I have a question: How, exactly, does someone spend $10 million of their own money in a political campaign?
After all, $10 million is an awful lot of money. But that’s the amount Republican Bruce Rauner has given himself for his gubernatorial campaign—an amount sure to break the record books for self-financing an Illinois political campaign when all is said and done.
There’s little doubt Rauner is going to raise even more before Election day, with some from himself and some from wealthy donors. The truth is, when you’re a politician that pals around with the richest people in the state, a lot of their money is going to fall into your campaign coffers.
But when you’re a multi-millionaire yourself, you can just fill in any fundraising gaps on your own.
News that Rauner is approaching $10 million in his campaign got me thinking: How, exactly, do you spend all that money during a campaign?
More importantly, how do you know you’re getting $10 million worth of value from what you spend?
It’s not like Bruce Rauner isn’t trying to get the biggest bang for his buck. For one, he’s been pouring money into local Republican organizations across the state, making sure he has enough political friends on his side should he ever find himself inside the Governor’s mansion. He’s also been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a week to flood the airwaves with ads for his campaign.
And, more recently, he’s found another, perhaps more effective way to spend his campaign dough: Hire paid volunteers to walk Cook County precincts.
Perhaps there are thousands of Rauner volunteers elsewhere, but in at least two southwest Cook County townships, Rauner is paying people to walk precincts. Both Palos Township GOP Chairman Sean Morrison and Worth Township GOP Chairman Shaun Murphy sent out emails this past week, telling their members about opportunities to be paid to walk precincts for Rauner. The program offers limited opportunities, beginning immediately, Murphy wrote in his email.
Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. How else do you make sure you’re getting what you want from someone if you don't flat out pay them?
And despite efforts to call the program a “grassroots effort,” make no mistake—walking these precincts in Cook County for Rauner is a paid gig, not volunteering.
"The program will continue for the next several weeks, up to the election," he said. "The positions will be filled on a first come bases, with productivity the determinate factor for its continuation. The compensation will be $1000 for 100 hours a month or $500 for 60 hours a month."
Hey – the jobs even pay more than Illinois current minimum wage. What’s not to like?
Looked at another way, one could even say the entire Rauner campaign is one big hiring machine. I mean, how many Republican political operatives, precinct chairs, advertising executives, consultants, campaign staff and other employees does $10 million or $14 million or $20 million buy during a campaign?
On the Rauner campaign web site, jobs is the number one issue the candidate hopes to highlight. In recent months, Rauner has made much hay over what he has said is Gov. Pat Quinn’s failed efforts to reduce unemployment, and his own jobs and economic plan.
But to make sure he’s getting the most value from his campaign spending, maybe Bruce Rauner should just cut to the chase and call his entire campaign one big jobs program for Illinois.
Maybe that way he can figure out how to claim his campaign spending as just another tax write-off for his personal fortune.