Illinois will host what could be the most expensive race for governor in U.S. history. The huge increase in campaign spending raises a lot of questions about the rise of big money in politics. Between now and the election, Illinois Issues will examine the impact in a series we're calling Money Machines.
State Representative David Harris is retiring this year, and part of the reason is money.
He's represented Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect for two separate stints, stretching back to 1983.
"I think the primary campaign cost me $14,000," Harris said. "Now, I would think it would be probably a hundred times that."
Harris is a Republican and a fiscal conservative. Because of that, he went against his party last year and voted to end the budget stalemate, supporting a spending plan and a tax increase to pay for it. He could have run again and believes he could have raised the money to do it.
"But I would have had to go for months of basically a lot of fundraising," he said. "Because the right wing of my party has said, 'you know, you voted for that tax increase and that was just the wrong thing to do and we'll, we will spend any amount of money to beat you.'"
Any amount of money now feels possible in Illinois politics. Campaign spending has skyrocketed, fueled by donors who are able to give huge amounts. An analysis of data from the nonpartisan site Follow the Money shows that back in the 2006 legislative and statewide races, Illinois candidates raised a combined $43 million.
Most of that money came from interests groups, businesses, trade unions and other organizations - "the traditional sources of big money," as Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at University of Illinois Springfield, describes them.
Fast forward to the 2014 elections - campaign fundraising had more than tripled. A good chunk of the cash, around 40 percent, came from just a handful of big donors.
"So you've got this dramatic increase in how much money is coming into the system that is as a result of the actions of a small number of individuals," Redfield said.
This year, in the race for governor between a billionaire and a near-billionaire, campaign contributions from the candidates already total more than $150 million.