Big donations, decreased spending for 9th District Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s 2020 campaign

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Jan Schakowsky's official photograph.

Long-standing Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky allocated about 75 percent of her spending during the 2019-20 election cycle so far on salaries, fundraising and a contribution of $292,632 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Schakowsky has raised $1,486,862 in the 2019-20 cycle, which is slightly less than the $1,552,223 raised in the previous cycle. Of the money raised, she has spent $1,242,150, and currently has $673,802 cash on hand as of June.

Her fundraising over the past 10 years has been consistently lower than the average raised by house members according to Open Secrets, a non-profit, non-partisan group that monitors campaign finance, with over half of her fundraising coming from large individual contributions.

Her spending habits have remained consistent throughout her political career, with her annual Women’s Power Lunch as the biggest individual expense every year.

Schakowsky spent $247,797.69 on the 2019 lunch for catering and event space at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event was held over Zoom on July 20th, and expenditures for this time period have not been released yet. She offered various donation tiers of entry to the conversation, with donation ranges starting at $100 and going up to $5,600.

Donation ranges for Schakowsky’s power lunch events.

Screenshots from Schakowsky’s website show the 2020 event happening virtually

A screenshot of the 2020 power lunch held over Zoom, with speakers Jill Biden, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Lori Lightfoot noted.

Spending on the 2019 event was significantly up from previous years, as this event has been a mainstay in her finances for 18 straight years. She spent $112,313 on the event in 2018, and $105,254 in 2017.

Schakowsky’s other main expenditure was $404,642 for staff salaries so far. Finance Director Sarah Gersten has been paid $188,000 over the course of 39 payments, and in the 2018 cycle she was paid $235,091 over 58 payments. The second highest earner on her team is Benjamin Head, her political director, who has received $137,284 through 45 payments during the current election cycle.

FEC data also shows that Schakowsky spent $63,000 so far this cycle on digital strategy firm New Blue Interactive, a service which she has been using since 2016.  She spent $84,753 on the service during the last election.

Another marketing service which she uses is Diamond Communications Solutions, and has spent $10,577 on their services so far. However, the FEC lists this as mailing services instead of digital media consulting. Schakowsky has been using the company as a whole since 2004, but from 2004 to 2016 the recipient was listed as Diamond Marketing Solutions, and was filed under both mailing services and printing. From 2017 onward it was listed as Diamond Communications, but both names are the same marketing company.

Aside from her main fundraising event at the Hilton, the campaign’s main expenditures include costs for the Washington D.C.-based catering company Ridgewell’s, in which a total of $10,214 was spent, and a $4,969.45 disbursement to Hecky’s BBQ, a restaurant located in Evanston, Illinois.

Schakowsky has an annual event at Hecky’s, which, according to her blog, took place last year on the August 25. These payments date back to 2003, and the most expensive one was in 2018 when she spent $5,059.78 on the event.

Her contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have been a consistent expenditure throughout her career, as last cycle she gave $310,000 to the DCCC. She has also made contributions to 28 different congressional campaigns this cycle, ranging in amounts of $250 to $1000. She has also given $2,500 to the Democratic Party of Evanston, as well as $4,000 to Betsy Dirksen Londrigan for Congress.

Schakowsky has been outspoken about the need to donate to Congressional candidates in the past, as at her annual Power Lunch in 2018 she was quoted saying, “Everyone needs to have a personal plan for what your role will be so we can win back Congress.”

Having spent 21 years in her current position of representing District 9, Schakowsky will be on the ballot again this upcoming election, and will be challenged by Republican Sargis Sangari, who has spent $22,261 this cycle. So far she has outspent Sangari by over $1.2 million dollars.

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