When the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2011, candidates for elected office in Illinois will for the first time ever be limited in terms of how much money contributors are able to dump into their campaign funds. Starting next year, individuals may donate $5,000 per candidate, per election cycle, according to the bill that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law last December. The limit for businesses and unions is $10,000. For political action committees, it's $50,000.
This could lead to some serious fundraising on New Year's Eve by the growing list of candidates running for Chicago's open mayoral seat. Cindi Canary, the executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, told WBEZ she expected the mayoral candidates to do plenty of "jockeying for the big dollars" before the deadline. And for those candidates who aren't officially in the race yet, the looming law could influence the speed with which they make a decision.
Any contender for mayor needs enough money to get through the February 22, 2011 primary and, most likely, a run-off election that will be held April 5 (should no candidate earn 50 percent of the vote the first time around). What remains to be seen is if this tight schedule (as well as campaign contributors feeling "tapped out" after the November 2 election) will favor candidates who already have a well-stocked war chest at their disposal -- like Rahm Emanuel. The mayoral bid won't be a cheap race, after all. University of Illinois-Chicago political science prof Dick Simpson estimated that candidates will need at least $4 million to run.