Campaign matching program clears Senate as Righter protests
Despite his loudly voiced objections, Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) must now count on colleagues in the House to stop a bill that will set up a "Small Donor" matching program for candidates running for some offices in Illinois.
Senate Bill 1424, reintroduced to the Senate by Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), would allow candidates for governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, state senator and state representative to opt into the program.
Only donations of $500 or less would be allowed under the program, with contributions of $25 to $150 being matched at a 6 to 1 ratio.
Biss has argued that the program levels the playing field by giving small donors more power in elections, but Righter called it another money grab that will hurt taxpayers already financially strapped.
“Despite the amendment that has been filed, the message back home and the question that you all will be answering if you vote for this would be, 'Wait a minute, senator, you voted to spend my hard-earned tax dollars, including the tax increase, on the campaigns that we’ve been seeing for the last few years?’” Righter said.
Biss said concerns about how the money is appropriated have been addressed.
“We had an extensive discussion about this bill a few weeks ago," he said. "One of the concerns raised was that there was a provision in the bill that was characterized by some as a continuing appropriation to ensure that the expenditures would happen regardless of the General Assembly’s decision. That’s been removed so the entire thing is now subject to a General Assembly appropriation."
But Righter said it wasn't enough.
“$50 million is the potential amount here,” he said. “I guess we’ll decide collectively or individually whether $50 million is a lot of money. I suggest to you that your constituents back home, when confronted with the fact that you voted to spend their money – up to $50 million – on the campaigns and the trash that we see on TV and in the mailboxes these days are going to wonder what you’re doing. I would urge a 'no' vote.”
Righter’s concerns were echoed by several of his colleagues, but SB1424 passed 31-23 and is now in the House.