Campaign committees run by Illinois' legislative leaders haven't suffered much since new campaign contribution laws took effect in January 2011. The House Republican Organization and Democratic Party of Illinois both received more money than in the previous two non-election years, 2009 and 2007. The Republican state Senate committee received about the same amount in 2011 during the same time periods. The Senate Democratic committee took a significant hit going from $2.6 million in 2009 to $2 million in 2011.
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Party leaders will have more power than in previous elections because they are still allowed to contribute unlimited amounts to candidates during general elections while other donors are now limited. That has David Morrison of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform worried. “Our concern there is that parties and caucuses themselves may become conduits for groups who want to funnel money to a candidate and they can't give any more than they've given so they'll give it to the party or the caucus and then they'll pass it through. It's certainly the most glaring risk and weakness in the current law,” Morrison says. Morrison says the caucuses may be raising similar amounts as they did in years past because the base of contributors is broadening. “President Obama, for example, when he ran federally (he) ran under limits but raised more money than anybody because he broadened his base of donors. It's very possible to run under limits you just can't take it all from one person or a small group of people,” Morrison says.
However, despite the lack of change in overall contributions, the law is still historic for Illinois, which was once considered the “Wild West” of campaign finance, Morrison says. “Limits in Illinois are much higher than they are in other states. But we went without having limits at all much longer than other states went without having limits. Our culture of politics is much different than cultures in other states,” Morrison says.