Rahm's top donors buying up Illinois Republican Party

The Illinois GOP is up for sale. Who's buying? Top donors to Rahm Emanuel. Photo: AP

CHICAGO, Illinois, October 3, 2012 - (Revised October 9, 2012) An article in Monday’s Chicago Tribune exposes a well-known political reality in Illinois: political parties are for sale. In this case, it’s the Illinois GOP that’s for sale.

The buyers? Top contributors and advisers to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

Credit: AP

Isn’t that just what the doctor ordered in Illinois – a state GOP party controlled by President Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff and his wealthy donors? 

Illinois conservative and Tea Party leaders must be thrilled.

This summer, Emanuel earned a not-so-special place in the hearts of pro-family voters after he tried to block the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain’s city expansion after CEO Dan Cathy made statements in support of traditional marriage.

In his report, Tribune reporter Rick Pearson describes how cheap Illinois Republican Party assets are being snapped up by “Republican” hedge fund managers.

But who are these “Republican” hedge fund managers really?

One of them is Anne Dias-Griffin, a former executive of George Soros Fund Management. The socialist billionaire Soros isn’t exactly known for his conservative philanthropy.

George Soros

Her husband, Ken Griffin bundled more than $221,000 for Barack Obama after a visit to Griffin’s Chicago-based headquarters. Both contributed $200,000 to Emanuel’s mayoral campaign in 2010.

During the 2012 primary, the Griffins began funneling tens of thousands of dollars to downstate organizations in Illinois, which then, in turn, gave the money to the Illinois Republican Party. The funds were unreported until conservative bloggers and members of the Illinois media began asking questions.

Chump change for wielding influence and power. 

Despite their Soros ties, the Griffins have also been seeding so-called “right-leaning” political action committees with connections to the Illinois Policy Institute, a 501c3 group which describes itself as a“nonpartisan research organization.” Among them are Empowering Children PAC and Liberty PAC, run by a GOP contender for the 2010 gubernatorial race and radio-host, Dan Proft. 

The Illinois Policy Institute has been under fire for its close ties to these PACs and to the Illinois Opportunity Project, which operates within the Institute’s headquarters. John Tillman, CEO of the Institute, served as chairman or treasurer of these PACs before relinquishing his position in them. The Illinois Opportunity Project, a 501c4 group, gives thousands of dollars to these same political action committees.

Proft has deeply troubling ties to controversial Cicero town president Larry Dominick and Craig and Jeff Pesek, who control the Morton Grove school districts in Illinois.

Dominick has become the new poster child for Chicago corruption after hiring two dozen of his relatives and settled a sexual harassment lawsuit where it was alleged he groped multiple female employees.

Cicero president Larry Dominick

Craig and Jeff Pesek were caught on FBI surveillance tape in 2007 discussing a mob-ordered bombing of a Cicero business with their partner, a convicted drug dealer.  The Pesek brothers’ criminal ties forced Craig Pesek to resign from the powerful Republican State Central Committee.

Don’t feel too bad for Pesek though. He voted himself free health care for life as a member of the Cicero library board, which meets once a month.

Conservative values much?   

Another Republican money manager who is suddenly snapping up Illinois conservative assets is hedge fund manager Bruce Rauner, who is considering a GOP run for Illinois governor. 

Rauner’s firm’s purchase of SecurityLink from SBC Ameritech was one of the first big deals Rahm Emanuel put together after his sudden conversion to investment banker in the 1990s.  Emanuel had no previous investment experience. Rauner was placed by Emanuel on the board of World Business Chicago and currently serves as his advisor.

So what explains this flow of Democrat-linked money managers dabbling in Republican politics?

The answer is one that has plagued Illinois politics for decades: The Combine.

Former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) has described the Combine as that “Illinois political class that’s not committed to any party, that simply want to make money off the taxpayers.” 

In the 1990s, Fitzgerald fought the Combine and the Combine drove him out of Illinois. (Fitzgerald had his revenge: He was successful in getting Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) appointed U.S. Attorney).

But now this new wave of influence peddlers is a bigger threat than ever before.

Will Illinois conservative leaders stand-up and cry foul? Or will they accept this new political reality as status quo? Nationally and locally, will contributors finally be held to account for attempted influence-peddling in both political parties?  

Or is it still OK to have your Republican and eat your corrupt Democrat cake too? 

Republican voters will have a choice in November and beyond: What kind of Republican Party do you want?  

Illinois voters have another choice to make: between corruption and virtue.  

The future of the Republican Party in Illinois – and nationally - just might depend on the answer. 


William J. Kelly is an Emmy award-winning TV producer and conservative columnist. He is also a contributor to the American Spectator and Breitbart.com. He is a native from Chicago’s Southside.

Email questions to him at williamjkelly@gmail.com. Find him on Facebook/Williamjpkelly 

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William Kelly


Conservative commentator, satirist, and radio talk show host William J. Kelly pens the “Kelly Truth Squad” and “The Tea Party Report” for the Washington Times Communities and is a contributor to the American Spectator and Breitbart.com. Kelly is also a producer of Emmy award-winning TV and received an Emmy nomination himself for outstanding achievement on-camera. He was previously the Executive Director of the National Taxpayers United of Illinois, a taxpayer watchdog group. He is a native of Chicago’s South side. For more information, visit www.kellytruthsquad.com.

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