Bernard Schoenburg: Stocks-Smith ramps up fundraising

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

If cash is an indicator, somebody got enthused with SHEILA STOCKS-SMITH’s second-place finish in Springfield’s mayoral primary.

In donations of $1,000 or more alone, Stocks-Smith has raked in more than $55,000 since the Feb. 22 balloting. If $3,500 from the Democratic County Chairmen’s Association of Illinois that was received on primary day is added in, the total reported gets close to $60,000.

Part of the money comes from close to home. Stocks-Smith loaned her campaign $5,000 March 10, and her husband, Dr. LARRY SMITH, donated $10,000 on March 14. That adds to $15,000 the couple had loaned or donated earlier.

Other new donations include $5,000 each from Clifford Law Offices and Cooney and Conway, both Chicago law firms. Cullinan Companies of Peoria and DIANE OBERHELMAN, founding partner of the real estate development business, each kicked in another $2,500 — matching earlier donations of the same amount. Prairie Political Action Committee, a fund associated with U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill., kicked in $10,000, which is twice the size of an earlier donation. Simmons Attorneys at Law of Alton gave $5,000, and Gori, Julian & Associates, an Edwardsville law firm, matched an earlier $10,000 it gave to Stocks-Smith.

I should have known but just recently found out that Oberhelman is not only a businesswoman and contributor to politicians of both parties, but is also wife of Caterpillar Inc. CEO DOUG OBERHELMAN. They hosted a fundraiser at their home, featuring former first lady LAURA BUSH, for U.S. Rep. AARON SCHOCK, R-Peoria, last fall.

Stocks-Smith didn’t know of the Caterpillar connection either.

“I do not know all my donors,” she said this week. “I don’t know all my Springfield donors. I just don’t.”

After saying she was “not going to talk about who is on my team” of fundraisers, I asked why not, and Stocks-Smith said six or seven people are involved, led by MARY JO POTTER of Springfield, her finance chair, and among others are lawyer BUD POTTER and former Sangamon County Democratic Chairman BOB WESLEY. She said she’s proud to have Durbin’s support, and fundraising would not affect her decision-making as mayor.

“These people are not going to get jobs in Springfield,” she said when I asked about the big donors from other cities. “They’re supporting me based on people who also support me and what they say about me and the messages that I’m putting out there, just like people do locally.”

There is a giant gap in financial reporting for the April 5 election, as the next comprehensive report isn’t due until April 15. So the donations of $1,000 or more that must be quickly reported are the only required public indication of how much is being raised by the candidates.

Since the primary, and from reports online as of midday Wednesday, MIKE HOUSTON, who placed first Feb. 22, had raised $3,000 in such amounts from Springfield residents, and MIKE COFFEY JR. had raised $18,000 — most from Springfield sources — including $1,000 from the political fund of Sangamon County Clerk JOE AIELLO.

Aiello, a Republican, said his late mother, FLORA, was a waitress at Saputo’s, the Coffey family restaurant, and his late father, DOMINIC, tended bar there. The families have been close, he said.

“When I was a young kid, I would help out down in the basement washing dishes,” Aiello said. “I’d watch them make spaghetti sauce. I’d get a small pizza and a soda for helping out.”

“I’ve always known and respected Mike,” Aiello added. “Through thick and thin, I’m going to stand by Mike.”

The fourth candidate for mayor, FRANK KUNZ, hasn’t reported any  $1,000 donations.

A different type of fundraiser

ANDY GRISWOLD is hoping the sparkle of diamonds can help him find his way to the city clerk’s office.

Griswold’s campaign website last week featured a picture of diamond earrings and “buy now” buttons to click to buy $20 raffle tickets — or six for $100 — to win the total 1-carat set.

Griswold, a former Western Illinois University baseball player, said the idea is similar to how a youth baseball team he coached in Chatham raised money, when two shotguns were raffled off and more than $3,000 was raised.

Anyway, BRIAN DENNEY, a longtime friend of Griswold through the American Business Club in Springfield, is a salesman at his parents’ store, Denney Jewelers in Springfield, and also has his own brokerage, BD Luxury Investments. He sold Griswold, who is getting married in July, an engagement ring through the store. He also donated the earrings from his own company.

“It is not affiliated with Denney Jewelers in any way,” Denney said of his own enterprise, keeping the family business distant from the political fray.

Griswold’s original Web posting said the diamonds were “valued at $3,000,” but the in-kind contribution Griswold’s campaign reported to the State Board of Elections showed the value as $2,000. Griswold said that’s the difference between resale value and the lower fair-market value, and he intended to change the Web posting to $2,000.

However, Griswold said that after Denney received a call from me about this, he asked Griswold to remove the diamond earrings from the campaign website, which he did. Griswold is still selling raffle tickets. Griswold is also limiting sales of tickets to 500 because “people feel like they’ve got a better chance to win” when there’s a limited number.

It’s good to be optimistic.

So, is it weird for a candidate for city clerk to raffle off diamond earrings to raise money?

“We look at it the same as a silent auction item at a fundraiser,” Griswold said.

He’s running against incumbent City Clerk CECILIA TUMULTY in the April 5 election.

Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540 or