Two of the four Madison County judges up for retention put more of their own money into their campaigns last month.
And Citizens for Judicial Integrity (CFJI), the gropu that has been advocating a "no" vote on the judges' retention, created a campaign committee in mid-October.
As of Wednesday, CFJI had raised about $1,800, all but about $500 of which came from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
That amount isn’t much in comparison to the campaign coffers of the four judges, who collectively have reported more than $242,000 in receipts since July 1. Receipts include contributions, transfers and loans.
Records from the Illinois State Board of Elections show that Chief Judge Ann Callis donated $66,000 to her campaign committee during the month of October and Circuit Judge Dave Hylla contributed $15,000 to his committee last month.
Callis’ committee also cut checks to the committees of Hylla and Circuit Judge John Knight for about $13,333 each for television advertising.
Hylla and Knight each spent about $20,000 on television advertising between July 1 and Sept. 30 and all three judges appear together in ads that focus on the court’s foreclosure, veterans and medical malpractice mediation programs.
Callis and Knight have pretty much self-funded their campaigns. According to ilreference.com, Callis’ donations to her own committee have put her on the list of the largest campaign contributors in Illinois at No. 98.
Hylla’s recent $15,000 donation to his own committee about matches the amount of individual contributions he received between July 1 and Sept. 30.
Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder reported receiving a total of $2,000 in donations in October from a Belleville attorney and an Alton law firm. Most of the money she raised in the last three month reporting period came in the form of small, individual contributions.
Like her three colleagues, Crowder also recently began airing a television commercial. Her ad focuses on her work with the court’s Family Violence Prevention Council and Pro Bono Committee and urges residents to vote “yes” on her retention.
The CFJI has targeted Crowder in its anti-retention effort, pointing to last year’s controversy over campaign contributions as a reason why voters should not retain her.
Crowder’s committee last year accepted about $30,000 in donations from area asbestos lawyers and law firms shortly after she set the 2013 asbestos trial docket. Her committee returned those donations and Callis reassigned her.
Crowder previously told The Record that although the contributions were completely legal, she ordered her committee to return them because “the last thing you want as a judge is someone questioning your integrity.”
The CFJI contends this situation makes it seem like “justice is for sale” in Madison County, a statement that the Madison County Bar Association said it was appalled by and false.
Doug Whitley, CEO and president of the Illinois Chamber, endorsed the CFJI’s efforts last month. He said launching an anti-retention campaign is an uphill battle, but one that hoped would be successful and serve as a message.
In order to keep their positions on the Madison County bench, all four judges will need to receive a 60 percent “yes” vote in Tuesday’s election.