INDIANAPOLIS — The Illinois governor has tossed in $100,000 of his own money to boost the campaign of Indiana’s Republican gubernatorial candidate even as the two states compete to lure jobs.
The money Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner gave to Indiana Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s campaign last week is a small fraction of the $16 million that the wealthy former venture capitalist is investing to help GOP candidates cut into large Democratic majorities in the Illinois Legislature this fall.
Rauner has said he wants to emulate the business-friendly agenda of former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — for whom Holcomb was a top Statehouse aide and campaign manager.
But Rauner said last year he wanted to “rip the economic guts out of Indiana,” and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has frequently touted the state’s work to lure businesses from Illinois. Pence, who is now Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, just last week released a statement calling a company’s decision to move operations from Illinois and hire 200 workers in southern Indiana as an example of why Indiana is “the best state in the Midwest for business.”
The donation, which the Holcomb campaign reported to state election officials on Monday, comes as Holcomb works to close a large fundraising shortfall with Democratic candidate John Gregg since he was picked by Indiana GOP leaders to replace Pence as the party’s gubernatorial nominee in late July.
Holcomb campaign spokesman Pete Seat said Tuesday that Holcomb and Rauner have known each other for several years and the campaign welcomes the support of “anyone and everyone who believes in responsible Republican leadership.”
Seat downplayed the job-poaching rivalry between Indiana and Illinois leaders.
“A little friendly competition only helps to encourage continued growth and investment that leads to more jobs,” he said.
Rauner has admired Holcomb’s work since his time in the Daniels administration, Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.
“He was instrumental in helping turn Indiana around and Bruce believes Eric will be a tremendous governor,” Schrimpf said.
Schrimpf didn’t immediately reply to a message asking whether Rauner is making other out-of-state campaign contributions this year.
The Montana-based National Institute on Money in State Politics, which tracks political spending and advocates for transparency, listed a $100,000 contribution in the 2002 Pennsylvania governor’s race as Rauner’s only donation of at least the size he gave to Holcomb outside Illinois.
The Pence administration says more than 50 Illinois-based companies have moved operations to Indiana in the past decade. Gregg campaign spokesman Jeff Harris pointed to Indiana’s stagnant average wages and Holcomb’s support for the state’s religious objections law, which prompted an uproar last year over whether it would sanction discrimination against gay people.
“He’s pledged to continue Mike Pence’s economic policies which have hurt so many Hoosier families and embarrassed our state in eyes of the world,” Harris said. “As our competition, Gov. Rauner would love to see Indiana continue down this path — it will only make his record look better.”
Holcomb started from nearly zero in his campaign account ahead of the GOP state committee’s nomination vote — while Gregg had about $5.8 million in campaign money at the end of June.
Holcomb has since collected about $4.4 million in large contributions — donations of $10,000 or more — that the campaigns are required to report to state election officials ahead of the next full fundraising reports due in October. More than 80 percent of that money has been $2.3 million from the Republican Governors Association and about $1.25 million from Pence’s state campaign fund. Rauner’s contribution is the next largest one Holcomb has collected.
Gregg has reported $1.6 million in large contributions since early July, with $800,000 from the Democratic Governors Association and about $525,000 from labor unions, including six based outside Indiana.