Republican Bruce Rauner has donated more than $8 million to his campaign for governor.
  • AP Photo
  • Republican Bruce Rauner has donated more than $8 million to his campaign for governor.

Republican Bruce Rauner had a great week in his quest for the governor’s mansion, finding a wealthy supporter who believes enough in his vision for Illinois that he was moved to make a large contribution: a frequent political donor by the name of Bruce Rauner.

Soon after quarterly reports this week showed that he had $3.5 million in his election fund—less than a third as much as his rival, Governor Pat Quinn—Rauner found his checkbook and dropped another $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign effort, according to state records.

Rauner’s brief disadvantage didn’t come from difficulty raising money. He spent almost $6 million this spring while Quinn has been sitting on his cash, spending less than $1 million. The governor has likely been anticipating that Rauner would turn to Rauner for help.

As we’ve reported here before, Illinois places modest limits on campaign contributions—except when a candidate is wealthy enough to bankroll his own election effort.

Office seekers are allowed to give themselves as much of their own money as they like. And in one of the great Orwellian ironies of modern campaigning, such self-funded candidates can buy their way out of other limits once they put at least $250,000 into their races.

Rauner crossed that threshold when he came up with $500,000 for himself last November. With his latest contribution, he’s now donated more than $8 million to his campaign effort.

That’s allowed his supporters to be more generous as well. Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin gave a single $2.5 million donation to Rauner last month. Griffin has also given the Republican hopeful three other donations worth a total of $1 million and loaned him his private jet.

But Quinn can’t plead poverty either. Since Rauner opted out of the limits, the governor has been able to rake in as much as he likes too, and he received a $584,000 gift this week from SEIU. He’s received more than $1.7 million from that union so far this year and millions more from other labor groups.

The governor is also getting a big assist from national Democrats. The Democratic Governors Association has sent him about $1.4 million since January. Fred Eychaner, one of the biggest Democratic donors in the country, has given Quinn more than $500,000 in 2014.

Something tells me we’re all going to see a few television ads between now and November.

But the campaign season won’t end there—immediately following will be the mayoral race, where no would-be challenger will be able to compete with the $8.5 million and counting in Rahm Emanuel’s election fund.

Incidentally, as Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis was talking more openly this week about challenging Emanuel, the union’s political action committee sent a $20,000 contribution to Michael Madigan, the state house speaker, whose election fortunes are not in doubt in November.

That’s a good chunk of what the average teacher makes in a year—but in this environment it amounts to a quick thank-you note to an old friend.