Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: Rauner Cries Poor on the Campaign Trail

Campaign asking for small donations to compete with Quinn

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    WINNETKA, IL - MARCH 18: Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bruce Rauner gives the thumbs-up after casting his ballot in the Illinois primary election on March 18, 2014 in Winnetka, Illinois. Rauner, a private equity manager, faces off against State Senator Bill Brady, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and State Senator Kirk Dillard in the Republican primary. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

    The Bruce Rauner campaign must think its supporters are not very observant. Or smart.
    How else would you explain reports that the Republican millionaire’s campaign has sent out fundraising emails begging for cash to compete with the Quinn campaign?

    Capital Fax is reporting two separate fundraising emails were sent recently to Rauner supporters claiming the campaign needs more than $400,000 to “give our advertising a needed boost to close the gap with Quinn and his special interest machine.”
    Right now we’re being outspent by about 2 to 1 by the special interest allies who support Quinn-Madigan.
    Will you help us get this ad out far and wide by making an urgent contribution of $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000, or even $2,500?
    Quinn-Madigan and their allies are literally spending about a million dollars a week in lies to protect their system.
    But you can stop them today, right now, with a donation.
    While it’s true that the advertising wars in the governor’s race are starting to heat up of late, it’s pretty rich for the Rauner campaign to claim it doesn't have the resources to compete with Quinn in buying TV ads or getting its message out.
    After all, this is a man who has so far pumped more than $21 million into his campaign, much of it from his own pocket and the rest from his billionaire friends.
    Heck, just last month Rauner’s good pal and New Jersey governor Chris Christie came by and dropped off a check for a cool $2.5 million.
    In fact, the 2014 governor’s race is going to be the most expensive in the state’s history, with spending already skyrocketing 355 percent over the 2010 contest.
    To be fair, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn has been raking in the millions himself, much of it from labor and union-related donors.
    For Rauner to claim poverty and ask donors for money to catch up on advertising seems, well, just a bit ironic. Rauner was first out of the gate with advertising, flooding the airwaves with a slew of TV ads introducing himself to voters way back in 2013. And he’s earmarked much of that $21 million on a focused strategy that relies heavily on TV. That's what the millions he's raising are for. 
    Many people both in and out of professional politics think there’s too much money sloshing around in politics today. For myself, I have to agree. And the amount being spent in this governor’s race is, by almost any objective standard, obscene.
    Yet a key part of the email fundraising pitch made it seem like the Rauner campaign was practically a grassroots startup compared to Quinn’s big money machine. From the pitch:
    Quinn will spend more money this year than anyone has ever spent to win the Illinois governor’s race. Ever. He’ll spend millions more than even Blago.
    That’s pretty much the textbook definition of a pot calling the kettle black. It also requires someone who’s thinking about donating to the Rauner campaign to believe that the self-made millionaire pouring millions of his own money into a campaign is somehow going to let it all fall apart if it doesn't receive a $25 check from an individual donor right away.
    Rauner is running as a smart businessman who knows how to get the job done in Springfield better than the career politicians already there. It's kind of hard to believe that suddenly, his campaign is $400,000 short of being able to compete.
    I say, once you’ve decided to pour millions of dollars into your own campaign in an effort to buy political office, you should be prohibited from hitting up small donors at $25 or $50 a pop. People writing checks that small very likely need the money way more than you do.
    Or, you should be banned from crying poor when you’re clearly one of the richest men in the state.
    But, that’s the state of politics in Illinois today. Raise $21 million to campaign for office from wealthy friends and your own bank account, then claim it’s not enough and hit up folks for what they’ve got stashed away in their own pockets.
    The next thing you know, the Rauner campaign will be claiming it doesn't have enough gas money for the campaign bus.