Self-funded campaigns unethical

With the Illinois gubernatorial election only eight months away, criticism and promises from each candidate are growing louder. In the case of Republican frontrunner Bruce Rauner, the scrutiny reached new heights when statewide labor organization AFL-CIO filed an ethics complaint against him.

The organization claimed it filed the complaint because Rauner violated the Illinois Procurement Code, which outlines what constitutes legitimate and illegitimate income. The complaint may not result in legal action against the candidate, but it does highlight his excessive campaign contributions, which damage his image and the integrity of the race.

The complaint states that Rauner, a wealthy former venture capitalist, has been unethically contributing excessive funds to his own campaign. He has donated approximately $2 million to date, according to the Illinois Board of Elections. The campaign itself spent a bloated $4.3 million from October to December, according to the latest report available, compared to incumbent Pat Quinn’s campaign, which spent $313,362 in the same period.

Under the Illinois Procurement Code, a company with more than $50,000 in investments in state agencies cannot contribute to a political campaign, and while Rauner resigned from GTCR, his former venture capital firm, the company still donated to him.

Although the AFL-CIO has a point that jumping a campaign with personal funds is distasteful, Rauner’s contributions are not deemed illegal under the Illinois Procurement Code. There should be a cap, however, on how much of a campaign’s finances can come from one party to prevent elections from becoming a battle of wealth.

The issue of funding in politics came to the forefront in the 2012 election, when political nonprofits donated billions to their preferred candidates with little accountability. In February 2013, the campaign committee for David Gill, a former contender for the 13th Congressional District seat in Illinois, filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, claiming excessive contributions from the nonprofit American Action Network caused Gill to lose. The ethics statement included in the Illinois Procurement Act is a valid guideline, but the law is general and allows for loopholes to slip through if an individual wants to contribute excessive amounts.

Rauner has notoriously been absent at several debates and depends upon heavily scripted advertisements, relying on his own coffers to promote his campaign. If Rauner wants to win the election, he needs to present a more honest face. Rauner should not be punished for his wealth, but he should certainly take into account the image his enormous campaign contributions create.

To encourage public acceptance, a candidate needs to prove his or her trustworthiness, and pouring money from his own pockets into his campaign does little to reassure voters of Rauner’s sincerity.