© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Here's who is funding Mike Bost and Darren Bailey's congressional campaigns

Right: Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and Darren Bailey, left, are running to represent the 12th Congressional District of Illinois in the March 19 Republican primary.
Darren Bailey for Congress and Mike Bost for Congress
Right: Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and Darren Bailey, left, are running to represent the 12th Congressional District of Illinois in the March 19 Republican primary.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Politicians, judges and billionaires, as well as private citizens and business groups, are helping to fund the 2024 campaigns of U.S. Rep. Mike Bost and former state senator Darren Bailey, according to a Belleville News-Democrat analysis of contributions in their Republican primary race for the 12th District of Illinois.

Bailey’s federal campaign committee reported over $300,000 in donations from more than 200 donors in 2023, starting in July when he set up the committee with the Federal Election Commission to raise money months behind Bost, the incumbent.

  • Bost’s federal campaign committee has five times that amount, reporting $1.9 million in donations from more than 900 donors throughout 2023. Some notable donors to Bost’s campaign included:
  • Billionaire Linda McMahon, the former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration in former President Donald Trump’s cabinet and co-founder of the WWE, a professional wrestling company ($6,600).
  • Illinois state Sens. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy ($3,300) and Donald DeWitte, R-St. Charles, ($1,000) and state Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton ($500).
  • Local elected officials: Randolph County Commissioner Marc Kiehna ($300), Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein ($250) and Village of Godfrey Mayor Michael McCormick ($150).
  • Illinois Supreme Court Justice David Overstreet ($250).

The state Judicial Code of Conduct allows judges to donate money to candidates for public office.

Notable donors to Bailey’s campaign included:

  • Billionaire Richard Uihlein, the CEO and co-founder of the shipping supply company Uline and a conservative Midwestern donor to far-right candidates across the country ($6,600).
  • Illinois state Rep. Daniel Caulkins, R-Decatur, ($6,600) and state Sen. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport ($1,000).
  • Fifth District Appellate Court Judge Michael McHaney ($350). When McHaney previously served in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, he sided with Bailey in his lawsuit arguing that Illinois’ COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home order violated civil liberties in April 2020. Another judge later threw out McHaney’s ruling in Bailey’s suit.

None of Bailey’s 2023 donations came from political action committees, or PACs. Almost a third of Bost’s donors were PACs, which isn’t unusual, especially for incumbents in Congress.

The PACs supporting Bost mostly represent businesses, including engineering and insurance companies, optometrists and John Deere employees.

House Republican leaders also helped boost Bost’s campaign through PACs:

  • Eye of the Tiger affiliated with Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, ($10,000).
  • Majority Committee affiliated with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, ($10,000).
  • American Revival affiliated with House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, ($5,000).
  • Electing Majority Making Effective Republicans affiliated with Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minnesota, ($5,000).

In a statement to the BND, Bailey criticized Bost’s funding sources and highlighted his own small-dollar donations. Most of Bailey’s donors were individuals, including retirees, small business owners and farmers.

“I pledge my allegiance to the people, not to the big special interest groups,” Bailey wrote. “That’s precisely why the DC Swamp is desperate to bar my entry into Washington. I’m ready to fight daily for the people Mike Bost only remembers before an election.”

Bost campaign manager Myles Nelson said in a statement that the five-term congressman doesn’t base his votes on campaign contributions.

“It’s the other way around,” Nelson stated. “People want to step up and support him because of his strongly conservative voting record. He looks at the policy merits of every issue and votes for what’s best for the constituents he represents.”

Contributions from individuals are limited to $3,300 for a single federal candidate and race, the primary election, for example. Anything over that can go toward the next race, like the general election if the candidate advances.

PACs can contribute slightly more per candidate and race: $5,000. Online fundraising platforms like WinRed for Republicans and ActBlue for Democrats are helping candidates collect donations from more and more small donors.

The Trump-endorsed WinRed launched in the 2020 election cycle to compete with ActBlue, which has been around since 2004. WinRed has infused over $100,000 in Bailey’s campaign and over $60,000 in Bost’s campaign in 2023.

The campaigns spent their political contributions on fees; office costs; strategy, fundraising and compliance consulting; polling; advertising; contributions to other campaigns; travel; and events.

Candidates are required to report information about the money they’re raising and spending on a quarterly basis. The next reports are due April 15.

The primary election takes place on March 19. Early voting is already underway. The winner will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

Lexi Cortes is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Lexi Cortes is an investigative reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.