Yet another top Illinois GOP official aids Democrats

By DOUG IBENDAHL • July 4, 2008


Roger Claar, one of the 19 members of the Illinois GOP’s State Central Committee contributed $1,000 to Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress Jerry Bennett on September 30th of last year. Bennett was making a primary challenge against incumbent Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski.


Claar not only contributed money, he contributed his endorsement. Bennett’s campaign website is still available online and you can view the endorsement page here.


Claar made his $1,000 contribution to Bennett through an organization called ActBlue. One of the enabler blogs described ActBlue as a “DuPage Democratic group” – but that’s not correct. ActBlue is in fact a national organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It describes itself as “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action.”


Wikipedia says “ActBlue has grown quickly to become a major fundraising tool for Democrats, particularly favored by the netroots and left-leaning bloggers.” ActBlue’s website claims it has raised over $56 million online since 2004 for Democrats.


Essentially what ActBlue does is to match-up Democrat candidates with donors. So basically what Claar did was utilize the ActBlue online resource, and then specified Democrat Jerry Bennett’s campaign as the place he wanted his $1,000 to go.


Claar’s day job is serving as Mayor of Bolingbrook, and Bennett is the Mayor of Palos Hills. Claar clearly wants to minimize any issue here, and dismiss the whole thing as a simple matter of one friend and fellow mayor helping another.


That’s obviously to distinguish this situation from all those times when contributors give to people they don’t like.


This is America and citizens can obviously choose to support any candidate they wish. But it’s absurd that a member of our State Central Committee should be aiding and abetting a Democrat. When you become a GOP official you assume a special duty to Republicans.


If one finds that duty too constraining or demanding, no one forces the individual to keep the title.


Also, if Claar agrees that Lipinski is a weak and ineffective Democratic Congressman, then the last thing a senior GOP official should be doing is trying to install a tougher-to-beat Democrat.


Even more disturbing, Claar’s candidate appears even more liberal than the incumbent Lipinski. Bennett ran as an anti-Bush candidate and voiced an extreme, cut-and-run policy on the Iraq war. Claar’s candidate basically waves the white flag of surrender on his website here.


Bennett is also pro-abortion (see here), and he endorsed repeal of the Bush tax cuts (see here).


Claar’s candidate Bennett lost his primary challenge in February to Lipinski, but that’s not the point. Claar should have been trying to help recruit a serious Republican challenger to take on Lipinski. That’s part of Claar’s job description as a member of the State Central Committee.


This actually isn’t the first time Claar has financially assisted Democrats. Just a few years ago Claar gave smaller amounts to Terrence O’Brien, Jay Hoffman and Louis Viverito, all Democrat public officials. Those contributions were made prior to Claar joining the State Central Committee in 2006, but not much before. O’Brien received $300 from Claar in September of 2005, and Viverito received $600 in August of 2005.


We’ve written about Claar before. He was one of the founding contributors to George Ryan’s legal defense fund and remained a staunch defender of his friend until the very end.


When Ryan was convicted on all counts in 2006, Claar reserved all of his vitriol for the jury. Here is how the Bolingbrook Sun quoted Claar on April 21, 2006:


I cannot believe George Ryan was convicted. Most, if not all, of what I read was circumstantial at best. With the cynicism of people today, I’m not sure any elected official could get a fair trial. From what I have been reading about the jury it sounds like most of the jury pool is, in fact, guilty of what they are suggesting George Ryan is guilty of. Many of them lied on the basic form to be completed by a juror. A lot of hypocrisy on their part. George Ryan served the State of Illinois well for over 30 years. He did many fine things for the Village of Bolingbrook. He is my friend and will be my friend!”


Claar is also the guy who, according to the Chicago Tribune back in 1996, had his home raided by the Illinois State Police in connection with a two-year investigation into tollway land deals. Claar was a board member at the tollway authority at the time. He was never charged or accused of any wrongdoing.


We should also note that Claar’s not the only member of the current State Central Committee who has contributed to Democrats while serving as a senior official of the Illinois GOP. Skip Saviano and Jack Dorgan for example have regularly helped the other team.


All I can say is thank goodness rank-and-file Republicans don’t get a say in choosing their own representative to serve on the State Central Committee. I shudder to think where this party would be if loyal Republicans started voting for their own leaders. (I trust it was obvious, but just in case – yes, that was sarcasm.)


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


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