Congressional candidate Brad Schneider (D-IL 10th District) has sharply increased his donations to other groups from nearly $2 million in campaign funds as he seeks reelection in November.
According to an analysis of FEC records, Schneider gave $53,825.48 to charities and medical workers, and $400,110.3 to the Democratic Congressional Committee, which uses those funds to support other Democratic candidates.
Schneider has far outspent his opponent Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee (R) who has spent $61,700 and $0 in donations in the 2019-2020 campaign cycle.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are utilizing Schneider’s campaign donations for such items as food and shelter assistance.
United Way of Lake County received the largest amount of donations from the campaign. Senior manager of donor relations, Maria Gray, said his $3,000 donation went to support its Covid-19 Community Response Fund.
The fund is in partnership with the Lake County Government, Lake County Community Foundation and Lake County Municipal League to provide necessities to its communities and individuals most impacted by COVID-19 by supporting 38 nonprofits.
Support is going to the increased need for food, housing/shelter/rental assistance, domestic violence and mental health resources. These needs are being identified through the 2-1-1 information and referral helpline.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Lake County Illinois received an “awesome” $1,000 in donations from the Schneider campaign, said NAMI Lake County President Mary Jouppi. She said the money is being used toward Zoom class supplies, training, virtual events and printing.
Schneider’s campaign donations show that 64 percent, $34,250, of its donations to charities and medical workers went to food banks.
The Northern Illinois Food Bank has seen a “huge spike” in food insecurity and they have distributed a record amount of meals since March, including 30 million school meals between March and June, according to spokesperson Liz Gartman. She says Schneider came to their office wanting to “help out, and make a difference”.
Amidst lack of haircuts in the spring, Schneider joked that he wanted to do a “fundrazor” to support the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
Gartman said he personally gave $2,500 in an online donation, and his office matched $5,000. Schneider’s campaign donated a total $2,000. Gartner expects to continue to see a rise in food need at the Northern Illinois Food Bank for at least a year if not more.
While Schneider’s donation to the Northern Illinois Food Bank will help programming across 13 counties, he has directly made food bank and relief donations to over 10 townships, churches and other nonprofits. Additionally, combined Quonset Pizza and Jimano’s Pizzeria received $525.48 campaign funds for medical workers’ meals.
“Campaign committees can give gifts to charity. The amount donated to a charitable organization cannot be used for purposes that personally benefit the candidate,” according to the FEC.
Donations to charities are not uncommon in the 10th District, which encompasses north Chicago suburbs. In the competitive 2016 election, both Schneider and then-incumbent candidate Robert Dold (R) spent a total of $5.6 million in expenditures, with Schneider donating $250 and Dold giving $2,300 to charities. Then in 2018, Schneider’s campaign donated $8,200 to charities.
Zachary Cook, assistant professor of politics at Lake Forest College in District 10 wrote in an email, “It is not uncommon for there to be big fundraising disparities between favored incumbents and challengers who are seen as facing an uphill race.”
He wrote that President Trump is not popular on the North Shore and that even for Republicans in Lake County, Trump is not a good fit for many of them.
“The expectation is that many Democrats will turn out this year to cast an anti-Trump vote in IL-10, and then of course they will also be voting for Schneider. All of this creates the perception that Representative Schneider is in a safe place for the 2020 race,” Cook wrote.
He also wrote that Schneider is a skilled fundraiser, and “the perception that he is the strong favorite to win reelection creates another difficulty for Republican challenger Valerie Mukherjee, since IL-10 is also an extremely expensive district to campaign in. Because of Covid-19 you cannot really run a door-to-door campaign.”
According to analysis of FEC records, Ramirez Mukherjee’s’s primarily self-financed campaign has spent 71 percent, or $44,094.92, of its expenditure on different types of consulting, including fundraising consulting. Schneider’s largest expenditures of about 24 percent went to campaign contributions and payroll, $146,000 and $276,326.59 respectively.