New Illinois Supreme Court Justice Gets Big Boost from Hidden Spending by Democratic Group


The Political Commission, which was funded in part by Senate Speaker Don Harmon’s campaign, which helped expand the Democratic majority on the Illinois Supreme Court, does not publish campaign reports required by state law. It failed to file in a timely manner and did not disclose most of the $7.3 million expenditure until March 2018. After the election.

The Commission — All for Justice — spent a lot of money on television advertising in support of winning Democratic Justices Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien. The commercial portrayed the Republican opposition as a fierce anti-abortion candidate. This is a powerful political attack given the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that brought the issue of abortion rights to states just a few months ago.

Mary Kay O'Brien running for Judge Illinois Supreme Court at a campaign event in Joliet on October 1, 2022.

All for Justice’s failure to follow state election law-mandated disclosure guidelines has eclipsed Democratic spending in the critical months leading up to the Illinois Supreme Court’s partisan balance dispute in November. rice field.

Kent Redfield, an Illinois campaign finance expert and emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said: “It denied that the public, the news media, and those involved in the campaign had full knowledge of what was going on.”

Due to failure to follow disclosure rules, All For Justice’s spending is a quarter of the more than $23 million spent in two Supreme Court elections, nearly 40% of the money behind Democratic candidates. Equivalent to selection.

All for Justice was established in August 2022 as an independent Appropriations Political Action Committee. This committee may raise and use an unlimited amount of money to endorse or oppose any candidate, but may not coordinate spending with any candidate it supports.

All for Justice began spending on Sept. 29, less than 60 days after the Nov. 8 election, so every $1,000 or more spent on behalf of Rochford and O’ will not be disclosed to the public in detail within two days. I had to submit a report. Against Bryan or Republican opponents Mark Curran and Michael Burke. Instead, they submitted nothing.

Elizabeth Rochford, elected to the Supreme Court of Illinois, delivers her victory speech at the Watch Party at the Post Time Bar and Grill in Libertyville on November 8, 2022.

The general public and opposition have seen the group’s television ads, but the lack of timely spending reports suggests how much they are spending to defend two Democrats or oppose two Republicans. no one knew if they were continuing

In contrast, independent spending groups that funded Republican candidates filed the required ongoing spending reports.

All for Justice did not file timely expenditure reports, but did file required timely reports on funds received from donors and acknowledged that it was aware of state campaign finance laws. Indicated.

Strict public offering rules are a requirement of state campaign finance laws designed to give voters, watchdogs and opponents a complete understanding of where and how independent spending groups are spending their money.

“This is the crux of the campaign’s disclosure,” said Redfield, who helped shape the current law. “We’re trying to be transparent so that when people are voting, they know who’s backing a candidate and they can take that into account.”

All for Justice also failed to file detailed expense reports as part of state law requiring campaign committees to report financial statements at the end of each quarter of the calendar year.

Since the first spend exceeded $100,000, I had to submit a statement that my spend exceeded the campaign limit, technically on September 29th.

In general, the timely submission of a two-day spending report by an independent spending committee is also important for determining whether aggregate external spending exceeds campaign limits, thereby ensuring that all Candidates and committees will be able to raise and use unlimited funds, Matt said. Dietrich, spokesperson for the Illinois Election Commission.

“I’m shocked by it,” said former state senator John Milner, chairman of Justice Michael Burke’s losing Republican campaign at the time.

“He tried to do everything by the rules, but you hear this,” said Milner.

Milner said that Burke’s campaign would have made the public aware of the extra money being poured into the Democratic campaign, and perhaps more, if All for Justice’s spending had been made known in time. said it would have generated Republican applicants and donations.

Documents filed with the state board of elections list Luke Kasson as the chairman and treasurer of All for Justice. Casson is a founding partner of Andreou & Casson law firm. Additionally, in his LinkedIn profile, Casson lists himself as his Harmon, “an adviser to the office of the Speaker of the Illinois Senate.” He also serves as the Oak Park Township Democratic Commissioner on the State Democratic Central Committee, serving as the political director of Harmon’s political base, the Oak Park Democratic Party.

Neither Casson nor other representatives of All for Justice immediately responded to a request for comment.

Harmon has played a leading role in passing legislation aimed at prohibiting major state-owned contractors from making political contributions and establishing campaign contribution limits.

A Harmon spokesman said Casson often served as outside legal counsel to the Senate president’s office and was not a civil servant. Harmon did not mention any professional or political relationship with Kasson.

