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Contribution caps busted in two legislative races

Thursday, Jan 28, 2016

* I told subscribers about this earlier in the week

The Chicago lawmaker whose defection effectively cost Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan his ability to override gubernatorial vetoes has suddenly received some six-figure re-election help from a political action committee that some consider to be a front group for Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Reports filed yesterday show that IllinoisGo, a group run by Chicago political operative Greg Goldner, so far has spent $240,000 promoting the re-election of Rep. Ken Dunkin, a Near North Side Democrat. […]

According to the new disclosure, IllinoisGo has committed $140,705 for fieldwork on behalf of Dunkin and more than $72,000 for mail, the latter handled by Goldner’s firm, Resolute Consulting. Another $26,000-plus went for “media production,” presumably ads.

The money technically is an independent expenditure not coordinated with Dunkin. But it certainly will come in handy as he faces a union-backed candidate, Juliana Stratton.

* And subscribers were told about this on Monday

The sky’s the limit for spending in the 50th Senate District primary between state Sen. SAM McCANN, R-Plainview, and challenger BRYCE BENTON of Springfield.

That’s because Liberty Principles PAC, the group that’s been running TV ads promoting Benton in and around Springfield, has already thrown more than $325,000 into trying to get Benton nominated. […]

Similarly, big spending by an independent expenditure committee on a particular race can remove caps — with $100,000 the threshold for a legislative seat. And that’s what’s happened in the 50th.

Liberty Principles PAC, run by WIND-AM radio host DAN PROFT of Chicago, reported spending $316,960 on Jan. 20 with Strategic Media Services, Arlington, Virginia, for the Benton campaign. Another $8,753 was reported on Jan. 21 as spent with Targeted Creative Communications, Alexandria, Virginia, for direct mail to help Benton. […]

Meanwhile, Benton’s campaign manager is JAMES ZENN, 26, who recently moved to Springfield from Chicago for the race. He’s a Park Ridge native who got a political science degree in 2011 from the University of Illinois at Urbana. He worked on Rauner’s campaign, and then got a $60,000-a-year job with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Zenn said the job was with the bureau of organization and management. He left that post this summer to join the Illinois Opportunity Project, which is “an independent research and public policy enterprise that promotes legislative solutions in advance of free markets and free minds,” according to its website. Proft is co-founder and a consultant to the Opportunity group, and is also a fellow at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Yeah, no Rauner ties at all. Benton’s campaign manager and the huge $1.818 million Turnaround Illinois contribution to Proft’s PAC the other day have left a very obvious trail.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:02 am:


    These are the two races.

    Social Services and Advocates, Unions, Democrats…

    If Dunkin stays or McCann goes, what message are you saying or giving to Raunerites.

    Yep. It’s that important. It’s that real.

    “What are you prepared to do?”?

    Here are your first two real messages.

  2. - walker - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:05 am:

    Don’t you just love how “independent” and “non-coordinated” these PACs are?

  3. - Almost the Weekend - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:11 am:

    Sam McCann relying on AFSCME to win for his political livelihood, the past year AFSCME has watched Rauner Republicans consolidate their legislative power around Springfield, where majority of AFSCME members live. Good luck Sam!

    Bryce Benton - 200
    Sam McCann +150

  4. - Big Joe - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:13 am:

    It’s the way Rauner works. If he can’t buy it, he will make sure that the money is there for one of his “beholders” to get elected and be added to his stable of cronies. Sickening, how politics is evolving into these days.

  5. - Jack Stephens - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:16 am:


    Republicans relying on Rauner who would be happy to serve Flint Water here in Chicago if he could. Look at his “friend” Rick of Michigan. The voters said no more Emergency Managers, what does Rick do? Sticks it up their collective you know whats by running it thru a lame duck session attached to the budget.

    Yup, those wacky Conservatives believe in smaller guv’ment! Well if you get rid of 10-20% of the population its certainly smaller.

  6. - Century Club - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:19 am:

    They paid for all the mail and field work up front - clearly they are sending a message.

  7. - Boone's is Back - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:20 am:

    I would have really like to have seen Mapes throw a bucket of cold water on Dunkin in the morning after the Statehouse sleepover. Too bad Ken didn’t follow through…

  8. - Pacman - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:21 am:

    I consider myself to be an Independent, but lean toward Democrats when voting. This March I will pull a Republican ballot so I can vote for Sam McCann.

