Fundraising reports released in 18th District Congressional race

Karen McDonald

Borrowing nearly a third of his estimated personal finances from the bank to fund his congressional campaign, Republican Congressional candidate Jim McConoughey has racked up $314,000 in campaign debt, including nearly $44,000 in unpaid bills.

Combined, his two GOP opponents in the 18th Congressional District race raised more than $1.2 million with no debts.

State Rep. Aaron Schock raised $421,478 for the reporting period Oct. 1 through Jan. 16 for a grand total to date of nearly $800,000. Former Peoria city councilman John Morris raised less than half that during the same period — $189,911 in almost exclusively individual donations — for a fundraising total of nearly $409,000, according to reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

McConoughey raised about $120,600 during the reporting period for a total of about $126,000 throughout the campaign, outpacing money he loaned to his campaign by a 2-1 margin, according to reports.

McConoughey’s campaign spent $248,534, including $137,000 on radio and television advertisement.

Campaign manager Matt Bisbee said being the last to enter the race in mid-September, put McConoughey at a disadvantage.

"We clearly did not get a head start in any way, so we’ve really had to focus our efforts on building our organization, building organizations on each of the counties in the 18th District," Bisbee said. "Coming out of the new year we’ve really surged in the fundraising arena. We’re ready to take hold and invest in the campaign."

Morris has almost $87,000 left to spend, not taking into account any additional fundraising. McConoughey lists about $47,000 in the bank, but he’s also got nearly that much in debt owed to corporate vendors, among others.

All three candidates spent their money mostly on office supplies and expenses, consulting, postage, travel and advertising. Morris spent the most on advertising during the reporting period, with $143,000 on television and radio. Schock spent more than $130,000.

Schock’s lofty treasury, which includes about $276,000 in cash on hand, along with his already established name recognition and built-in funding network from his state house races, puts him at an advantage, said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

"Schock has got a huge advantage going into the last few weeks of the campaign. Plus he’s got a lot to spend in the last two weeks, compared to the other people," Redfield said. "It’s certainly (Schock’s) to lose in terms of how he’s positioned himself and what he brought to the table to begin with."

Election reports also show that Schock drew contributions mostly came from individuals throughout the 20-county district, compared to contributions to Morris and McConoughey, which mostly are from the Peoria area.

"People don’t give to candidates just because they know them," said Schock’s campaign manager Steve Shearer. "They have to feel excitement that there’s something extra special about that candidate and be inspired by that candidate, and Aaron does that."

Federal finance laws cap the amount pledged by any one individual donor to $2,300 for the primary election and $2,300 for the general election for a total of $4,600. The candidates cannot use their entire amounts raised in the primary because some donors already pledged the maximum $4,600.

Schock can use about $176,000 of his $276,000 on-hand and Morris, who was in charge of fundraising at WTVP Channel 47, can spend about $50,000 of the $87,000 reported in cash on hand.

"People are buying into his conservative message and backing it with their dollars. Nearly all of our money is raised from individuals which shows voters of the 18th are supporting his candidacy," said Ryan Steusloff, Morris’ campaign manager.

Karen McDonald can be reached at 686-3285 or Reporter Adriana Colindres of GateHouse News Service contributed to this report.