“Everyone is supposed to follow the rules,” the Senate Speaker said. “If something is not disclosed in a timely manner, it should be fixed immediately. And if election commissions need new tools to do this in a more intuitive and timely We are happy to work together to achieve our common goal of campaign finance transparency.”

Failure to follow the campaign’s disclosure rules will result in fines of up to $3,000 per violation after three instances of non-compliance. There were 35 instances in which the group failed to submit her two-day expense report required by the state. Collection of fines is subject to decisions by her eight members of the Election Commission (four Democrats and her four Republicans).

All for Justice filed quarterly reports on amounts raised and spent, but was not required to file reports covering October 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022 until January 17. The group has publicly disclosed that it spent nearly $6 million out of a total expenditure of nearly $7.5 million.

Still, as required by law, candidates who have spent money to profit from the work of certain vendors, such as those involved in about $6.3 million in television advertising and about $800,000 in mailers, I didn’t list it.

Alerted by Redfield and the Tribune to the transparency issue, election officials reached out to All For Justice representatives by phone to provide the necessary details late Tuesday, a few weeks after Rochford and O’Brien took office. filed revised quarterly reports that provide accurate spending information.

A victory for the Republican opponent would have flipped the partisan balance from a 4-to-3 Democratic majority to a 4-to-3 Republican majority.

However, Lake County Judge Rochford defeated former Lake County Sheriff Curran with 55.2% of the vote. By a narrow margin, Court of Appeals Judge O’Brien defeated incumbent Supreme Court Judge Burke, who was appointed to fill the vacancy, by just 51.1% of the vote. With this victory, the Democrats won his 5-2 lead in court.

Rochford’s and O’Brien’s victories were also aided by the Democratic majority in Congress, who redrawn the geographic boundaries of court districts outside Cook County in favor of candidates.

Harmon is one of the leading donors to All for Justice, contributing $500,000 from his personal campaign fund and $200,000 from the Illinois Senate Democratic Fund.

The Harmon-backed donation is part of nearly $1.1 million in donations from Democratic politicians, including $75,000 from Swansea MP Jay Hoffman and five senators who each donated $50,000. bottom.

In addition, nearly $3.4 million was donated to All for Justice by organized labor groups, and lawyers, law firms and affiliates contributed more than $2.3 million to the group.

All in all, All for Justice spent about $7.3 million on the Supreme Court election. More than $3.7 million was spent on behalf of Rochford and more than $3.6 million on behalf of O’Brien, according to new election reports.

All four Democrats and Republicans contesting the two Supreme Court seats (10-year terms) benefited from independent spending, but only All for Justice broke disclosure rules, according to Redfield. It seemed to me that

For example, Republicans benefited from independent spending by Citizens for Judicial Fairness, which received millions from Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, $4.6 million in Burke’s race against O’Brien, and Curran’s contest. Records show that he spent $730,933 on The People Who Play by Rules PAC, an independent spending committee heavily funded by Uline product billionaire Richard Uihlein, also spent over $230,000 on both Curran and Burke’s races.

The PAC Independent Commission of Individuals, the Abortion Rights Group, spent more than $940,000 on behalf of each of the two Democrats, Rochford and O’Brien, and Everytown for Cancer Safety, Illinois, was also among the two winners. We spent approximately $125,000 on behalf of each independently.

However, when all individual candidates and independents’ spending was added up, All for Justice’s spending made a big difference.

All parent Rochford’s total spending came to about $8.8 million compared to Curran’s $1.7 million, and All for Justice’s funding goes to Rochford for every dollar spent to support her. It shows that it only strengthened Ford’s already sizable lead.

But in another closer race, All For Justice funding shifted the overall spending advantage from Burke to O’Brien.

Counting All for Justice funds, the parent O’Brien spending from all sources came to $6.8 million, $1 million more than the parent Burke spent.

All for Justice’s spending efforts align with concerns often raised by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Douglas Keith, an attorney at the Brennan Center who specializes in judicial elections and spending, said state and federal disclosure laws are “very bad when it comes to timing and very easily manipulated by these groups.”

“The groups involved in state supreme court elections by seven figures are highly sophisticated political actors who know how to circumvent these laws and hide what they want to hide,” he said. Keith said.

Groups can face fines of thousands of dollars, but unlike candidates who cannot vote unless the fine is paid, the board has no enforcement mechanism. Redfield also said any penalty would be a slap on the wrist compared to the political repercussions of failing to timely report spending in the final week of the election.

“I hope there will be a bipartisan effort to strengthen the law so that this is not repeated,” Redfield said.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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