Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos remains far ahead in fundraising over Bobby Schilling, her Republican challenger in the November election.
As of March 31, Bustos, who unseated Schilling in the 2012 election, reporting having $1.1 million in her campaign coffers – more than 3 times his $332,000, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The Republican Party has yet to come through for Schilling in a big way.
“We know she’ll outraise us. She’ll need to,” Schilling said in a telephone interview. “Eighty percent of our money comes from individuals in our district, the voters we represent. Eighty percent of her money comes from special interests outside the district.”
He said his campaign has a lot more money than it did at this point in his successful race against two-term Democratic Rep. Phil Hare in 2010.
The new fundraising numbers, Schilling said, “are not a big deal to us.”
“We have a ground game talking with the people,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to raise money. It’ll be a tough fight.”
Jeremy Jansen, Bustos’ campaign manager, said Schilling needs to check his facts and notice that constituents recognize that Bustos is the “right choice for working families.”
“[O]ur campaign is well aware that corporate SuperPacs are on the side of Bobby Schilling and can’t take anything for granted, so we’ll continue to work hard and raise the resources we need to communicate Cheri’s record of fighting for middle class values to voters this fall,” he said in an email.
The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan online newsletter that analyzes congressional races, considers Bustos’ 17th District competitive but says Democrats have the advantage.
Russ Choma, a spokesman for the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, said he wouldn’t draw conclusions at this stage on whether Schilling will get major financial support from Republican organizations.
“The summer is when things really pick up,” he said.
In the past, Bustos, whose district includes Whiteside County, has declined to give details about how she raises funds. But Choma said most members of Congress go to nearby party call centers in Washington to contact big funders.
Even those without serious competition – including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon – are expected to raise money.
“The understanding is that you have a number you have to hit every day,” Choma said. “If you are a good fundraiser, it may not be hard for you to hit your numbers. [Incumbents] are definitely spending a lot of time on this.”
Kinzinger, whose 16th Congressional District includes Lee County, has raised $1.2 million for this election cycle, in which he faces Democrat Randall Olsen, who has pulled in just $1,734. After the 2010 census, Illinois’ Democratic Legislature redrew the lines in the 16th District to pack it with Republicans so that neighboring districts would go Democratic.
Kinzinger has given more than $140,000 of his donations to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which will use it to help GOP candidates in competitive districts.
“He is using his money to build his reputation with his party,” Choma said. “He is trying to score brownie points with people who are more in need than him. If he has a tough race the next time he runs, he can expect the party to support him.”
Here's how much candidates reported having in their campaign accounts as of March 31:
16th Congressional District
Adam Kinzinger (R) $414,829
Randall Olsen (D) $763
17th Congressional District
Cheri Bustos (D) $1,121,076
Bobby Schilling (R) $332,115
Source: Federal Election Commission reports