It doesn’t take much money to get Danny K. Davis re-elected to Congress.
In fact, the 7th Congressional District Democrat spent less on his 2018 campaign than any other Illinois Democrat – just $551,000.
In comparison, Democrat Bradley Scott Schneider spent $3.4 million to get elected to Illinois’ 10th congressional district in the 2018 election cycle and Illinois Democrat Bill G. Foster spent $1.8 million.
Davis has been in office since 1996. Every year, he runs virtually unopposed, always racking up at least 80% of the vote. In 2018, he pulled in 87.6% of the vote against his opponent, Illinois Republican Craig Cameron. In the 2016 election, he captured 84.2% of the vote after spending $503,000.
Of what he did spend in 2018, the highest recipient was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), to whom Davis donated $180,000 of his campaign funds. A significant amount of Davis’ campaign funds were spent to support others Democrats. After deducting the amount of money Davis disbursed to the DCCC in 2018, he spent only $375,000 on his re-election.
The DCCC financially supports Democratic House candidates in part through donations and membership dues from other Democratic House incumbents. The top donor to the DCCC in both 2018 and 2016 was Nancy Pelosi at $1.8 million. In 2016, Davis donated $110,000 to the DCCC.
Davis made 14 payments of $3,713, totaling $51,984, to J. Pope Consulting, LLC during the 2018 election cycle. Pope is a minority-owned, Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in fundraising for state and federal campaigns. The payments, however, are directed to Maryland.
Davis also used thousands of dollars in campaign funds on catering, catering supplies and visits to restaurants, such as Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington, D.C. and the southern-style Wishbone restaurant in downtown Chicago. Davis visited Charlie Palmer three times during the 2018 election cycle and spent a total of $3004 there. Overall, he spent $14,500 on catering and restaurants visits combined.
In addition, his campaign distributed $500 each for five individual student scholarships and $43,000 on radio spots for advertisement purposes, flyers and printing services.
The only time Davis has spent more than $560,000 on a congressional election campaign since 1996 was in 2010, when he spent $865,000. That year, his biggest contribution was $110,000 to Citizens for Davis, a committee to support him in elections.
According to the Federal Election Commission, a person officially becomes a candidate for the House, Senate or President of the United States when their combined expenditures and campaign contributions reach $5000. The FEC strictly prohibits campaign spending for personal use. Personal use includes mortgage payments, tuition, salary payments to the candidate’s family, fees for nonpolitical organizations, household supplies and more.
There are many grey areas in campaign finance and spending. A candidate can use campaign funds to go to a ball game as long as the conversations at the event focus on the campaign. A candidate cannot pay for household food items and supplies, unless the items are for a campaign meeting or fundraising event. A candidate can use campaign money to pay for meals during campaign events, but cannot take their family out to dinner. Many of these instances are ruled on a case-by-case basis because of the number of exceptions that exist.
In the past five years, two Congressmen have been prosecuted for misuse of campaign funds. One was Aaron Schock of Illinois, a former Congressman who was indicted on 24 criminal charges of tax fraud, filing false reports with federal election officials, mail fraud, wire fraud and misuse of campaign funds.
Schock repeatedly used campaign funds to travel by private jet solely for personal convenience. He also used campaign funds to pay his rent, go on family vacations and attend Chicago Bears football games for non-campaign reasons.
In September 2019, all charges against Schock were dropped after he agreed to pay the IRS $42,000 and reimbursing his campaign fund of $68,000.