Government

Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood spends over $5 million on reelection campaign

Jenny Tan / For CU-CitizenAccess

This entry is part 29 of 29 in the series Campaign Finance

Incumbent Lauren Underwood has spent over $5 million so far on her reelection campaign for Illinois’s 14th Congressional District.

During Underwood’s first election, her expenditures totaled $4.89 million; that number has been exceeded, with Underwood spending $5.3 million for the 2019-2020 cycle so far.

According to the FEC, Underwood’s top expenditure this cycle is for payroll, spending at least $421,143. Campaign reports show that the money was paid to an unnamed company in Tampa, Florida.

Credit card payments totaled at least $130,000 to Capital One and American Express. According to the Federal Election Committee, all of the payments were listed as operating expenditures. Looking at finance reports provided through the FEC website, the credit card payments went towards services like Uber, web hosting, email services and more. 

Underwood’s second-highest expenditure is on consulting services, paying $144,747 to Berger Hirschberg Strategies.

According to their website, the company “works with clients to develop strategies, fundraise effectively and advocate for the causes and campaigns they care about.” In addition to Underwood, listed clients and campaigns include New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, House Majority PAC and Women’s Political Committee.

Additionally, Underwood made a payment of $127,716 to Ronnie Cho. According to a previous article published on CU-CitizenAccess last year, Cho has been serving on Underwood’s campaign as her political consultant and strategist since the 2018 election, having met Underwood during the summer earlier that year.

Cho formerly worked as an Associate Director for the Obama administration from 2011-2014, but is currently based out of New York and the CEO of Cho Group, his own political, social impact and media consulting firm.

Since October 2019, Cho has been serving as Underwood’s senior advisor.

Underwood’s other top disbursements this cycle include Do Big Things LLC, a digital consulting agency; ActBlue, a nonprofit fundraising platform; and H2O Strategies, which, according to the company’s website, is a “strategic communications advisory.”

Underwood assumed office on Jan. 3, 2019, after running the highest spending campaign among women Illinois representatives during the 2017-2018 cycle. In that period, the FEC showed that Underwood paid $2,498,871 for TV advertising alone. The payments were made to Ethica Media LLC, the company responsible for arranging the placement of television ads.

“We spent quite a bit of money on our TV buys,” Cho said for an article on CU-CitizenAccess. “The majority of what we spent our money on was communications to voters, and being in the Chicago media market, Lauren unfortunately has to spend a lot of money for TV because we’re just in a big market.”

This cycle, Underwood’s campaign seems to have turned their focus online, paying $123,002 to Do Big Things LLC for internet advertisements and digital consulting services. Do Big Things LLC also appeared among Underwood’s top disbursements for the 2017-2018 cycle, along with Wildfire Contact and the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Going into this year’s general election, reports show Underwood holding a big cash advantage over Republican challenger Jim Oberweis, state senator and owner of Oberweis Dairy from Sugar Grove. According to the FEC, Oberweis raised $191,400 from January through March while spending over $1 million in the same period. Oberweis then lent his campaign $1.1 million, but later used $500,000 from campaign funds to repay himself.

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Jenny Tan / For CU-CitizenAccess

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