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Illinois Review: It’s Time for the U.S. Postal Service to Audit the IL GOP Again

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By Illinois Review

Former long-time Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D, often said that the power of the state party resided in its postage discount.

Both state political parties, the IL GOP and the Democratic Party of Illinois (DPI), enjoy the benefit of a discounted postage rate based on their not-for-profit status.

The discount is not insignificant.

In fact, it’s a discount of more than half the cost of postage, and in a statewide race in which millions of mailers and other mail pieces are routinely mailed, the mail discount afforded by the IL GOP can translate to a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars—savings that statewide campaigns can deploy elsewhere.

Mailers, which are a necessary evil in political campaigns, typically can be mailed by private mail houses for about 22 or 23 cents per mailer, depending on the volume. This is a big savings over the standard rate of 60 cents that private citizens pay to mail their rent checks or their car payments.

But the mail house, or bulk rate, is not the lowest.

The IL GOP, as a not-for-profit organization, is provided a rock-bottom postage rate that oftentimes is as low as just over 9 cents per mail piece, depending on the volume. That’s a rate that represents a 60 percent discount over the lowest possible rate that any private citizen could obtain through a mail house.

That rock-bottom rate often is referred to as the “charity” rate.

The U.S. Postal Service, under Section 1.3 of its Nonprofit Standards, affords this “charity” rate to four political organizations: the national committee of a political party (i.e., the RNC and DNC); a state committee of a political party (i.e., the IL GOP and the DPI), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; and the National Republican Congressional and Senatorial Committees.

It is not offered to local political organizations or candidates.

Think about that for a moment. A savings of at least 11 cents per mailer on a statewide race targeting 1.7 million voters is a savings of $187,000 per mailer. Illinois Review has in its possession 18 different mailers that the Irvin campaign sent out statewide, and the postage savings on those mailers alone may be as much as $3.4 million.

When a campaign puts out a mailer campaign, it provides the mail pieces and a Postal Service Form 3602 to the post office receiving the mail. A Form 3602 itemizes the volume of mailings that went out and under which rate, and who was the responsible party. Typically, the receiving post office staples a sample of the mailer to the Form 3602. Unless there is an audit, these forms never see the light of day.

Think about the impact of that massive volume of mailers by the Irvin Campaign on his primary opponents Darren Bailey, Gary Rabine, and Jesse Sullivan. Think of the millions of dollars those campaigns had to divert and redeploy to deal with the large volume of negative mailers coming from the Irvin campaign under the IL GOP’s discounted postage rate, which each of these campaigns had to respond to paying at least twice the postage.

The key to obtaining this discount is that the mail piece must come from the IL GOP and be for IL GOP business. That is, allowing candidates like Richard Irvin or Tim Butler to use the IL GOP mail discount for campaign mailings would be in violation.

Not surprisingly, Section 1.6.10 of the Postal Service regulations forbids political candidates to make or prepare mailings for the IL GOP to send out under its own charity rate.

In exclusive audio recently obtained by Illinois Review, IL GOP chairman Don Tracy, during a meeting with conservative leaders in July, admits that the Irvin campaign for governor was allowed to use the IL GOP Postage discount for mailers – a perk not afforded to other candidates in the governor’s race.

Tracy acknowledges use of the postage discount in the recording, but says the IL GOP was taking its “direction from the House Caucus and the Senate Caucus.”

And Tracy was speaking about the financing of the postal discount. Multiple sources have confirmed to Illinois Review that former House Leader Jim Durkin was the one who determined who could use the IL GOP postage discount during the primary. And the proof is in the pudding.

On May 12, 2022, billionaire Ken Griffin donated $1 million to Citizens for Durkin, former House Leader Jim Durkin’s political campaign. Over the next two weeks, $650,000 of those funds were transferred from Citizens for Durkin to the House Republican Majority committee, a PAC controlled by Jim Durkin. Then, during that same timeframe, $275,000 from the House Republican Majority was transferred to the Illinois Republican Party.

As Durkin ran completely unopposed in both the primary and general elections, it is curious what Mr. Griffin’s donation was for, if not to reimburse the IL GOP for postage.

As of press time, Illinois Review is continuing its investigation into these transactions. But credible sources have confirmed to Illinois Review that the discrepancy between what billionaire Ken Griffin donated to former House Leader Jim Durkin and what ultimately found its way to the Illinois Republican Party is because of the differences in postage rates, suggesting that Mr. Griffin may have been billed for the mail house rate when Irvin campaign mailers were in fact sent out under the IL GOP charity rate.

That begs the question, is the IL GOP’s practice of letting preferred candidates use their postage discount even legal?

In 1993, the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General audited the Illinois Republican Party and found that many mail pieces of candidates were sent out under the discounted postage rates of the IL GOP.

At that time, the U.S. Postal Service fined the IL GOP more than a $100,000.

And again in 2012, the Federal Election Commission audited the Illinois Republican Party in which, among other things, certain mailings on behalf of candidates were questioned.

Illinois Review believes that it is time again for the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General to audit the Illinois Republican Party and calls upon that authority to do so.

We cannot expect constituents to seriously donate to the IL GOP until all of us have the confidence that the IL GOP is spending that money on the candidates supported by the people.

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