Friday, April 17, 2015 || Originally Published: School Board Focus West || By Jean Lotus
A grassroots campaign of motivated volunteers, many from Forest Park, toppled a 15-year majority on the school board of Proviso Township High School District 209 this April. How did it happen? Campaign contributions to the political committees of each slate tell part of the story.
The Proviso Children’s First Party raised almost 50 percent more money than the Proviso Together slate of Theresa Kelly, Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner. For the 12,093 ballots cast in the race, Kelly, Medina and Wagner raised $2.44 per vote while Children’s First raised $3.67, nearly 50 percent more.
Analyzing how the money flows in local elections is mostly a hindsight game, as the State of Illinois does not require political committees to disclose contributions until April 15, after the votes have been counted for local elections the first Tuesday of April. Furthermore, by that date candidates are only required to disclose contributions and disbursements up until April 1. This leaves money-shifting in a campaign’s final days under wraps until July, when committees disclose their second quarter numbers.
But in the case of District 209, illuminating differences show up between the committees of Proviso Together and Proviso Children’s First Party in the amounts donated, number of donors and the people writing checks.
Citizens for Kelly, Medina and Wagner raised $29,477 between Jan. 1 –March 31, including in-kind donations. The Proviso Children’s First Party raised almost 50 percent more, reporting $44,339 in all contributions.
A difference was the Children’s First slate received a much higher amount of in-kind donations, including last-minute printing donations totaling $11,664 reported April 1 from 7th District State Rep. Chris Welch and Del Galdo Law Group, the school district’s law firm.
The number of donors and amounts given also underscores the differences in the campaigns. As might be expected in a grass-roots campaign, Kelly, Medina and Wagner received donations from 35 individual donors, many of whom had Forest Park addresses. Donations were small but frequent, ranging from $25 to $650 for a total of 96. One local politician, Forest Park Village Commissioner and mayoral candidate Chris Harris, gave three donations totaling $355.
The Children’s First committee was able to take in more money from fewer donors, and stretched its fundraising reach to politicians outside Proviso Township. The committee reported 17 total donations between Feb. 22– when it was formed — and April 1.
Children’s First received $500 each from the war chests of Mayor Larry Dominick of Cicero; 92nd Dist. Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth of Peoria and the SEIU Local 73 PAC. Proviso Township Supervisor Michael Corrigan also kicked in $500.
During this timeframe these politicians also transferred money among and between the political campaign chests of mayors Ron Serpico of Melrose Park; Christopher Getty of Lyons and Steve Landek of Bridgeview, as well as Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolsky of McCook.
Another familiar political name to Forest Parkers was Forest Park’s hired lobbyist Matthew O’Shea who donated $500 to Children’s First. O’Shea pops up on Welch’s campaign donor list multiple times over the past several years.
The amount of money contributed by candidates and their households was almost 10 times higher by Children’s First candidates than the Kelly-Medina-Wagner slate.
Candidates Francine Harrell, Teddy Matthews and ShawnTe Raines-Welch each donated $5,000 to the committee. When family contributions from Chris Welch to his wife’s campaign are included, the total amount self-financed was $20,075.
In contrast Nathan “Ned” Wagner and family members donated around $1,900 to the campaign, and candidate Theresa Kelly donated $850.
Other heavy-hitters to the Children’s First campaign included businesses Restore Construction ($1,000) and M & M Building Services ($250), both vendors to the school district. Both companies were hired in the $5 million reconstruction of Proviso East High School after a May 2014 fire.
There was only one business donation to Kelly Medina and Wagner: $500 from Circle F Properties in Naperville.
Proviso District 209 School Board race by the numbers:
Proviso Together vs. Children’s First
Number of donors: 35 vs. 13
Number of donations: 95 vs. 17
Contributed $ per vote $2.49 vs. $3.67
Candidate self-financing $2,750 vs. $20,075
Political committee transfers $0 vs. $2,000
Total contributions $29,477 vs. $44,339 VFP