SPRINGFIELD, | A Republican candidate for Illinois governor who reported income of $53 million last year has contributed more than $1 million to his own campaign, but an analysis Tuesday of recent elections shows deep pockets are far from an assurance of electoral success.
Winnetka venture capitalist Bruce Rauner has written himself checks totaling $1.25 million to fuel his race against four established Republicans in their bid to take on Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn next November. One opponent said being true to conservative tenets will win it for him, while another called Rauner a "Republican in Money Only.'
Trying to stay ahead of what will likely be repeated attacks on him as an out-of-touch elitist, Rauner took the unusual step Monday of releasing his income tax returns for the past three years. A required economic interest statement he filed shows ownership in three professional sports teams: the Chicago Bulls, Pittsburgh Steelers and Boston Red Sox.
Rauner's self-funding had the effect of lifting the cap for all primary candidates on the amount of money they may raise.
But flush bank accounts have done little for other would-be officeholders in the past decade, according to Kent Redfield, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
For example, Redfield said, 60 percent of the $8.1 million that then-Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood raised in her bid for the GOP nomination for governor came from personal loans. And she lost to Attorney General Jim Ryan, who raised $5.4 million.
Chicago businessman Ronald Gidwitz raised $12.2 million in 2006, about half from himself or family. But he lost to the better-known Judy Baar Topinka, then-state treasurer with a long tenure in Springfield. She raised $3.5 million in the primary but was overwhelmed that fall by incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich's fundraising juggernaut. Blagojevich, now serving a federal prison sentence for corruption, had raised $10.6 million in the primary against a little-known challenger.
Rauner's campaign makes no secret of his desire to spend money to find a wider audience for his themes of spending control, job-creation and term limits. Spokesman Mike Schrimpf said he needs to catch up in voter familiarity with "career politicians," including other Republicans who have "voted with Democrats" to tax and spend.
One opponent, state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, called Rauner a RIMO — "Republican in Money Only" — because of his business association and friendship with Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Emanuel's predecessor, Democrat Richard M. Daley.
"Illinoisans want to see what you really are and not putting on a face and having an $18 watch or dressing down to appear you're in touch with the middle class," Dillard said. "He has nothing in common with Illinoisans who are scraping to make the rent or pay the mortgage."
In TV ads, Rauner dresses casually while expressing his preference for a discount watch.
Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington said he'd raise enough money for a "credible campaign" and said conservative themes will win the day. Treasurer Dan Rutherford said experience running statewide puts him in good stead. "I've been on the ballot — and I win," he said.
On a $53.4 million income in 2012, Rauner and his wife paid $10.1 million in federal taxes — a rate of 19 percent, lower than most middle-class taxpayers. He reported making $28.1 million in 2011 and $27.1 million in 2010.
"I've worked extremely hard and feel incredibly blessed to have earned financial success," Rauner said in a statement, adding that if elected he'll put his holdings in a blind trust.