  9. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:27 am:

    It’s interesting that these two elected officials are lumped in this post.

    Sam McCann bucks Governor Rauner and he’s a hero.

    Ken Dunkin bucks Speaker Madigan and he’s a fool.

    In what world does that make any sense? If both men are doing the same thing, then they need to be held to the same standards. And both men are doing the same thing. They are both trying to survive. Unions went after McCann hard in 2010. Now he’s their BFF. It’s interesting how quickly things change when the circumstances and political survival dictate change.

  10. - One of the 35 - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:29 am:

    I don’t care if you are a republican or a democrat. How sad is it that Illinois state elections are controlled this completely by funding from either the Speaker or the Governor. The big money of which of these two people will decide the end result?

  11. - Honeybear - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:32 am:

    OW- we’re doing what we do best, door to door and working personal relationships. 1805’s are marching North. Turns out that East St. Louis folks have a lot of family connections in Dunkins district. As easy as going home to talk to family and churches. Plus we’ve got time off in February. And these are DHS folk that can describe in graphic detail what Dunkins choices are doing to their community. Sure Ken will have those folks he’s paid off and dependent on his gravy train but when you’ve got passionate family members making a case about how he contributed to the local social services agencies closing down, you’ve got a powerful tool.
    McCann will be harder, but we’ll be going door to door there as well. We just don’t have all the personal connections. I know the trades folks are hitting it hard though. They will have to lead and I know they will. Rauner has been the best thing for labor EVER! No one has done more to galvanize labor. Rauner should have lulled us into our natural complacency then attacked after Friedricks came out. His maniacal hatred and impatience are very much to our advantage.

  12. - burbanite - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:34 am:

    Just think how many meals for seniors this would provide, heat for the impoverished or daycare subsidies? Sickening.

  13. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:39 am:

    Today’s lesson for GOP GA members:

    The governor reserves unto himself the ability to muscle you all into voting against an education funding bill, then stabbing you in the back and signing it to save his own skin.

    But if you vote your district just one time without his permission — on a bill that failed, mind you — he’ll sic Dan Proft on you with close to $2 million.

    Enjoy your days of public service.

  14. - Almost the Weekend - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:39 am:


    If you were an elected official up for election would you feel safe in a primary knowing AFSCME is your lone major supporter, who couldn’t convince 40% of their union that Bruce Rauner wants to destroy AFSCME in 2014.
    Even more complicated some of their rank and file are Democrats who might not even pull a Republican ballot. Even if AFSCME gets all their Republican members to vote for McCann, some of their membership is voting D especially during a Presidential election. AFSCME will have a smaller voting bloc compared to the general election, giving them less influence compared to a general election in that Senate district. I wouldn’t trust AFSCME leadership to place my lunch order let alone find a path to my election victory. Add this factor above and Rauner millions your traveling in a boat upstream without a paddle.

  15. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:45 am:

    - Honeybear -

    I know you fully understand the stakes, the simplicity of doing impactful things and not overextendeding and then losing.

    These two races, and a few more Raunerite primaries in March, but focusing here, they are the ones that might be just too important.

    Dunkin keeping his seat, McCann losing his? Odds are it’s more than a passing yes. Hard work ahead.

    You’re a credit to your Crew - Honeybear -

  16. - There is power in a union... - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:47 am:

    “He worked on Rauner’s campaign, and then got a $60,000-a-year job with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Zenn said the job was with the bureau of organization and management.”

    I thought Rauner was all anti-cronyism? Work on his campaign and then get handed a 60k job at IDOT? That’s sure “shakin up Springfield…”

  17. - The Dude Abides - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 11:00 am:

    There should be no doubt about who is really behind Illinois GO. Rauner first bought the Governorship, then the GOP Legislature, now is in the process of looking for Democrats that he can pick off, one by one. Dunkin is the first. Any GOP member such as McCann who dare vote against the wishes of the Governor will face a well funded challenger.
    The Union had better take OW’s advice. The McCann and Dunkin races are your first two tests in fighting back. This is the first of many battles ahead with the rights of middle class workers in the balance.

  18. - Apocalypse - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 11:07 am:

    =Sam McCann bucks Governor Rauner and he’s a hero.

    Ken Dunkin bucks Speaker Madigan and he’s a fool=
    Team Sleep, you nicely stated how most of the posters view these two.

