised $25,450 in large donations from the Chicago area, about 2 percent of his total.
Terry Schilling said the amount Bustos raised from Chicago is “absurd.” He said her donor base shows she is connected with Chicago liberals and national Democratic party leaders.
“It’s a world of difference,” he said.
Johnson responded that “I think she’s raised a good amount of money from the district.” He said the campaign welcomes support from people, wherever they’re from.