Three candidates for governor shows close ties to Madigan
Months before Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) announced his bid for governor in the 2018 race, he established a political action committee (PAC) that shows close ties to House Speaker Mike Madigan.
That makes three close associates of Madigan in the growing ranks of Democratic hopefuls, including Biss, Chris Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker.
Madigan threw his support behind Kennedy, a philanthropist and businessman who announced Feb. 8 he would enter the Democratic race for governor. Kennedy is the son of Robert Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy.
Biss, who announced his candidacy March 20, formed a federal super PAC called "Leading Illinois For Tomorrow" (LIFT) in October 2016. It received thousands of dollars from Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan's (D-Chicago) campaign committee and his supporters before the Nov. 8 election.
Billionaire businessman Pritzker is the latest addition. He announced is candidacy April 6.
A super PAC can collect an unlimited amount in financial contributions. Biss said he established LIFT to offset the millions poured into the elections by multimillionaire Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Republican supporters.
"The purpose of LIFT is to explain the stark choice voters will be presented with this fall," Biss said in a prepared statement. "Illinois has serious problems, but Rauner and the Republicans are making them worse. For the first time in history, Illinois has gone 16 months without a state budget. The middle class is under attack and universities and social service agencies are suffering. LIFT will make sure Illinois voters know that Democrats have a better way forward."
Before the November election and in the waning days of 2016, LIFT received donations from Friends of Michael J. Madigan, Citizens for Lisa Madigan and gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy as well as Chicago financier Michael Sacks. Sacks reportedly contributed more than $2.5 million to LIFT.
"Democratic values have been under attack for two years," Sacks told Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business in an email. "We all have a responsibility to defend our values.”
While the Republicans spent millions on campaign ads linking Democratic candidates to Madigan, LINK spent more than $1 million on TV and digital advertising in its first week. The LINK ad focused on tying Rauner to the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. However, Rauner had clearly stated in May that he would not attend the Republican Convention or endorse Trump.
The unflattering ad showed clips of Trump's actions during the campaign while a female narrator said, "Bruce Rauner and the Illinois Republicans support a man for president who insults women … demeans immigrants … and makes fun of the disabled. If Bruce Rauner and the Illinois Republicans support Donald Trump after all that, why would we support them?”
Another ad pointed out the connections between LINK and Madigan, including the Speaker's former aide serving as the PAC assistant treasurer.
“Biss cast his super PAC, which can collect and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the election, as an attempt to counter the Republican messaging that’s framed the election as a choice between Rauner and Madigan," the Chicago Tribune article said. "As chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, Madigan is not allowed to coordinate with the committee. But a former aide to Madigan’s House Democrats, Kristen Bauer, is listed as the committee’s assistant treasurer.”
Biss reconsidered running for state comptroller in November 2015. If he had continued, he would have faced Madigan-backed Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza in the Democratic Primary. Instead, Biss dropped out and Mendoza won over Republican incumbent Leslie Munger.
The Illinois GOP wasted no time in adding Kennedy to the BossMadigan.com website, alleging that he is committed to the Madigan agenda. When questioned on WGN about his ties to Madigan, Kennedy dodged the question.
“It’s insulting to voters that Chris Kennedy refuses to answer the most basic question in Illinois politics – does he support Mike Madigan as Speaker of the House and Chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois?" Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe said. "If Kennedy can’t tell voters where he stands, there is no reason to trust anything he says.”