  19. - Mama - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 11:09 am:

    ++You’re a credit to your Crew - Honeybear ++
    I second that.

  20. - mcb - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 11:18 am:

    Agree with Team Sleep and Apocalypse.

    Everyone cries for cooperation and an end to the idea of partisanship over all else, but every time a lawmaker bucks their party and votes with the other side, the pitchforks come out.

    Voters keep making it clear they like partisan wars and standoffs regardless of what they say. Just look at Congress. You get what you ask for, whether you ask, more for your actions than your words.

  21. - Liberty - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 11:49 am:

    It isn’t just a union issue for McCann. A lot of area Republicans stand to loose quite a bit on health insurance benefits.

  22. - Austin Blvd - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 11:52 am:

    Forget redistricting reform. We need more PAC reform to avoid one-person control.
    The whole concept of caps is a joke when they can be broken.
    Where are the do-goodie groups on this?

  23. - CandidCat - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:10 pm:

    Honey bear,

    Zenn might be young, but he is a hard working ambitious guy. The Rauner machine which is well oiled, features mostly young men and women. If you can’t understand that the game has changed than I worry you might be left behind.

  24. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:13 pm:

    The irony here is that Rauner, an alleged Republican, but really a Raunerite, is funding a primary challenge against a sitting Republican, and funding a sitting Democrat’s Primary reelection.

    It’s the Rod Blagojevich Dream being played out “before me eyes”.

    Rauner wants Raunerite Caucuses.

  25. - Almost the Weekend - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:16 pm:


    As if a young hard working guy needs more motivation to win this race. He will probably print that comment out and hang it on his office wall where he will be working 20 hour days the next month and a half. AFSCME can’t get out of their own way. I think younger leadership would probably be good for AFSCME too because the status quo isn’t working.

  26. - Williamson Sylvester Stuckey - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:23 pm:

    Team Sleep: wise words. Interesting how nobody here will address them.

    It comes back to autonomous caucuses always being good. Right Willy?

  27. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:27 pm:

    ===It comes back to autonomous caucuses always being good. Right Willy?===

    Since Speaker Madigan is the head of his Caucus, being a member of the legislative body and…

    Bruce Rauner is a member of the Executive, not a member of the General Assembly…

    Yeah, I agree, LOL

  28. - illinoised - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:27 pm:

    I thought prostitution was illegal.

  29. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:39 pm:

    Unless you know Mr. Zenn’s resume beyond this article, commenting on whether or not he can handle a senate campaign is pointless.

    But go ahead and keep complaining honeybear. I’m sure Mr.Zenn is working hard for benton while you are behind a keyboard saying you’re helping McCann.

  30. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:39 pm:

    Honeybear - just so you know, Mr. Zenn is a friend of mine. Not that that point matters, but I can tell you that he has amassed a pretty good resume. A lot of good campaign staffers are young and started young. I did my first campaign (as an intern) at 22, had my first paid campaign gig at 25 and managed a campaign just past my 30th birthday. From my experience, years in the field is not always the most important thing when running a race.

  31. - Question? - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:40 pm:

    Wasn’t James Zenn the one who Kirk supposedly flicked off?

  32. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:41 pm:

    Anon - no reason to throw Honeybear under the bus.

    One interesting thing I noticed in Bernie’s column: Glenn Hodas is running McCann’s campaign. Interesting. I like Glenn he is oh for his last a bunch in elections.

  33. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:42 pm:

    I just realized that I used the word interesting twice. Whoops. Time to go back to my job at the redundancy department.

  34. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:44 pm:

    –If both men are doing the same thing, then they need to be held to the same standards.–

    I don’t know who you’re worried as to who’s holding whom to standards, or why, but:

    McCann’s vote in the Senate was meaningless, as he simply joined a super-majority. Dunkin’s vote in the House was decisive, as he prevented a super-majority.

    So, unless you think “meaningless” and “decisive” mean the same thing, their actions were quite different.

    I’m most interested in Rauner’s need to punish a legislator who voted his district and cast a meaningless vote, one that had no bearing on the outcome, which went the governor’s way.

    That’s quite revealing as to the governor’s view of GOP caucus members, particularly when coupled with his signing of the K-12 bill.

    No one gets a pass, ever, even when your vote has no effect on the outcome? But I can stick it to all of you, whenever it suits me?

    Have fun with that.

