They don't want to spoil the party

Both Rauner, Madigan attacked by new Proft website backing anti-tax conservatives

 Gov. Bruce Rauner and running mate Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti rally Republicans on Governor’s Day at the State Fair in August. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Gov. Bruce Rauner and running mate Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti rally Republicans on Governor’s Day at the State Fair in August. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Cub fans and other radio listeners might have heard about a new website disdaining party politics and claiming to support homeowners.

It’s the latest internet initiative from Dan Proft’s Liberty Principles Political Action Committee, and in radio ads it throws both Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan under the bus in order to support conservative candidates for the General Assembly who pledge to hold down property taxes.

The site is saveyourhomenow.org, and it mentions no party affiliation. In fact, it claims to tout “independent candidates,” even though they all appear to be Republicans running for the General Assembly.

Proft, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate who is now morning radio host on WIND 560-AM, is a conservative iconoclast, and the candidates appear to be the same. Ammie Kessem, for instance, is a Chicago cop running for the House, and she touts that she’s “pro-union” as a member of the Fraternal Order of Police.

But all are vociferously anti-tax, especially anti-property-tax as it applies to Illinois homeowners. The website touts that voting for these candidates is a way to “Save Your Home Now.”

It mentions no party affiliation and no political backing, but the radio ads running during Cub games on WSCR 670-AM and no doubt elsewhere on the dial reveal they’re funded by Liberty Principles.

A story that ran earlier this month on Proft’s Local Government Information Services websites announced that Liberty Principles was behind the website, saying, “The campaign supports a 1 percent hard cap on property taxes as a percentage of home value, which is backed by lawmakers who are not beholden to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) or Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.”

Like the Illinois Policy Institute, Liberty Principles has previously supported Rauner, but parted ways with him politically a year ago. Even so, they continue to follow parallel courses on issues like property taxes and unions.

Even as he attempted to strike a more humble posture and reframe his campaign in a speech Thursday, Rauner re-emphasized, “I’m committed to freezing property taxes and removing mandates from Springfield to restore decision making to the local level, to reduce property taxes over time.”

As Rauner and Proft both know, Illinois property taxes are high in large part because the state government has not fulfilled its constitutional obligation to be the “primary” funder of education, meaning local school districts have to fill the gap the only way they can: by raising property taxes. Rauner vetoed a radical revision of the state education funding formula a year ago, labeling it a “Chicago bailout,” even though it would have helped low-income districts across the state.

Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association, dismissed Rauner’s more conciliatory attitude as “too little, too late,” saying, “His wholly manufactured budget crisis harmed our schools and social-service nets for our students, and it may have caused irreparable harm to our institutions of higher education in this state. There is a reason his approval rating sits at less than 25 percent in Illinois. People always say they want to ‘run government like a business.’ He’s living proof you can’t do that.”

Roberta Lynch, executive director of the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, wasn’t buying it either. “What he means by ‘courage’ is his overriding goal of weakening or eliminating unions, and when legislators wouldn’t acquiesce to that demand, choosing a two-year budget blockade that did so much damage to so many lives,” she said. “In dealing with our union, he rejected AFSCME’s attempts to find common ground and reach a fair contract settlement for tens of thousands of state employees. Instead Rauner walked away from negotiations more than two years ago and hasn’t shown the slightest interest in compromise or even dialogue ever since. After four years of relentless hostility to public employees and their unions, it’s hard to believe that Bruce Rauner is prepared to change.”

Rauner previously contributed millions to Proft’s PAC, but more recently the radio host has labeled the governor “Benedict Rauner” and called him a sure loser in the coming election. Proft backed state Rep. Jeanne Ives in her insurgent campaign against Rauner in the Republican primary earlier this year.

Proft’s media outlets, including “Save Your Home Now,” might have abandoned Rauner, but in doing so they’ve backed candidates who in many ways are far to the right of the governor politically.

Media critic Michael Miner of the Chicago Reader wrote about Proft’s Local Government Information Services last year, and Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller has written how, with newspapers suffering across the state as they are everywhere else, Proft’s papers and media outlets have dominated campaign coverage leading up to the November election.

Now “Save Your Home Now” embarks on a stealth campaign in that political fight, but following where the money comes from confirms just where its party affiliation lies.