Fundraising focus for unopposed primary candidate John Shimkus

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US House Office of Photography

The most recent official photograph of John Shimkus.

Despite being unopposed in the Republican primary and winning reelection to his seat by 41 percentage points over Democratic challenger Kevin Gaither, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus still spent $1.8 million during the 2018 election season.

That number was far less than the $3.4 million he spent in the 2016 election cycle, though that election included a primary challenge from Illinois state senator Kyle McCarter, who is now serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya.

Shimkus’s spending trailed that of candidates in competitive races in Illinois, such as the 6th, 13th and 14th districts. Among the election winners last year, Shimkus ranked 10th in spending out of the 18 congressmen in Illinois. 

Brendan Quinn, outreach manager at the Center for Responsive Politics and OpenSecrets.org, said he was not surprised by what Shimkus used his money on in 2018.

“It’s definitely up there [in terms of spending], but not as high as other districts in Illinois,” Quinn said. “Some people will build up their funds, spend money to raise funds for other candidates and transfer to committees. He has donated a lot to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).”

The NRCC received $363,000 from Shimkus. It was the second-largest total donation to an organization from the candidate’s 2018 fund. The Illinois Republican Party received $127,000 from his campaign as well.

Shimkus spent the most money on Gula Graham Group. The Washington, D.C.-based fundraising firm received $500,519 from Volunteers for Shimkus during the 2018 campaign. Another fundraising company, The Voyageur Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, received $57,000.

Two business consulting firms were among Shimkus’s top recipients. Edwardsville-based MB Maxwell Consulting received $100,000 and FP1 Digital of Arlington, Va. received $83,000.

Capital Grille and the Capitol Hill Club, two fine-dining establishments in Washington D.C frequented by politicians, received $131,358 and $60,146, respectively.

The expenditures included substantial amounts for hotels. Shimkus’s campaign spent $17,000 each on the Bardessono Hotel in California and the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago.

The campaign spent $2,055 on the baseball tickets for the Washington Nationals, and it also spent $4,473 on tickets at Capital One Arena, a sports and entertainment venue in Washington, D.C., that is home to the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals.

“Especially in D.C., politicians have campaign fundraisers [at sporting events],” Quinn said, noting many hold fundraisers around baseball games and postseason events. “Quite a few of them are holding events around the Nationals’ World Series games. [Democratic presidential candidate] John Delaney just held a lottery where winners can attend a World Series game with him.”

The campaign also spent $387 at Walmart on gift cards for staff, $238 on pizza for election judges and $205 on tablecloths, which Quinn said is not unusual, since staff sometimes spend hours on the phone or knocking on doors.

Shimkus also spent $150 on horseradish, likely for the International Horseradish Festival, which is held annually in his hometown of Collinsville.

Shimkus’ campaign treasurer, Mary Ellen Maxwell, was paid $75,000 for her services during the 2018 cycle. Reno Jamison, a campaign aide, was paid $4,269. Communications director Jordan Haverly received $4,000 from the campaign while Steve Tomaszewski, another campaign spokesman, received $2,484.

The campaign donated $4,000 each to Peter Roskam, Rodney Davis, Randy Hultgren, Mike Bost, Darin LaHood and Adam Kinzinger, all GOP contenders for House seats in Illinois. Shimkus gave $2,000 to former Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen in his failed reelection bid.

Local organizations receiving money included the Champaign County Republican Central Committee ($7,100), Vermilion County Republican Central Committee ($1,000), former Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten ($1000), Balloons Over Vermilion ($500), former Champaign County Sheriff’s Deputy Allen Jones ($470) and Vermilion Advantage ($347).

Shimkus announced on August 30 that he would not seek reelection to his seat in Illinois’ 15th District after having served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997.

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