Robin Kelly’s campaign targeting fundraising for 2020 cycle

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Portrait of Robin Kelly from her House of Representatives website.

In the 2018 election cycle, Congresswoman Robin Kelly spent $879,435 in total – one of the lowest amounts spent – defeating David Merkle by 183,816 to 43,875 in votes. 

Kelly’s largest expense was for her fundraising consultant Lauren Cvengros, through LBH Chicago, which cost $252,911. Although the 2020 cycle is not yet complete, Kelly has only spent $211,387 in total. Her greatest expense was again for her fundraising consultant, Cvengros, which cost $73,681. 

According to OpenSecrets.org, a non-profit research group that tracks “the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy,” Kelly has spent 57.68% of her total spending towards fundraising, 17.29% towards administrative costs, 16.73% towards unclassifiable costs, 3.09% towards contributors, 2.17% towards strategy and resources, and 3.04% towards all other miscellaneous costs in the 2018 cycle.

Kelly has served as the U.S. Representative for the Illinois 2nd congressional district since 2013. From 2003 to 2007, Kelly served in the Illinois House of Representatives. She went on to be chief of staff for Illinois State Treasurer, Alexi Giannulli, until 2010. Before Kelly ran for Congress, she was the Cook County Chief Administrative Officer.

She is a member of the Democratic party and has self-proclaimed that she has “dedicated her career to public service as an advocate for Illinois families.” She has also worked toward expanding economic opportunity, community wellness and public safety, as well as working with numerous initiatives to generate job growth, to reduce health disparities and to end gun violence.

The Federal Election Commission oversees campaigns for Congress and the White House. Acting as a regulator, the FEC publishes spending and finance documentation for all the candidates. After the Watergate scandal, Congress passed a law that requires federal campaigns to report their spending to the FEC. This process was intended to keep candidates in check and to give power to the voters to make informed decisions.

The FEC has established laws on spending. Specifically, it is prohibited to use campaign funds for any personal use. “If the expense would exist even in the absences of candidacy or even if the officeholder were not in office, then the personal ban applies,” according to the FEC website.  

Campaign-related expenses include day-to-day operations, campaign fundraising, advertisements, charity donations, gifts, salaries, etc. There are some expenses that are determined personal of campaign relates case-by-case such as meals, traveling, transportation and legal expenses. 

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Kelly made 20 different payments to LBH Chicago, totaling $132,565; 11 payments to Advanced Network Strategies, totaling $109,943 and 11 payments to the Democratic Congressional Campaign, totally $92,022 during this cycle. Kelly made 65 payments to First Bank Merchant Services, that only cost $9,990 in total. 

Some notable spending from the 2018 cycle were $51,676 to the Olympia Fields Country Club, $13,500 to the American Society of Anesthesiologists and $12,639 to the Chicago Athletic Association. 

For the 2020 cycle, she has spent 60.68% of her total expenditures fundraising, 18.84% towards administrative costs, 8.85% towards strategy and resources, 6.41% towards unclassifiable costs, 4.98% towards salaries and 0.25% towards all other miscellaneous costs.

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Kelly made five payments to LBH Chicago, totaling $43,500; six payments to Advanced Network Strategies, totaling $30,180 and two payments to the Democratic Congressional Campaign, totaling $20,000 during this cycle. 

Some notable spending from Kelly’s campaign in the 2020 cycle were $6,000 to Jon V Moore (a pastor who preaches acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community), $4,370 to Mercury Skyline Cruise Line (a Chicago sight-seeing tour by boat), and $3,213 to the Chicago Cubs.

Between the two cycles, Kelly has stayed consistent in what her campaign expenditures go towards. The top three have been LBH Chicago, Advanced Network Strategies and the Democratic Congressional Campaign both times. In both cycles, her greatest expense was towards her fundraising consultant, LBH Chicago. Kelly has also spent the majority percentage of her spending on fundraising in both cycles. 

The two most recent cycles are even consistent with Kelly’s expenditures from the 2016 cycle. She spent 67.6% toward fundraising, 13.99% toward administrative costs, 12.04% towards strategy and research, 2.98% towards contribution costs, 2.64% on unclassifiable costs and 0.75% on all other costs. She made seven payments to the Democratic Congressional Campaign, totaling $125,000; 18 payments to LBH Chicago, totaling $104,780 and eight payments to Advanced Network Strategies, totaling $85,396.

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Overall, Kelly has been consistent in where she spends her campaign money, how much money she spends and the percentages she delegates her costs towards. 

Campaign finances are made public to the voters so there is transparency in what candidates are spending their money on. The mission of the FEC is to “protect the integrity of the federal campaign finance process by providing transparency and fairly enforcing and administering federal campaign finance laws,” according to their website.

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