BARRINGTON, IL – At least two different complaints have been filed with the State Board of Elections against the Illinois-based Liberty Principles PAC. Both complaints allege that the Super PAC may have directly coordinated with the political committees of the candidates the group is supporting in this week's primary. Such coordination is illegal.
One objection against the group, which has spent millions this campaign season, is from east central Illinois area and another is from the northwestern Chicago suburbs.
The first complaint was filed by a Charleston Illinois couple – Jonathan Kaye and his wife Clair – concerning a mailing that appeared to be a one-time* newspaper called the “East Central Reporter.”
The second was filed by Karen Trzaska of Barrington Illinois, who lives in the 26th Senate District. Her complaint is concerning another newspaper, "The Lake County Gazette," which is also funded by Liberty Principles PAC.
Both newspapers consisted of articles supporting and opposing legislative candidates in the region, lining up with the views Liberty Principles PAC holds on specific candidates.
An Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) examiner found that the Kayes' complaint warrants a public hearing. The full board will meet Monday in Springfield to discuss the complaints against Liberty Principles PAC, one day before the primary elections.
Jonathan Kaye, who is challenging incumbent State Rep. Reggie Phillips in the GOP primary, complained that the "East Central Reporter" did not contain the legally required term "Paid for by …" that political mailers are required to include. He and his wife also complained that it appears Liberty Principles PAC disobeyed the election law by collaborating directly with Rep. Phillips.
The Journal Gazette & Times-Courier (JG-TC) writes that according to the report filed with the Illinois Board of Elections, “(Clair) Kaye alleges Liberty Principles PAC is working in concert with the candidate to publish a front page article in the East Central Reporter, and the newspaper is therefore not an independent expenditure as required for an Independent Expenditure Committee such as Liberty Principles PAC.”
The story included quotes from Rep. Phillips, showing that the funder of the newspaper and the candidate had direct contact while obtaining information for the publication.
In the JG-TC report, Liberty Principles PAC attorney, Christine Svenson, says Liberty Principles PAC used a third party vendor – Newsinator – to write and publish the newspaper. Newsinator is owned by publisher Brian Timpone.
Timpone and Proft have worked together in the past; going back at least 14 years when each worked on the 2002 GOP gubernatorial primary campaign of then state Senator Patrick O'Malley. Timpone and Proft later went on to found a short-lived Internet news source Illinois Leader. (Full disclosure: Fran Eaton was managing editor of the Illinois Leader). Most recently, Proft – now a radio talk show host on WIND 560AM – interviewed Timpone for his online show "Against the Current."
The second complaint filed is about another newspaper funded by the Liberty Principles PAC — "Lake County Gazette." The complaint alleges the Super PAC illegally coordinated expenditures with the Dan McConchie committee, stating:
"Liberty Principles PAC sent a mailing to voters in the 26th State Senate District intended to look like a newspaper. This fake newspaper was entitled the 'Lake County Gazette,' but in the masthead section made clear it was not truly a Lake County newspaper by the fact that the towns listed were not the largest towns in Lake County, and not all in Lake County (Cary is in McHenry County): instead, they are among the largest municipalities in the 26th District," the report says.
A sample of the masthead is included:
The complaint goes on:
"This mailing was purportedly an independent expenditure, but in the very text of the mailing they incriminate themselves for clearly having coordinated with the candidate and his committee. In the front page, in an 'article' titled 'McConchie highlighting corruption in Senate bid' next to a photo of Dan McConchie, among a number of positive promotional remarks about McConchie there are three direct quotes from McConchie, two of which directly state 'McConchie recently told the Lake County Gazette; and 'McConchie said.' As the 'article' continues on Page 3, there are several other references to quotes made directly by McConchie to Liberty Principles for printing in the mailer."
That shows, the complaint accuses, that "both Elect Dan McConchie and Liberty Principles PAC violated election code by directly coordinating this independent expenditure."
In addition Liberty Principles PAC failed to include the "Paid for by …" disclosure statement anywhere in The Lake County Gazette.
The campaign of McConchie's GOP primary opponent Martin McLaughlin was quick to respond to the developing situation and other complaints being filed against McConchie concerning an alleged coordination with a 501c3. McLaughlin's spokesman referred to McConchie as a "political insider."
“It’s no surprise that an insider lobbyist would try to skirt the rules for his political gain,” said campaign spokesman Collin Corbett. “Dan McConchie has repeatedly claimed that his lobbyist background would help him play ‘power politics’ in Springfield.
"Now we see just what he means when he says that. For taxpayers who are sick and tired of paying for corruption in Illinois, Dan McConchie is just another political insider who will do and say anything to get elected. The voters deserve better.”
The complaint in the 26th State Senate race is available for viewing below: Download LibertyD4FINAL
(*Since the initial posting of this story, we have learned that there have been at least four editions of the papers released)