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Bigtime national donors playing in Illinois Statehouse

Wednesday, Jan 2, 2013

* From the Illinois Radio Network

State senators found plenty not to like about a bill that would have allowed a private company to discriminate by not hiring smokers. They upheld the governor’s veto of the bill, which was intended to benefit one company, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

“Already, not-for-profits like American Cancer Society – it’s interesting how non-profits can do this now, but companies for profit aren’t allowed to do that because somehow it’s unconstitutional,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington). […]

“This is an invasion of privacy of the highest degree,” said State Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest). “It is Big Brother.”

“Maybe we should look at the campaign finance records for the ‘Cash and Carry’ Treatment Centers of America,” said State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), his voice rising. “How they have showered tens of thousands of dollars, not just on the sponsor, but …to one particular party because they need to have their special break that, by the way, takes away their employees’ rights and liberties.”

Records show Cancer Treatment Centers of America has donated thousands of dollars to Republicans, including a recent $10,000 to Duffy.

* From the Washington Post

The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.

Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone — with a promise of $8 million — and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.

Stephenson, the founder of the for-profit Cancer Treatment Centers of America and a director on the FreedomWorks board, agreed to commit $400,000 per year over 20 years in exchange for Armey’s agreement to leave the group. […]

According to public records, FreedomWorks received more than $12 million before the election from two corporations based in Knoxville, Tenn.: Specialty Investments Group and Kingston Pike Development. The firms were established within a day of each other by William S. Rose III, a local bankruptcy lawyer.

Rose, who could not be reached for comment, has said publicly he would not answer questions about the donations. But according to three current and former FreedomWorks employees with knowledge of the donations, the money originated with Stephenson and his family, who arranged for the contributions from the Tennessee firms to the super PAC. […]

Among other things, Stephenson wanted a substantial sum spent in support of Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a tea party favorite and Stephenson’s local congressman, several who attended the retreat recalled. Walsh garnered national headlines during the campaign when he questioned whether his opponent, Tammy Duckworth, a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot who lost both legs in Iraq, was a “true hero.” Despite internal misgivings about the value of the investment, FreedomWorks spent $1.7 million on ads supporting Walsh; he lost the race.

* Meanwhile, the Tribune has uncovered the big funders behind the gay marriage push

The most important corporate backer may be Fred Eychaner, the Chicago media mogul and arts champion who, according to a source, is the primary funder for the public relations campaign run by ASGK Public Strategies. According to another source, another funder is Laura Ricketts, a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs. […]

Equality Illinois, the ACLU and Lambda Legal officially release the letters under the banner Illinois Unites for Marriage. The three groups also led the successful 2010-2011 campaign to recognize civil unions in the state.

But ASGK’s behind-the-scenes role is new, and the trio of nonprofits is not paying what must be a significant sum for ASGK’s services. (David Axelrod co-founded ASGK and then sold his stake in 2009 after becoming a top White House adviser to President Barack Obama. Eric Sedler is managing partner.) […]

Eychaner appears to be the largest Democratic donor in the 2012 election cycle, giving $14 million, The New York Times reported this month. He is openly gay. David Horwich, a spokesman for Eychaner, declined to comment.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


7 Comments
  1. - Loop Lady - Wednesday, Jan 2, 13 @ 1:15 pm:

    I guess this is what passes as democracy for Freedom Works?…obviously, it didn’t work too well for them…Joe Walsh…pu-leeze…somehow I can sleep at night knowing that he won’t be in DC to represent the interests of a vocal, well heeled monority…


  2. - 1776 - Wednesday, Jan 2, 13 @ 1:22 pm:

    I’d like a ruling from the Common Sense Caucus on Duffy’s actions. Where is BGA?

    He likes to act as the moral compass of the Senate and tries to publicly criticize appointments and campaign money. Suddenly, he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar taking $10,000 from one business immediately after sponsoring a bill that helps only that business. Hypocritical.


  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 2, 13 @ 1:35 pm:

    That FreedomWorks story is wild. Armey likes his coups.

    He tried one against Newt. When the other plotters decided to back someone else for Speaker, he ratted them out.

    I guess he learned. Bring someone packing a gun, and at least you’ll get a big payday to go away.

    He might not have made a good speaker, but he would be at home in any Banana Republic.


  4. - grand old partisan - Wednesday, Jan 2, 13 @ 1:45 pm:

    I wonder if CTCA would have gotten a break on their employees’ healthcare coverage if they could demonstrate that non of them were smokers

    …. just something to consider now that your health is legally the financial responsibility of your employer…


  5. - shore - Wednesday, Jan 2, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    When we hear the Ricketts family ask for $$$ for their stadium it’s important to start adding up some of their bills.

    -$6.5 million for a wilmette mansion

    http://www.chicagomag.com/Radar/Deal-Estate/June-2010/Cubs-Board-Member-Laura-Ricketts-Buying-House-on-Wilmette-Lakefront/

    - a condo for $29.2 million

    http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2012/07/6330199/inside-billionaire-joe-ricketts%E2%80%99-dreams-media-empire?page=all

    -$10 million for the obama ad campaign

    http://www.boston.com/politicalintelligence/2012/09/20/billionaire-joe-ricketts-launches-million-campaign-for-mitt-romney/1xJCGrgzNun0yoALb0SQOJ/story.html

    -$$ for this gay marriage stuff

    -$$ for DNAinfo

    http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2012/11/6684939/new-york-hyperlocal-startup-dnainfo-launches-chicago

    and that’s just being conservative.


  6. - OneMan - Wednesday, Jan 2, 13 @ 2:03 pm:

    If the campaign donations from CTC were just to get the non-smoker thing it seems a poor cost-benefit ratio….


  7. - G'Kar - Wednesday, Jan 2, 13 @ 9:43 pm:

    Reading the Washington Post article makes me both sad and angry about the role of money in politics.


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