Union money has business leaders telling IL GOP voters to know the messenger


By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, IL Just because someone has “Republican” or “Freedom” in their name does not mean they are conservative.

MONEY TALKS: The fundraising for Illinois Freedom PAC speaks volumes.

Or so says a warning from Illinois’ business leaders about union-funded attack ads that are now part of Illinois’ race for governor.

“Organized labor (is) coming in with huge dollars, trying to influence Republican voters,” Todd Maisch, executive vice president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, told Illinois Watchdog.

Maisch singled out two groups with Republican sounding names that are running TV commercials or mailing attack ads to voters.

“(The) Republican Fund for Progress and Jobs has been attacking one candidate. Pretty much all of the money has come from organized labor. You’ve got another group called Illinois Freedom PAC, which is really run by the Democratic Governors’ Association,” Maisch said. “(We’re) asking voters to consider the real agenda.”

The Illinois Freedom PAC would not answer questions from Illinois Watchdog about the group’s agenda. A spokesman said simply that he had “no comment.”

But the group’s fundraising speaks volumes.

WORD OF WARNING: The Illinois Chamber is warning GOP voters.

The Illinois Freedom PAC was created on Feb. 5, the same day the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union gave the group $500,000.

The Illinois Freedom PAC has since raised almost $2 million, almost exclusively from labor unions including the Illinois Federation of Teachers and Service Employees International Union.

Maisch said voters need to know why big labor wants to play favorites in the Illinois Republican primary.

“They ought to be paying attention, not just to those ads, but to who is funding them and what their real agenda is,” Maisch added.

The agenda seems to be to defeat Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

Rauner is a multimillionaire first-time candidate who has a commanding lead in the gubernatorial polls. He says he promises to fight the labor unions that he says control too much of state government.

“They know he is the only candidate in this race who will truly shake up the status quo as governor and deliver lower taxes and spending, better schools and term limits. That frightens them,” Rauner’s campaign spokesman, Mike Schrimpf, said.

Maisch said this is the first time Illinois has seen a flood of outside money pour into the Republican primary.

“We thought it was unacceptable for the employer community to be silent with such a big political action undertaken for the first time,” Maisch said.

But the March primary will likely not the end of the union spending.

Illinois’ Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has been propped-up by big labor campaign contributions, receiving more than $1.8 million from unions last year alone.

Rauner leads Quinn in the latest polls. A CapitolFax/We Ask America telephone poll of 1,354 likely general election voters gives Rauner a 47 percent to 39 percent lead over the governor. The poll was conducted Jan. 30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent.

Rauner faces candidates state Sen. Bill Brady, state Sen. Kirk Dillard and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford in the March 18 Republican primary.

Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.

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