Cheri Bustos, Democratic U.S. Representative from Illinois’s 17th District, announced in April that she will not be running for re-election in 2022.
At the end of April, Bustos had gathered just over $450,000 in funds, but by the end of June, her disbursements were just over $240,500, accounting for over half of her donations.
Throughout 2021, Bustos’s largest campaign expenditures have gone towards digital services like fundraising, advertising and advocacy strategies and reimbursements of donations.
Specifically, Bustos has spent almost $30,000 on contribution refunds, giving back to her donors after announcing she is not running for re-election. This is her second-largest expenditure of the year, next to fundraising services.
Last year, Bustos spent about $790,000 on consulting and fundraising services, with these third party companies taking the first spots on her spending list. In contrast, this year she has been returning almost the same amount spent on agency services.
Bustos was first elected to Congress in 2012. Her decision to retire from Congress came after a trying re-election in 2020, winning her seat by only 4% of votes. In past elections, Bustos won the 17th district by a landslide, even in a district that was continuously turning more red.
In 2016, Trump won the district by a small margin. Bustos, however, still won re-election and drew national attention. She became an adviser for swing-district Democrats, publishing a report on “How Dems Win in Trump Districts.”
Winning five terms was costly. Her campaign had over $3 million in expenditures of media efforts in 2020, with an additional $950,000 in contributions to the Democratic committees. Now not running for re-election, Bustos is spending her money in other ways during her last term.
Refunding donations of campaign contributions is not a rare act in the world of politics. There are many reasons why a congressperson can choose to do so: giving back leftover funds after a lost election, refunding those who have spent over the legal limit, reimbursing supporters who have a change of heart and, in this case, a decision not run.
Bustos’s team said the refunds stemmed directly from her decision to step down. Refunds were made to nine different individuals, in the same amount of $2,900, along with larger sums given back to political action committees.