Government

Rep. Bill Foster’s spending focusing on staff payroll, donations in 2020 election

Miles Powers-Huang / For CU-CitizenAccess

This entry is part of 30 in the series Campaign Finance

Seeking re-election for a fourth consecutive cycle, Democratic incumbent Congressional Representative Bill Foster appears to be comfortably spending campaign money outside his own campaign, as he lacks an opponent capable of credibly threatening his seat.

Running in the 11th Congressional District of Illinois for the House of Representatives, Foster’s campaign has spent $1,451,981 so far for his 2020 cycle according to the Federal Election Commission. Records show that Foster concentrates a noticeable amount of his spending on the preservation of his own party, along with taking care of his staff.

According to the FEC, about $300,000, or 20%, of the total amount that Foster’s campaign has spent was listed as an “unlimited transfer” to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

His campaign also made payments totaling $166,859 designated as payroll and health care costs for six total employees.

Two employees, Benjamin Huntley and Robert Bourret, earned $122,676 of that total between the two of them. Huntley was paid $25,407 and Bourret made $97,269, each earning substantially more than the other employees whose pay was listed. 

Huntley’s Twitter account (inactive since 2016) features numerous retweets of Bill Foster’s own account. Meanwhile, Bourret lists himself as a former intern at both the Adelstein Liston and Conlon & Dunn Public Strategies political strategy organizations per his Facebook page. He also worked as a data analysis assistant for Pat Quinn’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

Beyond employee payroll, Foster’s campaign has concentrated a good portion of the other disbursements for his 2020 cycle in supporting other liberal campaigns and organizations around both the state and country. According to the FEC, 158 different campaigns and groups have received funding from the Foster campaign in 2020.

Records dated on October 5, 2020, show one of the organizations Foster’s campaign donated to was the National Redistricting Foundation in the amount of $10,000. The foundation is a group that works to fight against the very practices that, some people at the time, including The Christian Science Monitor, argued Foster used to his advantage to gain office in 2012. 

One of the key factors that allowed Foster to gain election to Congress in the first place was the redistricting of Republican Adam Kinzinger out of the 11th district and into the 16th for the 2012 election cycle. That move, along with the annexation of the Joliet and Aurora areas into the 11th district, were seen by some as redistricting to intentionally favor the Democrats

The Foundation states that its goal is to “dismantle unfair electoral maps and create a redistricting system based on democratic values in advance of the 2021 redistricting cycle. By helping to create more just and representative electoral districts across the country, we also hope to restore the public’s faith in a true representative democracy.” 

Aside from contributing to the causes and campaigns of others, Foster’s campaign did spend a small amount of its budget on self-promotion. The Foster campaign spent $168,992.92 on advertising in the forms of mail, printing signage and radio airtime. That figure accounted for only 11% of his total disbursements. 

According to ballotpedia.org, three respected congressional district political affiliation ranking services (The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball) each categorize the 11th District in Illinois as either a safely or a solidly Democratic-rated area. 

According to the following chart by OpenSecrets.com, there has been a gradual decrease in Republican fundraising following Foster’s ascension to office in 2012.

Rep. Bill Foster’s fundraising compared to his opponent throughout the election cycles, beginning in 2008.

According to Open Secrets, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that monitors federal campaign finance, Foster’s 2020 Republican opponent, Rick Laib, has spent just $8,243 on his campaign so far. 

Furthermore, in the 2018 cycle, Foster’s opponent, Nick Stella, spent $271,262 on his campaign compared to the Foster campaign’s $1,690,451. In 2016, Tonia Khouri opposed Foster for the Republican Party, but her campaign spent just $744,893 while Foster’s doled out $1,666,528. Even dating back to 2014, Republican Darlene Senger’s campaign spent just $763,134 versus the Foster campaign’s $1,812,623. 

Not since 2012 has a Republican candidate in the 11th district spent as much as Foster. When Judy Biggert was the incumbent, her campaign spent $3,235,189 against Foster’s $3,532,806.

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Miles Powers-Huang / For CU-CitizenAccess

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