Republican businessman Gary Rabine increases participation in race for governor, raises fundraising caps

SPRINGFIELD – Four years after the Illinois gubernatorial race broke national records for self-funded candidates, next year’s competition is shaping up to be another deep-pocket duel.

Millionaire businessman Gary Rabine informed state election officials over the weekend that he had donated enough of his own money to his new gubernatorial campaign to raise all fundraising caps on the race.

The $ 250,390.04 the suburban Republican pumped in pales compared to the $ 35 million Democratic Governor JB Pritzker pumped into his own war chest last month.

But under Illinois’ obscure campaign finance laws, Rabin’s contributions triggered the caps being lifted, as they were made within a year of the 2022 primary. Pritzker fell right past that window.

And while the Rabin-triggered trigger is designed to help other candidates in the race with no personal fortune, it also benefits Rabine, allowing her to accept contributions of any amount from other donors – and from other donors. send its own signal.

“On the one hand, now his poker friends can donate some $ 100,000 each, and he can try to get close to what Pritzker has,” Chris Mooney, Illinois state politics professor, told the University of Illinois at Chicago. . “On the other hand, he tries to scare the Republican primaries. He is betting that he will be able to get more from the rich than all the other candidates.

Businessman Gary Rabine poses for a portrait at the Rabine Group offices in Schaumburg last week.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times file

The caps were part of a series of reforms passed after former Governor Rod Blagojevich was removed and removed from office.

In order for other candidates to compete fairly against extremely wealthy self-funded candidates, state law states that once a governor’s hope exceeds $ 250,000, all running candidates, including the wealthiest, can accept donations of any amount.

Mooney calls the reforms a “paper tiger” and said the caps “are among the loosest in the country, and it is on purpose.”

“The caps that exist are easy to break, and candidates can then just lend their own campaign regardless of the limit for that particular office, and they break the cap, and then they can get as much money from the big donors as they do. wish, “he said.

And while Pritzker’s $ 35 million on March 12 did not lift the caps, it signaled that the hotel’s billionaire heir is preparing for another costly battle.

Pritzker spent a record $ 171.5 million on her 2018 gubernatorial bid, overtaking Republican Meg Whitman, who set the previous self-funding record of $ 144 million in 2010 for her failed bid for the post. Governor of California.

Governor JB Pritzker and running mate Julianna Stratton celebrate their victory in the Democratic primary in 2018.

Governor JB Pritzker and running mate Julianna Stratton celebrate their victory in the Democratic primary in 2018.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times File

Rabine does not report any plans to challenge these records.

A campaign spokesperson said the Bull Valley businessman was willing to spend up to $ 1 million of his own money.

When he ran for governor last week, Rabine had donated $ 250,000 to his campaign, but decided to donate another $ 390.04 last week. This removed all capital letters from the race and allowed Rabine and his opponents to court big checks from wealthy donors throughout the campaign.

“I’m funding a very small portion of our overall campaign budget myself to get things going,” Rabine said in a statement Monday. “I have made a lot of friends in Illinois and across the country over the years. I have no doubts that people are ready to invest significant financial resources to support my vision of lowering property taxes, creating thousands of jobs and serving families in Illinois.

Republican businessman Gary Rabine launches his governorship in Schaumburg in March.

Republican businessman Gary Rabine addresses his supporters as he kicks off his gubernatorial race at the Rabine Group offices at 900 National Parkway in Schaumburg last week.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times file

It remains to be seen whether Rabin’s decision leads to large sums of money from large donors. But so far, that doesn’t frighten any of its GOP rivals.

State Senator Darren Bailey said he had “outperformed all Republicans in this race so far.” According to state election declarations, the Republican hopeful from upstate Xenia raised $ 503,714.29, just short of double Rabin’s total of $ 278,390.04.

“We all know no one spends money better than Governor Pritzker, and it’s going to take a lot of work, not just money to earn,” Bailey said in a statement. “My campaign is to build a popular movement to fight for workers in Illinois. We’ve had thousands of people across the state who are tired of high taxes and out of control spending – people who feel left out by political elites and country club politicians, and they want change. “

State Senator Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, at left;  former State Senator Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, right.

State Senator Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, at left; former State Senator Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, right.

“We have traveled across the state to meet voters face to face, and I can guarantee that no one in this race will surpass me and that we will fire Pritzker next November.”

The third candidate announced, former State Senator Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, raised $ 179,529, calling the sum “huge” in a statement and saying he will “not have to rely on self-funding ” to win.

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