  35. - old elephant - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:49 pm:

    They could probably spend all $2 million against McCann and it wouldn’t make any difference. He’ll be in the Senate come next January and Proft will still be a blowhard backing losers.

  36. - There is power in a union... - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:58 pm:

    “he has amassed a pretty good resume.”

    I could amass a pretty good resume too if the person I campaigned for handed me a non-code 60k position at the age of 25…

    But his apologists should feel free to keep telling honeybear how hard of a worker zenn is.

  37. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 12:59 pm:

    Power - what are you talking about?! Do you have any idea of what Mr. Zenn did before he worked at IDOT? My guess is that you do not.

  38. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:06 pm:

    Word - did you follow the comments about Rep. Dunkin during and after his press conference? I based a great deal of my statement on that. It is 100% clear to me that most people on this blog dislike Dunkin. Some people even hate him. And then McCann has gotten a hero’s welcome when he bucked the Governor on SB 1229. I remember those posts and comments from last August quite well.

    You also seem to forget that McCann was the only - and I mean the only - GOP official (state and federal) who refused to endorse or even appear with Rauner during the 2014 election cycle. He completely rebuffed Rauner at every turn - including take pictures with him. My guess is that Rauner felt quite slighted by that.

  39. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:08 pm:

    McCann’s vote may have been “meaningless”, but it was symbolic nonetheless.

  40. - ToughGuy - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:12 pm:

    I applaud my previous State Senator, Sam McCann’s ability to vote for the interests of his constituents and not the governor’s agenda. I just wish our current State Representative, Avery Bourne, had the same convictions. A lot of grumbling in the ranks about her but I know she will get similar funding via the governor’s pals.

  41. - Joe Bidenopolous - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:15 pm:

    TS, others…

    You need to remember that in essence there are two votes that MJM covets - for Speaker and for the House rules. Except in extraordinary circumstances, he does not coerce members into voting against their districts, when he tries it doesn’t always work, and I’ve never heard of him threaten someone’s political life based on a vote. Witness Jack Franks.

    In contrast, Governor Rauner has shown that he will punish any and all defiance, even if it’s in the best interests of the member’s district, and subject them to a withering campaign, among who knows what else.

    It’s instructive to remember that sand slips through the grasp of an iron fist. Pate governed the Senate in much the same way that Madigan governs the House - giving members the latitude to support their districts and their constituencies. Lee Daniels, who ruled with an iron fist and punished all transgressions, was not nearly as successful of a leader, and eventually saw significant defections. Just something to think about.

  42. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:28 pm:

    - Joe Bidenopolous -

    Well done,

    A lil institutional knowledge is never, ever a bad thing.

    Boy, I miss Pate’s Gorillas, or the fact they were allowed to be around. Autonomy also breeds loyalty, if I could add.

    - Wordslinger -’s comments and views are compelling. Rewards are for those who continue their loyalty, discipline is a one time discretion thing.

    Not the way to run a railroad, but we’re talking about the Executive, outside even Party, seeks personal loyalty to him, not to Party, or to the Party Caucus leadership or even to their districts.

    Rauner is runnin’ the Rod Blagojevich dream. It’s that “simple”, and loyalty is required always, and disloyalty has little room for “error”.

  43. - Honeybear - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:38 pm:

    - I’m sure Mr.Zenn is working hard for benton while you are behind a keyboard saying you’re helping McCann.-

    Totally correct. I can’t get up there to go door to door till February.

  44. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:39 pm:

    Joe - okay, but the way Speaker Madigan constructs the rules gives him very wide latitude. Those two votes are so important to him that it gives him a veritable stranglehold on the House and his caucus. Jim Nowlan’s recent column on the issue is a good read. And perhaps his threats are not made publicly. Rauner just lays it all out there.

  45. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:40 pm:

    For those who think that Rauner’s problem with McCann started in the summer of last year, Rauner’s people told me and others two summers ago that Rauner wanted to take McCann out.

  46. - PonderingGal - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:44 pm:

    In researching Mr. Zenn, he seems to be a political hack that is working the system and just following the money. These are the people that you want to avoid. He is working strictly for the money, and that seems to follow his career.

    There’s a lot to say about that.

  47. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 1:48 pm:

    Gal - wait a minute. You mean political and campaign staffers and consultants follow the money?! NO WAY!

  48. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 2:14 pm:

    To be clear,

    McCann’s problems were/are with Leader Radogno far earlier than Rauner, and have continued with SGOP Leadership, many of which I have said I agree with Leader Radogno.

