Campaign contributions from the area's biggest asbestos attorneys are helping bankroll candidates running in a couple of high profile local races.
More than half of the money Democratic candidate for Madison County Treasurer Marleen Suarez has raised in individual campaign contributions this election cycle has come directly or indirectly from the asbestos bar.
Suarez, running against incumbent Republican Kurt Prenzler, has received at least $11,500 in direct contributions from asbestos attorneys and $16,000 indirectly from organizations funded primarily by asbestos attorneys.
The Simmons Hanly Conroy firm in Alton contributed $10,000 to Suarez's campaign on Sept. 25. Gori and Julian of Edwardsville contributed $1,000 in April and the Goldenberg firm of Edwardsville contributed $250 last December.
The Madison County Good Government Team contributed $15,000 to Suarez on Oct. 3. Between April 3 and Sept. 30, Gori Julian and its founding partners contributed $40,500 to the organization.
The Madison County Eastern Democratic Organization contributed $1,000 to Suarez on Sept. 17. Gori and Julian contributed $5,000 to the organization on Aug. 29.
Campaign finance records currently available through the Illinois State Board of Elections website list contributions in amounts of $1,000 or greater since July 1. Reports detailing all fund-raising activity through the third quarter are due to be filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections by Oct. 15.
Prenzler, in the meantime, has raised about half as much as Suarez this election cycle. As of Oct. 14, Prenzler had raised $25,120 in individual contributions, compared to the $44,824 Suarez has raised in individual contributions. Prenzler, however, has gathered contributions from about twice as many sources as Suarez, about 50 to 25.
The largest single donation Prenzler has received, $2,500, came from Truck Centers of Troy on Aug. 9. Eagle Forum State PAC donated $1,500 on Sept. 9. The Madison Count Republican Women's Committee gave $1,000 on Aug. 20. Prenzler has received three separate donations of $1,000 apiece from William Schrimpf of Piasa Management Co.
In a race for Madison County circuit judge, Associate Judge Clarence Harrison, Democrat, faces St. Jacob attorney John Barberis, Republican, for the seat vacated by former judge Ann Callis.
Harrison has so far raised more than $100,000 in individual campaign contributions this election cycle. A vast majority of those contributions have come from the plaintiffs' bar, and almost half - at least $47,000 - has come from asbestos attorneys.
Barberis has not established a campaign committee with the Illinois State Board of Elections. He has said in previous interviews that he would not accept contributions from attorneys who could potentially come before him as judge.