Mike Quigley’s campaign favors sporting events for fundraising

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US House Office of Photography

Mike Quigley's most recent official photograph.

Democratic congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois’s fifth congressional district spent over $1.2 million to win re-election in his 2018 House race against Republican challenger Tom Hanson.

Quigley easily won re-election to his sixth term in Congress with almost 77 percent of the vote compared to Hanson’s 23 percent of the vote. 

The FEC does not have data on Hanson’s campaign expenditures. 

Despite the majority vote, Quigley’s campaign saw fundraising as its top expenditure category, with $426,021 spent, with Wrigleyville Rooftops being the top recipient for the campaign’s fundraising events.

This was an increase from the 2016 cycle when the campaign spent $301,780 in the fundraising category out of a total of $822,178 spent in the cycle. This fundraising category was followed by television advertising, direct mail, transfers to national party committee, meals and beverages, mobile phones, website, polling, office fees, and campaign merchandise to round out the campaign’s top 10 expenditure categories. 

The Quigley campaign has been paying Wrigleyville Rooftops to host fundraising events for the campaign at Chicago Cubs games. In the 2018 cycle, his campaign spent $31,065 on Wrigleyville Rooftops Cubs fundraising events. This was an increase from the 2016 cycle when the campaign spent $24,143 on Wrigleyville Rooftops. 

So far in the 2020 cycle, the Quigley campaign has spent $14,194 on Wrigleyville Rooftops events. Quigley’s congressional district includes Wrigley Field, which was like a second home to Quigley when he was young.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, Quigley is a Chicago Cubs season ticket holder and quotes Quigley as saying he virtually grew up in the left field bleachers as he would take the train to the stadium to see games with his father. Quigley even engaged in a friendly congressional debate with Republican representative Fred Upton from Michigan during the 2016 Cubs World Series run about who was the No. 1 Cubs fan in Congress. 

Kent Redfield, Professor Emeritus in Political Science at the University of Illinois Springfield, emphasizes that primary fundraising event goal for a campaign that does not have to worry about a tight race is not attracting new supporters. 

“It is more likely that these types of events are annual events aimed at primarily past supporters than one-time events aimed at attracting first time contributors to the candidate,” Redfield said. “But adding new contributors is always a goal.” 

According to Redfield, at these events, the facility is being rented by the campaign at a fair market value. However, if the venue owner donates the use of the space for the campaign, then the value being donated needs to be reported as an in-kind contribution to the candidate. 

He added that these more “high-end” fundraising events serve a double purpose. The campaign events at Wrigleyville Rooftops both raise funds for the campaign as well as provide for a nice social event for Quigley’s regular high-end donors and political staff and friends.

“Congressman Quigley’s latest federal disclosure report shows more than $1 million on hand a year ahead of the next election,” Redfield said. “Still, I would not be surprised to see him hold this kind of event in the next year. Not because he needs the money but to maintain relationships with supporters and regular contributors.” 

Other incumbents would take a different fundraising route than Quigley and instead hold community parties that had low suggested contributions. Redfield said that the idea behind this is to ensure access and attention to the candidates’ supporters. 

Based on the expenditure reports of other congressional campaigns, fundraising at sporting events is a frequent event for raising money, as well as allowing the campaign’s supporters a chance to have an event to enjoy in exchange for the contribution necessary to attend. This is in accordance to the FEC campaign finance guidelines that state that all congressional campaigns are restricted to using their funds to support their election efforts. 

Brendan Quinn, the Outreach and Social Media Manager for the Center for Responsive Politics, says that Quigley’s use of fundraising at Cubs games is not uncommon at all. 

“Many politicians hold fundraisers at sporting events, and this would involve having to rent space and cater food,” Quinn said. “Quigley in particular is known to do this.”

Quigley’s congressional seat was the subject of political corruption before Quigley gained control of the seat. Illinois’ fifth congressional seat was previously held by Dan Rostenkowski and Rod Blagojevich, who were both jailed for corruption charges.

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