Money had varied effects in Valley congressional races
BY NATASHA KORECKI firstname.lastname@example.org November 7, 2012 8:34PM
Updated: December 10, 2012 6:17AM
If money “buys” a vote for a candidate, then ultimately the tens of millions of dollars poured into Illinois congressional races — contributing to the cynical and negative ads consuming Chicago’s airwaves for months — failed to pay off.
Seeing an opportunity to influence the balance of power in Washington, D.C., through Illinois, outside groups plowed $43 million into the top six U.S. House races in the Land of Lincoln on top of individual campaign spending.
However, in the three top Chicago-area congressional races, those who spent the most money — or had the most spent on their behalf — lost.
In each case, that was the Republican candidate.
The worst bang for the buck?
Tea party Republican Joe Walsh. Each vote he won on Tuesday cost $70.
The best deal?
Democrat Brad Schneider, who won the north suburban 10th Congressional District for about $29 per vote.
The Sun-Times added the amount that super PACs spent on a candidate to the amount the candidate reported spending from his or her personal campaign fund in the latest disclosure available. Those mid-October reports do not reflect the money each candidate spent in the crucial final weeks of the campaign.
Out of the 18 costliest House races in the country, six of them were contests in Illinois.
Bill Foster, who ousted longtime Republican Judy Biggert in the west suburban 11th Congressional District, won with the biggest margin, according to vote tallies, with 58 percent of the vote. It cost about $30 per vote for Foster, given the $4.3 million spent by or on his behalf and the 139,849 votes cast for him.
Spending on Biggert’s side exceeded $6.3 million. Ending up with 101,002 ballots cast for her, it averages out to $62 a vote.
Walsh’s Democratic challenger, Tammy Duckworth, was a relatively good investment. Duckworth’s totals meant $39 a vote with $4.7 million in spending and 120,774 votes.
By contrast, there was $7 million spent by Walsh or on his behalf attacking Duckworth in the north and northwest suburban 8th Congressional District. On Election Day, 99,922 people cast votes for him. That comes out to $70 per vote.
The closest congressional race of the three was in the 10th District, where a combination of campaign and outside money added up to $7.5 million for Republican Bob Dold. Dold narrowly lost to challenger Brad Schneider, earning 128,129 votes. That comes out to about $58 per vote for Dold.
By comparison, about $3.9 million went in on Schneider’s side, and he tallied 130,676. That’s about $29 per vote.
Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said the totals show that money is just one of a number of factors in campaigns. Democratic-controlled redistricting in Illinois was another major factor, he said.
“Clearly, you’ve got a ton of outside money that is interested in electing an R or a D. Most of this money doesn’t care what kind of representation this district gets,” Redfield said. “They really don’t care what happens past Election Day.”
Redfield said all the outside spending made for a negative tone this election cycle, combined with a lack of accountability, allowing commercials to make more outrageous claims.
“I’m just looking at these commercials and saying: ‘I know both sides are lying to me,’ ” Redfield said. “I’ll be so happy that when I turn on the TV and know the person who is lying to me is trying to sell me something rather than get my vote.”