The leading contenders to replace Emil Jones as state senate president have donated more than $1 million to the campaigns of the Democratic incumbents running for re-election, as well as Democratic challengers who will also have a vote in choosing their leader should they win their races.
In other words, those who want to be the next state senate president are trying to secure votes the old-fashioned Illinois way: by buying them.
"[I]t looks like they believe supporting other senators now with campaign funds will prompt those same senators to return the favor later by voting one of the benefactors into the top Senate job," said Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which released a study this week that revealed the contribution patterns.
The causal connection is bolstered by the finding that these senators donated just $61,300 to their colleagues in the 18 months before Jones announced his retirement.
Topping the list of generous givers: James Clayborne of Belleville ($418,000) and John Cullerton ($336,000) of Chicago.
The ICPR identifies the "second tier" as Don Harmon of Oak Park ($70,000); Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston ($60,000); and Terry Link of Waukegan ($58,000).
Not so coincidentally, that pretty much rounds out the field of those most speculated upon as Jones's most likely successor.
As Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois-Springfield told the Tribune recently, it's "all about creating relationships or a sense of obligation."
The money is flowing inbound too.
According to the Belleville News-Democrat, Clyborne has collected more than $300,000 in contributions for his re-election campaign since July 1 - and he has no opposition.