Dorgan off to weak start as IL GOP Chair

By DOUG IBENDAHL • July 25, 2013


Jack Dorgan became Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party on June 1st.


Former Chairman Pat Brady left our State Party so weakened, divided and in such disarray that many assumed there was nowhere to go but up. Those folks were naïve.


Financial disclosure reports for the quarter-ended June 30 were due from all state political committees at the Illinois Board of Elections on Monday, July 15. First of all, the Illinois Republican Party filed its report a day late. The party told the Board of Elections the delay was because of a “change in leadership” and a “complete change in staff.”


It’s certainly true that Dorgan is new as Chairman, but he’s been a member of the State Central Committee for many years. Also, the organization’s Treasurer hasn’t changed. For many years that’s been State Senator Dave Syverson, who has also been a long-time member of the State Central Committee.


My guess is the filing date just snuck-up and someone forgot to file. It happens. But put aside the relatively trivial matter of a late filing – the real issue is fundraising which already shows signs of going from bad to worse.


The Illinois Republican Party’s state PAC received no individual contributions in the second quarter of this year. Zero. Dorgan continued Pat Brady’s lousy record of fundraising. The state PAC also received zero in individual donations for the first quarter of this year while Brady was in charge.


The party’s state PAC received only two large contributions in the second quarter – both of them transfers from other PACs. Roger Claar, Bolingbrook Mayor and member of the State Central Committee, transferred $5,000 to the State Party from his own political committee.


Also, $15,000 was transferred from the political committee of the Stark County GOP ($5,000 in the second quarter and $10,000 in July). This transfer appears to represent a closing of the loop on a money funneling scheme whereby Chicago billionaires Anne and Ken Griffin made a number of $20,000 contributions to local Republican organizations back in late 2011 and early 2012. In most cases a big chunk of that $20,000 was soon kicked-up to the State Party and the local organization kept the rest (typically $5,000).


This scheme, orchestrated by then Chairman Pat Brady and his then Executive Director (now Congressman) Rodney Davis was clearly designed to get more cash to the state party while “massaging” state law on individual contribution limits.


When we broke this story in April of last year, we reported that the Griffins had contributed $20,000 to the Stark County Republican Central Committee, but no contributions had yet been kicked-up to the State Party. Things have now changed. On May 15 of this year, the Stark County GOP transferred $5,000 to the State Party. Then on July 12 the Stark County GOP coughed-up another $10,000 to the State Party – leaving Stark County Republicans with the standard “cut” of $5,000.


Also, post-second quarter, another local political committee, the 18th Congressional District Central Committee, transferred $5,000 to the State Party on July 12. The Griffins also contributed $20,000 to that committee on that last day of 2011, but it had previously only kicked-up $10,000 to the State Party. The loop is now closed and the 18th Congressional District Central Committee is left with the standard $5,000 “cut.”


Michael Bigger, a member of the State Central Committee, is also Chairman of both the Stark County Republican Central Committee and 18th Congressional District Central Committee. Bigger also chaired the committee of GOP County Chairmen which in May of last year met behind closed doors and picked Rodney Davis to replace retiring Congressman Tim Johnson on the November ballot.


In addition to the state PAC receipts detailed above, the Illinois Republican Party’s federal PAC reported a mere $2,775 in contributions for the month of June. Only $1,275 of that came from individual small dollar donations. The remaining $1,500 came from two State Party insiders.


Bottom line, individual contributions to the Illinois Republican Party have literally dried-up. In fact there was almost no actual fundraising for the second quarter. The main chunk of money to come in wasn’t even new – and instead simply represented reshuffling of cash two Chicago billionaires put into the kitty a year-and-a-half ago.


Jack Dorgan didn’t contribute a penny to the organization he now chairs. But Republicans will be happy to know that Mr. Dorgan and his lobbying partner did contribute $150 to Citizens for Lisa Madigan on March 19 of this year.


Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea putting a Democrat in charge of the Illinois Republican Party.


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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