Individual donors, PACs key to Jan Schakowsky’s 2020 fundraising

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Schakowsky's website

Jan Schakowsky's official photograph.

In past years, Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky has raised near the same or less than the average of other Illinois congress members. Since the 1999-2000 cycle, she has raised less than the average, according to OpenSecrets.org, a non-profit organization that focuses on collecting fundraising and spending data from the FEC and presenting it to the public.

In the last election cycle, Schakowsky, a Democrat in the 9th Congressional District, spent $1,156,860 during her campaign.

In this election cycle, Schakowsky appears to have a similar pace, having already spent $775,084 from January to September 30th.

Schakowsky’s total funds raised in comparison to the average raised by all candidates. Source: Opensecrets.org

During the 2017-2018 cycle, Schakowsky spent $228,859 at Hilton hotels in eight separate payments. Since January, Schakowsky has spent $250,373 at Hilton Hotels in three separate payments. 

Much of her other expenditures go toward salaries. Since January, about 27.1%, which amounts to $133,758, went toward paying employees. It is so far less than that spent in the 2017-2018 cycle, where she spent nearly $500,000 on her employee’s salaries collectively.

One expenditure found in the FEC data was a series of two payments that amounted to $4,255 for Lansdowne Resort located in Leesburg, Virginia. 

Other democratic elected leaders in the Democratic party also paid the same resort, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. According to The Washington Post, “House Democrats envisioned their three-day policy retreat as a celebration of 100 days in power and a unity-building exercise ahead of upcoming major political and policy fights.”

Political candidates are required to report all expenditures that amass to over $200 dollars, although usually little to no explanation of the expenditures is required. For example, if the congress member stays in a hotel, the name of the hotel is sometimes given. What the description often lacks is how the hotel was used as a campaign expense. 

Schakowsky also spent $16,069 on Diamond Communications Solutions, a communications company that builds good communication strategies for campaign fundraising. 

This year, Schakowsky has spent $21,081 on restaurants and entertainment like theaters and art galleries. Ridgewell’s catering company received $10,213 this year from her campaign. 

This seems to be a trend in Schakowsky’s spending, however, when her 2017-2018 expenditures are considered. Schakowsky visited many of the same restaurants, such as Bistro Bis and Charlie Palmer’s Steak House in 2017-2018. In that cycle, $1,211 was spent at Bistro Bis. 

A service called Political Party Time, which is linked to OpenSecrets.org, gathers information about political events from anonymous lobbyist sources. If available, the invitations to these events are posted to the site. Schakowsky paid $1,966 to Bistro Bis. An invitation is linked to this event on Political Party Time that details an event at the same location from 2014 as a “Progressive Choices PAC with the Hon. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09).” The invitation shows the date, who to pay if attending (Sarah Gersten, who is Schakowsky’s Financial Director), and the contribution amounts. 

An invite to Bistro Bis hosted by Jan Schakowsky in 2014. Source: Political Party Time, Open Secrets.org

The only other restaurant included on the Political Party Time website that is detailed in the FEC filings is Charlie Palmer’s Steak in Washington D.C. The invitations attached were from 2013 and 2012, but there is no such invitation for 2018. Eight other restaurants and entertainment venues that received payments this year are unaccounted for and it is still unclear if the events held there were for political purposes.

Broadway and the Black Ensemble Theater each received two payments from Schakowsky this since January, each payment $1,000 or more. During the 2017-2018 cycle, Schakowsky spent another $2000 at the Black Ensemble Theater and frequented other performing arts centers that were logged in the FEC data.

So far in 2019, payment of $122,301 was made to the DCCC. In the 2017-2018 cycle, Schakowsky spent $280,000 with the DNC.

Schakowsky has also made contributions to other congressional candidates. She made 16 payments of $1,000 each to other congressional candidates so far in 2019. This was more than she donated in the 2017-2018 cycle. She donated $2,003 to other congressional candidates, as well as programs that try to elect women into Congress. For example, in 2018, Schakowsky donated $2000 to Elect Democratic Women. Last year she donated varying amounts to just six different candidates ranging from $125 to over $1,000. 

Schakowsky also donated to three different professors in the Chicago area, people prominent in the Jewish community that work to elect Jewish representatives, as well as food pantries and museums. 

J Street PAC is another organization that received a series of payments from Schakowsky. This Political Action Committee is an organization that aims to to promote “American leadership to end Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.”

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