The 8th Congressional District Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi has collectively raised and spent a considerable amount more than his opponents since 2016 when he first campaigned.
Krishnamoorthi’s total receipts for this upcoming cycle weigh in at over $6 million. This is a subsequent increase from 2016’s $3.56 million and 2018’s $5.24 million. Brian Gaines, professor of political science at the University of Illinois, said in an email that nearly all incumbents outspend their challengers every cycle.
The incumbent’s total receipts in 2020 compared to his opponent’s pale in comparison in his favor. Inam Hussain comes the closest and received only about $22,000 more than Krishnamoorthi gained from a single political action committee.
Krishnamoorthi’s campaign stockpiled $9,410,355 in campaign cash on hand as of April 2021, according to the Chicago Sun Times, which reported that he’s at the “top tier of House members — not just Illinois — when it comes to saving up and not spending contributions.”
Krishnamoorthi’s campaign has built up sufficient reserves, largely intended for television and other media advertisements that highlight his accomplishments and tout his character in order to increase visibility for an Illinois Senate seat run, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
Emily Earl, University of Illinois student and president of Illini Democrats, said she wishes this large amount of spending wasn’t necessary.
“Although Representative Krishnamoorthi and I share many of the same values, this large amount of spending can be discouraging for young people like me who may want to run for office in the future because I do not know if I will have the means to do so,” Earl said in an online interview.
This behavior isn’t entirely suspect, according to Gaines.
“It is completely routine not to spend all that one raises, particularly for incumbents, most of whom do not face serious challenges in the primaries, general, or both in most years,” Gaines said in an email interview.
Gaines expanded on the idea that this behavior of increased reserves is familiar in bigger states because campaigns usually cost more. Gaines said because Senator Tammy Duckworth isn’t very old and because Senator Dick Durbin was just re-elected to a term running through 2026, having an extensive amount of cash on hand isn’t of major significance yet. Rather, for Krishnamoorthi, Gaines said “it is prudent to have a war chest, even though he’s likely to end up in a pretty safe seat.”
In the meantime, his top 10 expenditures spanning the 2020 and 2022 elections remained relatively constant.
With an increase in receipts comes an increase in consequential spending, and can be seen through Krishnamoorthi’s disbursements. His top 10 payments include some large expenditures from an organizational and logistical standpoint: Sapphire Strategies, Paylocity payroll services and donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) were top three through those years.
The fact that candidates often contribute to the DCCC instead of the opposite is initially surprising, according to Gaines.
“The maze of campaign-finance regulations make it useful for the party to have those who are flush do so,” he said. “Party leaders normally play this role and a comfortable incumbent with good money-raising talents can aim to buy friends in this way.”
There’s also a visible increase by nearly double through the top 10 disbursements in total: $569,331 in 2019 to $1,871,398 in the first part of this cycle.
About $22,000 was categorized under American Express Credit Card Disbursements, that need not be itemized if they’re under a certain amount. Brendan Glavin, senior data analyst at Open Secrets, a website specializing in campaign finance analysis, sheds some light on the documentation requirements:
“The key note here is where it says ‘Credit Card Payment — Below if itemized’ — they are not itemizing every item on the credit card bill. They are not required to itemize specific credit card transactions if the amount to that vendor does not exceed $200 over the election cycle,” Glavin said in an email.
He expanded on this from a situational perspective, “…so, if the campaign charges breakfast at ‘Joe’s Diner’ for $75 and that is the only transaction attributable to Joe’s Diner, then they are not required to itemize it in the memo items for that CC payment. This can also contribute to the ‘unclassifiable’ count.”