Covering the Land of Lincoln

IL treasurer candidates differ on treasurer role, campaign money

SPRINGFIELD — Democrat Michael Frerichs is seeking a third term as Illinois Treasurer. He will be challenged by five-time state representative Republican Tom Demmer. Libertarian candidate Preston Nelson also wants to be on the ballot. Patrice McDermand is running a write-in campaign as a Republican.

Frerichs won decisively in 2018, getting 57% of the vote, compared to Republican challenger Jim Dodge’s 38.9%. Frerichs’ first term in 2014 didn’t come as easily. He won by only 9,225 votes over Republican Tom Cross.

Both Frerichs and Demmer won their parties’ primaries in June to become the nominees for Nov. 8.

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The duties of Illinois Treasurer’s office include investing on behalf of state and local governments and the treasurer acts as the state of Illinois’ banker. The Illinois Treasurer is fifth in the line of succession to the office of governor, behind the lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and comptroller.

Who are the candidates?

Michael Frerichs

Michael Frerichs was first elected Illinois State Treasurer on November 4, 2014, and re-elected on Nov. 6, 2018.

Before serving two terms as Illinois Treasurer, Michael W. Frerichs, 49, got his political start on the Champaign County Board and then Champaign County Auditor. He then was elected state senator in 52nd District east central Illinois, serving from 2007 until 2015. He also worked as managing director of SmartStructures and Civil Engineering Company and was a teacher at Rantoul Township High School.

Frerichs received his BA Degree from Yale University. He lives in Champaign with his wife, Erica, and daughter, Ella.

Tom Demmer

Tom Demmer, 36, got his political start on the Lee County Board 2009-2012, and then was elected District 90 State Rep. in 2013 and still serves in that office. He was also director of innovation & strategy, KSB Hospital, 2009-2022.

He received his BA Degree in communications from the University of Dayton. He lives in Dixon with his wife Rebecca, children Katie and John.

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What are the Illinois Treasurer issues?

The state currently holds $3.5 billion in unclaimed property. What would you do to increase the number of successful claims made on that unclaimed property and return it to its rightful owners?

Demmer: “Awareness is a critical component as many people are unaware of the program or what property is owed to them. Enhancing awareness includes building strategic partnerships with civic organizations across the state, leveraging those relationships to bring greater attention to the program, and working with the media to expand knowledge of the program.”

Frerichs: “With help from the General Assembly, we modernized Illinois’ unclaimed property law. And we updated our processes to utilize modern technology to make claiming your money faster and easier. As a result, under my leadership the State Treasurer’s office has returned over $1.4 billion and paid out over one million claims — more than any other treasurer in Illinois history. Additionally, as state treasurer I fought to ensure that life insurance companies pay the benefits they owe.”

What would you do to ensure a reliable return on investments on behalf of Illinois, particularly as yield rates have remained low since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Frerichs: “Under my leadership the Illinois Treasurer’s Office has earned more than $1 billion for taxpayers and been awarded the top AAA rating for the Illinois Funds investment pool. This was accomplished by (1) better coordination of cash flow needs with the governor and comptroller to better calibrate the weighted average maturity of the state portfolio, (2) bipartisan changes to state law allowing more diverse investments, including highly rated corporate bonds, and (3) a professional investment team (when awarding their top Gold rating for the fifth time in 2021 , independent analyst Morningstar said “the state of Illinois touts a strong investment team”). In 2022, however, we expect that interest rates will rise again in response to the Federal Reserve’s actions.”

Demmer: “I would immediately begin a systematic review of the office’s existing contracts with fund managers and investments consultants to evaluate:

  1. The performance of managed funds relative to applicable market trends; other
  2. The fee structures for fund managers and paid consultants.

The state treasurer should be an advocate for taxpayers providing sound fiscal guidance to ensure taxpayer money is spent responsibly and work to stop future tax increases. “

As cost of college continues to rise, what reforms or improvements need to be made to the state’s college savings programs, Bright Start and Bright Directions, to meet these increasing costs?

