Friday, February 12, 2016

Grids, gamesmanship and campaign money: Comments on comments you haven't seen on FWIW

I use "comment moderation" here at FWIW. That means when you leave a comment on a post, it just sits in the ether until I get a chance to read it and decide whether to pass it through. Sometimes I flush a comment; sometimes I think a comment is important enough to make it into a post. Three pending comments fit this latter category and give rise to the title of this post.

Please note that the comments have been edited.

The first of these, from Anonymous (by far my most prolific commenter -- would it kill you to make up a name?) poses a question that long-time FWIW readers already know the answer to:
Mr. Leyhane, I believe there are 11 Bar Associations in the “Alliance” plus the Chicago Bar Association, (for a total of 12) which issue judicial candidate ratings. Most candidates list ratings received from less than all associations on their websites. Some candidates do not even mention ratings at all. Is there a website which lists all of the ratings for all of the candidates?
Why, yes, Anon, there is, and you're looking at it right now. The CBA tells me that their ratings should be finalized by the end of next week; the Alliance tells me that their "grids" are 80% finished. I will post the CBA ratings and the Alliance grids (and the CCL ratings, which usually come out just before or just after the grids) as soon as they are released.

Candidates (or their campaign managers) will occasionally chide me for not reporting their favorable ratings the moment they get their letters -- and I will admit I've suggested to various authorities that it wouldn't be the end of the world if ratings were released on a 'rolling' basis, as they become available. But the bar associations, in general, believe that releasing the ratings as a whole, close in time to the election, maximizes their impact for the voters. And that is the purpose of the ratings, isn't it? To influence voters?

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Our second comment is also from Anonymous. This time he (or she) is musing on dark questions of strategy and gamesmanship:
Word is that the Democratic Party now has deep concerns about putting a decoy candidate in a countywide race. The faux candidate has not practiced law in years, does not have a campaign web site, and has neither spent or collected a dime on the campaign according to Board of Elections. The faux candidate does not even participate in endorsement sessions or answer the numerous questionnaires that are sent to candidates, but some preliminary polling is showing troubling results -- the shill is beating the party’s candidate. What do you call a shill with too good of a ballot name?
If you're right, Anon, after the first Monday in December, we would call such a shill... Your Honor.

Thank you for asking a question I could answer.

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Our third commenter (who gives "Greg" as his name -- and thank you for that!) offers a unique take on the question of money in politics:
Chicago Politics at work again- In a day and age when transparency in politics is preferred amongst most voters, its ironic that a candidate who is running for public office has no political committee formed and no Statement of Organization filed with the State Board of Elections. [Candidate’s Name Redacted] is one such candidate with no political committee and therefore has no requirements to file with the BOE since he has not expended $5,000 on his campaign for public office. A candidate, as such, has no obligation to file disclosures, individual contributions or expenditures. Running for public office typically costs between $25,000-$30,000 to be successful. Voters should be made aware of access to public records including the Illinois State Board of Election for a candidate’s disclosures and fundraising efforts in order to decide a candidates viability to be elected.
You know, Greg, most observers decry the corrupting influence of money in election campaigns generally, and in judicial campaigns in particular. The nice thing about judicial campaigns is that, sometimes at least, a kitchen-table campaign, run on a shoestring, supporting a really good, but politically unconnected, candidate can defeat a well-financed, party-backed candidate whose partisan loyalty may be greater than his or her legal qualifications. You seem to think that a judicial campaign can't be "viable" without raising $25,000-$30,000. Gosh, I hope that you're wrong; otherwise, what's the difference between a judicial election and an aldermanic or state rep race?

Granted, a kitchen-table campaign may be waged (and won) on behalf of a person whose sole qualification for office is a compelling ballot name. And a kitchen-table campaign might be hard to distinguish from a so-called "shill" campaign, at least for most outside observers. Or maybe a "shill" campaign -- on behalf of a candidate recruited by some Machiavellian party operative -- can evolve into a serious, albeit kitchen-table crusade. (Getting back to, and stoking, Anon's fears in the second part of this post....)

But I am unaware of any real, consistently positive correlation between campaign funds available and candidate quality. In every election cycle, there are great candidates who are rolling in dough -- but there are also questionable candidates who are as well-financed or better. And in every election cycle there are some great candidates who don't have two nickles to rub together, candidates who can't, or won't, raise money off their friends and neighbors. An informed voter can hopefully distinguish between good and bad candidates -- and hopefully penetrate the gloss with which money can disguise a candidate.

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