In a new article, the Rockford Register-Star's Andrea Zimmerman shines a light on Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan's refusal to devote significant amounts of party money to federal candidates -- and what Sen. Dick Durbin is doing about it.
In an article posted this afternoon, The Rockford Register-Star's Andrea Zimmerman shines a light on one of the more interesting developments in local Democratic politics this year. I'm referring to Sen. Dick Durbin's effort to address a problem that has plagued federal candidates in Illinois for many years -- namely, Mike Madigan's refusal to devote significant amounts of state party money to their races.
Zimmerman reports on Durbin's "new layer":
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a figurehead among Illinois Democrats, is working to build his own Illinois voter database — a “voter file” distinct from the party’s central voter file, which is controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political organizations — as well as a new layer of the party’s grass-roots operation.
Durbin is working through the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association to create this new database and to expand the state party’s base in a year when supporters are expected to be highly energized by the presidential candidacy of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois.
She goes on to explain where Madigan has been directing most of the state party's funds:
Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield, acknowledged that the Illinois Democratic Party has, under Madigan’s command, focused primarily on helping campaigns for Democratic House candidates. Though the Illinois Democratic Party ostensibly is the organization of all Democrats, in practice the party works primarily to advance Madigan’s interests.
A review of the party’s campaign finance reports from the 2006 election cycle on the Illinois State Board of Elections Web site shows the party spent its money supporting House candidates, other Madigan allies including Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the speaker’s daughter.
Conspicuously absent from the list of beneficiaries were Democratic candidates for the Illinois Senate.
But while Zimmerman notes that Illinois Senate candidates have seen little support from the state party, she never refers to the issue of congressional campaigns. That's curious, because my understanding is that the historic lack of coordinated support for those races -- and there are a lot of competitive ones in Illinois this year -- is what led Durbin to make this move.
As the election year progresses, it's very likely that unions and other major contributors to the state party will direct large contributions to the county chairs association instead of the state party. Their first semi-annual report for 2008 should be filed with the State Board of Elections in early July ...