Demmer: “I would specifically increase communication with our Bright Start families, many of whom are trying to save for college and may not have the time or financial literacy to regularly monitor their investments. For instance, in early 2021, the treasurer’s office should have had more direct communication with Bright Start families to inform them that a market contraction was nearing. This outreach might have encouraged families to evaluate fund choices and may have mitigated the double-digit decline many near-college age students experienced months before starting school.”

Frerichs: “In 2015 I inherited a College Savings program rated among the lowest in the nation. We changed providers, cut management fees by nearly 50%, and provided more investment options to families. As a result, not only have families saved over $100 million in Fees since 2015, but independent analyst Morningstar improved their rating for the Bright Start college savings program from among the worst to literally tied for first in the nation.Bright Start has now received the top Gold rating for five consecutive years.And Illinois’ Bright Start and Bright Directions college savings pool has more than doubled from $7 billion in 2015 to over $17 billion in assets with approximately 750,000 accounts today.As Morningstar explained in 2019, Illinois has “excellent state oversight and program management, best-in-class investment options , and thoughtful investment philosophy… (and) stayed ahead of their peers by innovating in areas where most 529 plans aren’t …”

What are the finances of the campaigns?

Third quarter finance reports from the Illinois State Board of Elections show Frerichs spending more than three times the amount of Demmer. Cash on hand Sept. 30 tells a similar story, with Frerichs sitting on $2.3 million on Sept. 30, compared to $460,996 for Demmer.

Demmer spent $90,067 for the third quarter (July 1-Sept. 30), about $4,115 more than he brought in during the period. The bulk of his spending, $47,733, went to FP1 Strategies for digital advertising. Other larger expenses were campaign staff and consulting, along with travel, gas and hotel.

Frerichs spent $328,475 for the quarter, with campaign consulting the largest ticket item at $65,100 to Mellman Group. Frerichs spending went to campaign staff, promotional materials, consulting and travel expenses, gas and hotel. The campaign’s second largest expenditure was $24,211 to ABCCompuprint for campaign promotional materials. Frerichs actually ended up with $318,064 more in funds Sept. 30 than he started the quarter with.

DEMMER top expenses

• $47,733 FP1 Strategies, digital advertising

• $13,750 Tony Esposito, campaign staff

• $12,030 Red Leader Strategies, consulting

• $4,290 Colin Pruitt, campaign staff

• $3,700 Even Now Media, consulting

FRERICHS top expenses

• $65,100 Mellman Group, campaign consulting

• $24,211 ABC Compuprint, campaign promotional materials

Where’s the money coming from?

Contributions to Frerichs’ campaign totaled $646,539, with most of that, $598,550, coming through transfers rather than individual contributions. Frerichs had six contributions each of $59,900 from a variety of unions and PACs, including teachers, carpenters, construction laborers and pipefitters.

Demmer’s campaign contributions, $90,908 during the third quarter, came from other the campaigns of other Republicans. He received $25,000 from the Brad Stephens for State Representative campaign. Campaigns of Michael Unes, Win Stoller and Darrin LaHood donated money to Demmer. About half of Demmer’s funding came through individual itemized donations.

DEMMER Top Contributions

Top transfer contributions (19 contributions totaling $47,900)

• $25,000 Brad Stephens for State Representative

• $7,500 Citizens for Unes

• $2,500 Friends of Win Stoller

• $2,500 Lahood for Congress

Top individual contributions (36 contributions toiling $42,079)

• $6,000 Richard Uihlein

• $5,000 Vincent Kolber

FRERICHS top contributions

• $59,900 Carpentry Advancement PAC Fund

• $59,900 Construction and General Laborers’ Dist. Council of Chicago

• $59,900 Illinois Federation of Teachers COPE

• $59,900 Laborers’ Political League Education Fund

• $59,900 Pipefitters’ Association Local 597 UA Illinois Pac

• $59,900 UFCW Local 881 PAC

• $44,900 Illinois Laborers’ Legislative Committee

• $39,115 Trilogy Interactive, campaign consulting

• $25,000 UAW Illinois Political Action Committee

• $15,000 Associated Fire Fighters of IL PAC Fund

• $10,000 Kirby McInerney, LLP, campaign consulting

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