Rauner’s recruitment and funding of candidates could cross legal lines

SPRINGFIELD — If Gov. Bruce Rauner plans to put $20 million into legislative races, how he distributes the money matters in terms of campaign finance laws.

Rauner is reportedly looking to recruit candidates to run against 20 incumbent Democrats, pledging $1 million per race. But if he put the money through the independent expenditure committee Turnaround Illinois, which is credited on the current TV ads starring Rauner, the move may be considered illegal, since those kinds of committees aren’t allowed to coordinate with candidates.

Sarah Brune, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR), says there are ways to do this legally, such as spending from Rauner’s own campaign fund.

Brune says she’s not sure if the reported pledge by Gov. Bruce Rauner to spend $20 million on legislative races will violate campaign finance laws.

She says he would have to follow those guidelines to make sure that they’re uncoordinated if he does choose to go that route, but if he goes through the PAC (political action committee), it would be legal.

Brune says if Rauner spends the money in form of independent expenditures, there are also less frequent reporting requirements, which may mean the source of the funds won’t be revealed until after Election Day.

Susan Garrett, chairman of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, says if the money is used through independent expenditures in the campaign, voters may not even know it’s coming from Rauner

ICPR Executive Director David Melton alludes to independent expenditures made early in the last governor’s race which Rauner has been accused of funding.

According to Melton, there was money spent during the Republican primary for governor by independent spending groups — that they did not find out about it until later, and they still do not know to this day where it came from — to try and negative campaign and keep certain people out of the race.

Melton says that was an issue and was used against former (U.S.) Rep. (Aaron) Schock who was made a target of some of that undisclosed spending and advertising.

Rauner has denied funding the anti-Schock ads.