Wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner added another $1.3 million of his own money to his bid for the Illinois Republican governor nomination, bringing his out of pocket total to $5 million, state disclosure reports filed Monday showed.
The latest contribution means Rauner is poised to easily eclipse the state record for spending personal funds in a primary race for governor. That mark was set by Chicago businessman Ronald Gidwitz who, with his wife, gave $5.3 million to his losing 2006 primary campaign.
Despite the money, Gidwitz finished fourth in a five-way contest for the nomination with less than 11 percent of the primary vote. This time out, Gidwitz is backing Rauner. In 2010, Gidwitz supported state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, who is running again in the March 18 primary election.
Rauner has raised more than $12.7 million since entering the race almost a year ago. Potentially the wealthiest candidate ever to run for office in Illinois, Rauner’s personal funds are helping combat a late slate of attack ads against him funded by a coalition of public employee unions and the Democratic Governors Association.
On Monday, Republican opponent Bill Brady contended Rauner’s support as a front runner was weakening.
“Well, clearly Bruce Rauner is trying to buy this election,” said Brady, a state senator from Bloomington who narrowly lost to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in November 2010. “But at the end of the day (Rauner) is wrong for the Republican primary voters on the issues, and his support for Democrats and a close allegiance to (Chicago Mayor) Rahm Emanuel will not work in his favor.”
A recent Tribune/WGN-TV poll showed Rauner, the only candidate in the contest to run a sustained and expensive TV ad campaign, at 40 percent and Brady at 20 percent. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, buffeted by a federal lawsuit from a former employee, had 13 percent, and Dillard had 11 percent in the poll. None of Rauner’s rivals have been able to come close to the frontrunner’s fundraising capability.
Rauner has countered charges from his GOP opponents that he is trying to buy the election by saying his personal wealth makes him impervious to special interests. For his part Brady said he is taking advantage of the base he built in his previous statewide run for governor.
“He can continue to fund money into this election, but we’ve got this base of support that’s with us on the issues and the carryover from the last election,” Brady said of Rauner.
“Regardless of what he’s spent, we still have the effect of the last election spending to help us build that base of support. We’ve been consistent on that. And frankly his lack of transparency and availability is giving great questions to voters in this state about his candidacy,” Brady said.