CHICAGO – Republican candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has made a $500,000 donation to his own campaign, effectively lifting the caps on political contributions for everyone in the race.
Rauner campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said the donation was made Wednesday. It will help pay for television ads that the wealthy businessman and political newcomer is launching in an effort to increase his name recognition in advance of the March primary.
State campaign finance law sets limits on how much money may be donated to campaigns: $5,300 for individuals and $52,600 for political action committees. But it also states that if any candidate contributes more than $250,000 to his or her own race, the limits come off for all candidates vying for the office.
Rauner is among four Republicans seeking the GOP nomination. The others are state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. The winner of the March primary will face Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in November.
Rauner's latest donation brings his personal contributions to his campaign to $749,000 so far.
It also drew criticism from some of Rauner's fellow Republicans, who have accused him of trying to buy the office. Brady has noted that he won the 2010 GOP primary despite raising less money than his rivals, while all three candidates point out that they are better known and won't have to spend money like Rauner so voters know their name.
"GOP voters can't be bought," Dillard campaign manager Glenn Hodas told the Chicago Sun-Times. "They want a governor who is tested and prepared, with the experience that money can't buy."
But Rauner's supporters note he's been building a ground operation that includes more than 1,000 volunteers. They also say his ability to raise money makes him the only GOP candidate who can compete financially with Quinn, who already has $3 million in his campaign fund and no major challenger in the Democratic primary.
The new Rauner ads feature the millionaire venture capitalist talking about how he still wears an old $18 watch and is the outsider who will shake up Springfield and turn the state's dismal finances around. He takes jabs at Quinn, but doesn't mention his GOP rivals.
"Folks love our priorities of reducing spending, fixing the pension mess, transforming our schools and enacting term limits," Rauner said in a campaign email that announced the ad buy. "Now, we're taking our message of shaking up Springfield to the next level."