William Kelly, a Chicago Mayoral candidate, announced yesterday that he had given his campaign a $100,000 contribution. On top of past contributions he has made to his campaign, Kelly is now considered a "self-funded candidate" by Illinois campaign finance law. Because of that, there are now no caps on the size of contributions any candidate for Chicago Mayor can take.
The fact that allowing megadonors to contribute without limit is considered 'leveling the playing field,' creating a playing field on which the vast majority of Chicago voters can't play any meaningful role, is a sad statement of how big money has been allowed to dominate our elections. How many of us can play when it costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars just to step on to the field?
Along with a Governor's race that is breaking spending records and Congressional campaigns that are receiving only 16% of their campaign funds from donors giving $200 or less, the case for changes to campaign finance law to empower small donors is clear. Illinois PIRG is advocating for small donor campaign finance solutions, similar to that which exists in New York City, and is proposed in the Government by the People Act, which has 160 co-sponsors in the US House.