Madison County campaign donations soar in 2004

Brian Timpone Sep. 16, 2004, 6:39am

John Simmons

Jeffrey Cooper

John Barry Julian

Pamela Wise

Thomas Lakin

Bradley Lakin

Madison County is showing federal candidates the money.

Presidential hopeful John Kerry, U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama, and dozens of other Democrats running for federal office have been the major beneficiaries of a surge in Madison County political generosity this 2004 election cycle, according to a study of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data by The Record.

As of August 1, with three full months left before election day, Madison County's collective federal election donations were already up 270% over 2000, the last presidential election cycle when President George W. Bush defeated Al Gore.

All told, Madison County residents have donated some $1.85 million so far this year versus $497,000 for the entire 2000 election cycle. Democrats have snagged 84% of this year's total.

Madison County outpaces Chicago suburbs

Once a day trip on the campaign trail for cash hungry Illinois candidates, Madison County's recent giving has made it a serious destination.

This year, Madison is on pace to outgive Will County (3 times its size) and Kane County (2 times).

At $7.06 per resident, Madison County now is the third most generous county in Illinois.

Locally, Edwardsville's 62025 zip code is Madison County's most giving, having already contributed $665,691 in 2004. That's an increase of 612% over the $93,435 its residents gave in 2000.

Alton (62002) is second, having given $221,976 versus $77,070 in 2000, an increase of 188%.

The top two zip codes in Illinois cover Chicago's Gold Coast (60611) and Lincoln Park neighborhood (60614), which have donated $3.75 million and $3.419 million respectively.

Plaintiffs Attoneys lead the way

Increased attorney donations have made the overwhelming difference, as successful and wealthy local firms have started seriously mixing it up in national politics.

Thus far in 2004 SimmonsCooper law partners John Simmons and Jeffrey Cooper have given $179,000 and $257,500, respectively.

That's quite a contrast with 2000, when Simmons made no federal donations and Cooper only made one $300 donation to Rep. Jerry F. Costello (D-Belleville).

Critics suggest the giving trial lawyers are thinking of their pocketbooks.

"There is a reason why there is so much trial lawyer money coming from Madison county," said Dan Proft, a Chicago-based Republican poltical consultant who works on federal races. "Quite simply, trial lawyers have a huge financial incentive to keep the courts the way the are where common sense is suspended and there is no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit."

All Madison County population centers that saw increases did so because of attorneys.

Godfrey gave $142,700 versus $49,220 in 2000. Godfrey attorney John Barry Julian gave $93,000, all to Democrats. He made no donations in 2000.

Maryville gave $102,392 versus only $5,300 in 2000. Maryville attorney and Julian partner Pamela Wise gave $81,600 of it, all to Democrats. She made no donations in 2000.

Wood River gave $123,200 versus $21,725, $63,000 of which came from prominent personal injury attorney Thomas Lakin. He gave just $11,000 in 2000.

East Alton gave $192,740 versus $39,805, with Thomas Lakin's son, attorney Bradley Lakin, contributing $106,500. He gave only $3,000 in 2000.

All Lakin contributions went to Democrat candidates or related committees.

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