Tuesday column: Democratic congressional contender Tammy Duckworth's campaign would rather the national aspect of her fund-raising strategy not be the subject of stories.
Wednesday, Cegelis campaign reacts -- See posting
For more on Duckworth's campaign fundraising and her powerful patrons--information her campaign would rather keep under wraps--click here for my latest column.
Big Dems take sides in House race
March 2, 2006
BY LYNN SWEET SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
With the Illinois primary less than three weeks away, some of the nation's biggest Democratic names are raising money for wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth, taking sides in a suburban congressional contest.
Duckworth travels to New York on March 12 for a fund-raiser hosted by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is the Democrats' star draw. Wednesday night marked the deadline for the latest federal reporting period, and by all indications, Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, will swamp her rivals, Christine Cegelis, of Rolling Meadows, who was the 2004 nominee, and college professor Lindy Scott, who lives in Wheaton.
Duckworth's big-name strategy is twofold:
First, to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to keep her television spots on the air.
Second, to demonstrate a sense that she alone has the powerful patrons who can help level the financial playing field in what is certain to be a multimillion-dollar November showdown with state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton).
Roskam will be the Republican nominee because he has no opponent in the March 21 primary. With the retirement of Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), national Democrats led by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the chairman of the House Democratic political operation, see a chance to turn a rarely open red seat blue. "She is making sure she has the resources to communicate,'' Emanuel told me Wednesday, bringing up Vice President Dick Cheney's impending visit to the suburbs.
The money chase is a big part of the Duckworth and Roskam campaigns and Roskam is showing more of his fund-raising hand. On March 13 Cheney will travel to a banquet hall in Addison to headline a fund-raiser for Roskam. And on Monday night, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) hosts a big-ticket reception for Roskam at a club in downtown Chicago. Last fall, Hastert, the rest of the GOP House leadership team and the GOP House members from Illinois raised money for Roskam at a Washington fund-raiser.
The Cegelis campaign caught a few breaks in recent weeks.
She won the endorsement of the grass-roots-oriented Democracy for America, chaired by Jim Dean, brother of Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman. So far the DFA Internet appeal, up for a few days, showed $7,715.18 from 272 contributors.
On Wednesday morning, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) sent out an e-mail appeal for Duckworth and other Iraq war vets running for Congress. By the afternoon, Duckworth spokesman Billy Weinberg told me the Kerry letter in just six hours raised tens of thousands of dollars for Duckworth. Kerry "also raised some money for us today,'' Cegelis told me. After Kerry's e-mail hit, "they went to our site and made a contribution in unfavorable reaction to what he did.''
Duckworth got in the race at the urging of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and the packaged campaign Durbin, Emanuel and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) created for her has spawned resentment in segments of the grass-roots activist Democratic community.
Duckworth's campaign seed money was provided by political action committees and donors connected to Durbin, Emanuel, Obama, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Professional fund-raisers working for the four Illinois lawmakers -- all with golden Rolodexes full of national contacts -- are helping Duckworth. And Pelosi and Emanuel also joined in another e-mail plea for money, setting a goal of raising $250,000 by Feb. 24 in order to bankroll Duckworth's TV spots. Retired Gen. Wes Clark also sent a letter to benefit Duckworth.
On Sunday, Duckworth's Finance Committee chairman, bankruptcy turnaround specialist William Brandt, and his wife, Patrice, hosted a big-dollar event at their Winnetka home, with special guests Schakowsky, Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) and former Ambassador Joe Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame, was the CIA agent whose outing became the basis for a leak probe led by Chicago-based U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
Wilson was in the Chicago area also appearing at a Schakowsky fund-raiser to benefit her political action committee.
Duckworth's campaign would rather the national aspect of her candidacy and fund-raising not get special attention. In the questionnaire Duckworth filled out for the Sun-Times editorial board, she did not respond to a series of questions about fund-raising. Weinberg said the omission was accidental and sent the requested information.
But how and where candidates go to raise money should be part of the public policy discussion under way before Congress, which is grappling with ethics and lobbying reform. Obama and Emanuel have been taking a lead on these issues. It's worth saying again, with another big money race at hand: Fund-raising -- where candidates go to raise money and who helps them -- should be done in the sunlight.