Illinois Congresswoman Lauren Underwood spends nearly $5 million on first election

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Lauren Underwood spent about $4.9 million to win her seat in the election for Illinois’s 14th congressional district.

Most of Underwood’s expenditures from 2017-2018 were on TV advertising and payroll processing. Underwood’s campaign spent $2,498,871 million on TV Advertising alone, according to the FEC. The payments were to the company “Ethica” in Garden City, NY. 

According to Ronnie Cho, Underwood’s political consultant and strategist, Ethica is the company that does the placement of ads on television. 

“We spent quite a bit of money on our TV buys. The majority of what we spent our money on was communications to voters and being in the Chicago media market Lauren unfortunately has to spend a lot of money for TV because were in just a big market,” he said. “Even though her district is so far out of Chicago…Naperville is like 45 minutes…So it’s not a terribly efficient way to communicate to voters but it is still being the way a lot of people consume their media.” 

Underwood’s second-highest expenditure was significantly less than her first. She spent $497,779 on “payroll data processing”, according to the FEC. On the official receipts, the campaign payroll was listed as an unnamed company in Tampa, Florida.  

Underwood’s other 2017 and 2018 other top disbursements were to Do Big Things LLC, Wildfire Contact and the Democratic Party of Illinois. 

Underwood took office on Nov. 8, 2018 and was elected by a five percent margin over Randy Hultgren. The predominately blue state has a majority of male representatives with only four women, including Underwood. 

Out of all the women Illinois representatives, Underwood’s campaign has spent the most in the 2017-2018 period. 

Other female delegates had lesser disbursements along with their campaigns in the previous election. Robin Kelly spent $914,593, Janice Schakowsky spent $1,479,815, Cheri Bustos spent $3,153,697. 

With the 2020 election quickly approaching, Underwood has spent significantly less than the last election. In the 2018 cycle, Underwood’s campaign spent a total of $4.9 million dollars, while the 2020 cycle is at $377,731.

For Underwood’s 2020 campaign, her highest expenditure thus far was $43,717, paid to Ronnie Cho, who has been on her campaign since the 2018 election. Cho is based out of New York and provides Underwood with strategic consulting services. Cho said he has worked as an Associate Director for the Obama administration from 2011 to 2014, and now owns his own full service political, social impact and media consulting firm called Cho Group. 

“I was acquainted to Lauren Underwood last summer and we were able to pull quite an upset last year,” Cho said. 

In 2018, Cho’s services cost Underwood nearly $45,000 and were among the top 15 expenses for the campaign.

“Last year I was the full-on manager. I was basically the head staff member and at that point we had raised $4.7 million so, almost a $5-million operation,” Cho said. He said he managed the staff day-to-day and prioritized Underwood’s calendar, suggesting which events she should attend.”

He said his job was “sort of being the CEO of the organization,” to make sure everything was as efficient and strategic as possible. 

After Cho, Underwood’s second-highest expenditure was $40,100 to “Do Big Things LLC”, the same company she used to help her campaign last period. 

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