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Judge Harris spends $1M for appeals court bid — 5 times the salary

Updated: May 17, 2014 6:47AM



Landing a position on the Illinois appeals court now comes with a bigger price tag, newly released campaign finance reports show.

Sheldon “Shelly” Harris, whose ads blanketed TV for two weeks during the March primary, spent nearly $1 million — 14 times more than his closest competitor — in his successful bid for the state’s appellate court in the first district.

Another first district appellate candidate, John Simon, spent $660,000 for a different vacancy and went on to win his bid.

Both Simon and Harris spent more than two of the four GOP gubernatorial candidates combined, according to campaign filing reports made available on Tuesday.

Reports on Tuesday also showed that GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner, who prevailed in a four-way race, raised more than $9 million in the first three months of the year — spending the bulk of it — including at least $5.8 million on ads. For his part, Gov. Pat Quinn, facing no formidable Democratic primary challenge, raised just shy of $5 million in the first three months of the year, enabling him to bulk up before his battle against Rauner with more than $8.8 million in the bank.

While the robust dollar figures are typical in a governor’s race, they’re unusual in appellate court contests.

“It was the first time in our knowledge that anyone had spent that kind of money for an appellate court spot,” Harris opponent former Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) told the Sun-Times Tuesday.

“I don’t know how you come back from that. If this becomes the bar now that you have to go on TV to run for appellate court, it’s really going to narrow the stream of the type of people who seek the position. It will become an elite body and an elite body that would be determined by the size of your war chest.”

Harris’ filings show $800,000 of the more than $953,000 in money he spent was from his and his wife’s personal contributions, and the bulk of the funds went toward TV ad time. Harris could not be reached for comment.

By comparison, Lyle spent about $66,000 and a third candidate in the race, Susan Kennedy Sullivan, spent just shy of $39,000 in the first quarter of this year, according to recently filed campaign disclosures.

The appellate court spot is a 10-year term that pays around $200,000 annually.

Other reports available on Tuesday revealed:

■ Political newcomer Will Guzzardi, who surprised the political establishment by edging out connected insider and incumbent state Rep. Toni Berrios, D-Chicago, did so with fewer resources.

Reports show Guzzardi spent nearly $100,000 less than the $366,000 Berrios spent in her failed bid to retain her seat.

“We went into the race assuming we would be outspent. We were up against the political establishment and there were a lot of resources,” Guzzardi said Tuesday. “We knew this was going to be won at the doors, talking to voters, every single night, all weekend, every day.”

Guzzardi said while he was a target of attack ads, his campaign made a concerted effort to stay positive and attack his opponent only on positions she had taken. “We were very conscious never to make it personal and always to make it driven by facts, I think voters respect that.”

■ Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed out the first quarter with nearly $7.4 million in his campaign account. Emanuel added $1.3 million of that in the last three months. So far, former Ald. Robert Shaw is the leading challenger Emanuel is facing in the February 2015 mayoral race.

■ Quinn raised just shy of $5 million in the first quarter of the year, meaning he enters the second quarter with considerable muscle — more than $8.8 million sits in his bank account.

■ Illinois State Treasurer’s Dan Rutherford’s crash-and-burn campaign for governor left him with a campaign balance of more than $1.1 million — largely due to a decision within the campaign to cut off spending.

Rutherford, who was dogged by sexual harassment charges leveled by a former employee, finished fourth out of four in the contest for the Republican nomination for governor. In the first three months of 2014, Rutherford spent about $387,000. Rutherford faced criticism after he ordered an internal investigation into the allegations then refused to release its results, citing pending litigation.

■ State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, who gave Rauner a run for his money at the end of the race, spent $1.3 million. Rauner won 40 percent of the vote while Dillard finished with about 38 percent of the vote.

Keeping up with the pace he’s set since entering the governor’s race, Rauner, a venture capitalist from Winnetka, by far raised and outspent his three opponents in months leading up to his March 18 victory. Of the more than $9 million he raised — more than half, $5.3 million — came from Rauner’s own pocket, according to campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf.

The Rauner campaign said 60 percent of the donations that came to the multimillionaire were collected in contributions of $100 or less. Rauner is locked in a general election battle Quinn, who had the luxury of not having to burn through cash in the primary, moving into the general with nearly $9 million when compared to Rauner’s account, which is carrying $1.3 million into the second quarter of the year. Rauner has already benefitted from $1.5 million in donations from the Republican Governors Association since his primary win and has considerable personal fortune to tap as he moves forward.

David Morrison, policy adviser for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said campaign reports on Tuesday showed some ironies when it came to limits that came off in the governor’s race.

Campaign caps are lifted for everyone in a race when a candidate gives himself $250,000 or more — in this case, Rauner. The idea is to level the playing field for candidates who are not personally wealthy. That didn’t happen, Morrison said.

“Instead of leveling the playing field, it had just the opposite effect: It gave him more of a financial advantage. It magnified Rauner’s cash advantage because he and his millionaire buddies all gave money to his race,” said Morrison. “The General Assembly ought to rethink just when limits take effect, under what conditions limits cease to be effective.”



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