    McCann is a local fight, with Rauner v. Rauner’s “enemies” as the sideshow, wrapped with the bow of McCann’s own battle with Leader Radogno.

    It’s to all parties to figure out McCann, the Rauner underpinnings are blatent and obvious.

  49. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 2:28 pm:

    PonderingGal, I’m not quite sure what kind of research you did to come up with that conclusion, but you couldn’t be further from accurate. Before you start posting such preposterous and unfounded accusations I suggest that you actually do your due diligence. I worked with Mr. Zenn and he shows more dedication than you can even imagine. He puts in more hours than almost everyone he works with and even when he’s not working, he’s on the phone making sure things get done. If you knew James Zenn, you would see how wrong that you are.

  50. - AirCia - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 2:37 pm:

    I’m sorry, but if you’re going to attack someone’s character you should at least present some evidence.

  51. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 2:45 pm:

    How big could one possibly feel after commenting on a Capitol Fax blog repeatedly criticizing an unfamiliar 26 year old man who is clearly making a name for himself?

  52. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 2:47 pm:

    I agree with Anonymous above.

    Move along, people. You’ve been deleted anyway. C’mon, man. I have better things to do today than deal with this.

  53. - Honeybear - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 2:59 pm:

    Moving on then, here’s a learner question related to the post. Does money thrown at a campaign have more, less, or the same impact that it once did say a decade ago? In looking at Trump and Sanders and how atypical politics has become this past year, it makes me interested in your answers. I mean there seems to be an assumption that money is everything. Is that still true given the state of things these days. You know, anger, etc?

  54. - Northside City Dweller - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 3:00 pm:

    For anyone who actually knows Zenn, this has been a glorious thread to read. He could care less about your opinion and will only be upset today at the amount of material you’ve given his colleagues to razz him on for years to come.

  55. - Dome Gnome - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 3:30 pm:

    I have an honest (and related) question. Sometimes the threads of a news story get dropped over time, much to my dissatisfaction. Is it time to pick up the threads of this story łine?

  56. - Ghost - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 4:53 pm:

    Rauner complains that union money skews elections…. but he by himslef is pretty much funding several elections for the purpose of skewing the outcome…. so why is it ok for Rauner to pay huge sums to get what he wants, but its bad if anyone else contributes much smaller sums?

  57. - illini - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 5:03 pm:

    Politics as usual!

  58. - Odysseus - Thursday, Jan 28, 16 @ 10:48 pm:

    Honeybear - “Does money thrown at a campaign have more, less, or the same impact that it once did say a decade ago?”

    The studies that I’ve seen say things like “doubling spending gets you +5% votes”. There is very much a ceiling on how effective just throwing money at a campaign can be.

    Not sure how that translates to state legislature races, which are often small dollar.

  59. - Honeybear - Friday, Jan 29, 16 @ 6:42 am:

    Interesting article this morning. I guess Mr. Zenn is busy learning lessons. Scoring the endorsement of your candidates union would have been a big victory. I don’t know, I think I was on to something.

  60. - There is power in a union... - Friday, Jan 29, 16 @ 6:59 am:

    Notice that lodge didn’t endorse for the governor’s race? Glad they now see Rauner is attacking all labor.

  61. - Anonymous - Friday, Jan 29, 16 @ 7:57 am:

    James Zenn? The guy who voted for Obama in 08

  62. - Oswego, silly - Friday, Jan 29, 16 @ 8:37 am:

    These facts do not even begin to describe Mr. Zenn’s shortcomings. As a friend of his, I can tell you he also has questionable fashion sense, likes Jay Cutler, needs to shave badly, does not know how to talk to women and now refers to himself as “THE James Zenn from CapFax.” You all have created a monster.

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* CIRA cancels flights due to Atlanta airport power outage
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* Why Was This Game Even Scheduled?
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* Illinois Awarded Funds to Offer Advanced Training on Detecting Impaired Driving
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* Best Buy Doorbuster Event Day 18: Apple Watch Series 2 Stainless Steel Models Starting at $349
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* Podcast: Much ado about Manny Machado
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* Sporcle Saturday: The richest free agent deals in White Sox history
* Former White Sox players return to rep team
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* Former White Sox players return to rep team
* The cracks in the White Sox-Manny Machado rumors

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