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Small Campaign Contributions Amount To Chump Change


  The race for Illinois governor is one of the most expensive match-ups in the nation. A new reportshows that most of that comes from relatively few donors.

Money's flying into the race between Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner from all over. But the Public Research Interest Group didn't count self-financing, like the millions Rauner has put into his own campaign; nor did it count money from corporations, or from political action committees, like those helping out Quinn.

Rather, it analyzed individual contributions to the candidates for governor in the last fundraising quarter.

"Small donors voices' are being drowned out by a small cadre of large donors," PIRG's Abe Scarr said. While half of the contributions came from people who gave $200 or less, their contributions only totaled seven percent of all cash raised; by contrast, 85 perent of all money raised came from donors who gave $1000 or more.

"They're going to be responsive to interests and desires of those big donors more than to their general constituency, and we think that's a big problem," Scarr said.

Scarr says there are various solutions.

Court decisions like Citizen's United have hindered what restrictions can be put on donations; Scarr says resolving that requires amending the U.S. constitution, but that's long term. In the short term, Scarr says Illinois should revise its campaign finance laws, and consider a public financing program that gives candidates matching funds for small donations, so they can be freed from chasing high-dollar donors.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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