Five years ago, Bruce Rauner formed the committee that launched his political career. From the start Citizens for Rauner raised millions, in part because Bruce Rauner contributed millions.
State records show in that nearly five-year window Rauner has given his campaign more than $95 million.
But as he asks voters for a second term as governor, there appears to be a change in how his campaign is funded, as more small dollar donors make contributions.
Rauner’s initial road to the governor’s office was paved not only with millions of dollars of his own wealth and by big contributions from big donors as he promised to “shake up Springfield.”
Rauner, whose personal wealth is estimated by Forbes Magazine at just under $1 billion, kicked off his political career, state records show, with a $249,000 initial contribution on March 28, 2013.
By the end of 2014, when he had won a narrow victory over three GOP primary opponents and defeated incumbent Pat Quinn in the general election, that number had ballooned to $37.5 million.
Still, that amount would pale in comparison to the $50 million he gave his campaign in December 2016.
To gauge how his re-election effort is going, we compared campaign finance records in 2013 and 2017. State records show in 2013 he received 35 contributions of $25,000 or more compared to 10 in 2017.
Sarah Brune, executive director of the non-partisan Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, notes there has been a change in the kinds of donors Rauner is attracting.
“We have actually seen the governor lead in some quarters last year in the…amount of contributions he got that were under $150,” she said.
There's good news for the governor: in 2013, state records show Rauner had 1,585 individual itemized contributions.
In 2017, the number climbed to 1,899, many of them from small donors contributing from $1.00 to $150.
But there is also some bad news.
As the Governor’s agenda sputtered in Springfield, statewide polls show his approval rating at roughly 30 percent.
Now a primary challenge by conservative state representative Jeanne Ives has stolen one of Rauner’s mega donors, businessman Richard Uihlien, who has given Ives campaign $2.5 million dollars.
Voters go to the polls March 20, leading Brune to wonder who will win.
“I think it is a question of where is the GOP establishment going to fall in this primary,” she said. “Will they back Rep. Ives or Gov. Rauner?”