February 12, 2013 By: Mark Glennon
Suppose right wing groups started pouring big dollars into an Illinois Democratic primary race through PACs they passed off as “Democratic,” intending to knock out the guy they feared most before he got to the general election. And suppose the Republican Governors Association helped fund that effort.
Screams about deceitful subversion of the primary would be deafening — and those screams would be justified.
That’s the campaign unions and the Democratic Governors Association launched this week, except that it’s in the Republican primary to defeat Bruce Rauner, and that and those screams may be too few to be heard in blue Illinois. A huge mailing to Republican primary voters went out this week and TV ads just started, funded by unions and the Democratic Governors Association, all aimed at stopping Rauner.
Unions have every right to fund candidates in either party, and they’ve often crossed lines to support Republicans they least dislike. But for them to fund a PAC they call “Republican” is fraud. One calls itself the Republican Fund for Progress & Jobs. It’s funded by unions, and its only Republican connection is that it’s administered by a for-hire Republican campaign operative, who formerly worked for Congressman Aaron Shock — who is known to have a feud with Rauner.
Joining the effort is the Jobs and Opportunity for Illinois PAC, funded with hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Democratic Governors Association. Still another group named the conservative-sounding Illinois Freedom PAC is also funding the effort with at least $500,000 from AFSCME, the big public sector union.
It all reportedly adds up to about $2 million — a sum big enough to have a real effect.
The fraud works best if the media, whether out of sloppiness or bias, let voters think the money attacking Rauner is Republican. The Sun-Times ran an “exclusive” story a few days ago about the Republican Fund for Progress & Jobs under the headline “GOP group launches ‘shock and awe’ attack on Rauner.” The truth about the funding was buried in the details. Their further story yesterday about the Illinois Freedom PAC’s ads doesn’t even mention that it’s union funded. Some others in the media covered the story properly. Even Rich Miller of Capitolfax and Greg Hinz of Crain’s, both of whom have been on their own anti-Rauner jihad, have done a good job reporting the true funding sources.
The Democratic Governors’ Association and unions who will support the Democrat in the general election should be told the same thing about the Republican primary that should be told to, say, the Koch brothers and the Republican Governors Association if they were to intervene in a Democratic primary (and maybe they have elsewhere; I don’t know): Stay out. But let’s not be naive. They won’t. It’s up the media to report this right and to voters to see through it.