Government

Rep. Lauren Underwood yet to accelerate spending to previous level

Danielle Rhody / For CU-CitizenAccess

This election cycle is not even a year in, but there are some noticeable changes in the overall expenditures of Rep. Lauren Underwood.

Underwood, a Democratic representative, spent $743,899 from Jan. 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021, for the upcoming election cycle. In the previous cycle, she spent more than $7.36 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

During Underwood’s last campaign, she spent 61.27% of her funds on media and 16.89% on salaries. For the current cycle, Underwood has spent 27.35% on media and 34.96% on salaries so far. She has spent the remaining funds on research and strategy, according to OpenSecrets. a website specializing in campaign finance analysis.

In the 2019-2020 election cycle, Underwood spent the most on Win Creative for over $2.78 million, but she has not spent any money towards the company this cycle so far. Win Creative is a company that assists politicians with advertising and cross-platform media planning approaches. 

Brendan Glavin, a senior data analyst at OpenSecrets, said campaigns generally spend the most money about “six to eight weeks before the election.” He also said they usually spend this money on different types of media advertisements.

She has also not spent anything at Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrat’s campaign arm, this cycle. In the previous cycle, she donated $175,577.

Another one of her top expenditures in both cycles is her credit card company, Capital One. In the previous cycle, she spent $187,879. So far, she has spent $35,447 this cycle. However, the itemization section on Underwood’s credit card payment forms was filled in incorrectly, so it is unknown what it is being used for. A previous CU-CitizenAccess article discovered the same issue, but were able to determine the purchases went towards services like Uber, web hosting, email services and more.

Underwood spent $173,191 on ActBlue Technical Services and $1,131,479 on Payroll Data Processing last cycle. This cycle, she has spent $43,711 and $235,217, respectively. These expenditures rank among the top 10 in both cycles. 

According to their website, ActBlue is a non-profit organization that helps “Democrats and other progressive political groups build small-dollar fundraising programs with our cutting-edge online fundraising tools.”

In the current cycle, five of Underwood’s top 10 expenditures went toward individuals. Only one, Ronnie Cho, was located in the last cycle’s top 10. Cho is the senior advisor for Lauren Underwood for Congress. 

According to OpenSecrets, Underwood paid Cho a total of $193,000. So far, she paid Cho $50,000 for this cycle.

Underwood has been in office since January 2019. She is the youngest African American woman to serve in the House of Representatives. According to Lauren Underwood for Congress, Underwood is also a registered nurse and health policy expert. Former President Obama appointed her to serve as a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services prior to her first campaign.

She represents Illinois’s 14th Congressional District, which includes the north and western suburbs of Chicago.

During the last election cycle, she ran against Republican Jim Oberweis. Oberweis spent over $3.2 million on his 2020 campaign, according to the FEC. This means Underwood spent over $4.16 million more than her opponent.

Glavin said incumbents usually spend more money than challengers in an election cycle. However, the breakdowns of their expenditures will not be terribly different from a challenger. The area that usually has the biggest difference between an incumbent and a challenger is fundraising. 

“An incumbent has a donor base that has already given to that candidate previously,” Glavin said. “The incumbent doesn’t have to spend, normally, doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to go out and find people to get the money. If a challenger doesn’t have that high name recognition in a donor community, they’re going to have to spend more money to go out and reach those people and convince them to.”

A member of Underwood’s team did not respond to a request for comment. 

Danielle Rhody / For CU-CitizenAccess

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