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Oppo smear or legit hit?

Friday, Mar 18, 2016

* Rep. Phelps is a Tier One target and this is exactly the sort of thing that can be easily twisted into a very nasty ad campaign

[Rep. Brandon Phelps’ campaign] expenditures in 2015 included a $1,100 donation to the Central Florida Shootout, a fishing tournament in the Sunshine State. He said in an interview that he did not attend the tournament. He spent time at Lake of the Ozarks last summer and also went to Las Vegas in January 2015 to attend the Shot Show, a gun exposition. The tab for his stay at the Hard Rock Hotel during the gun show came to $1,340. Coincidentally or not, Adult Video News was holding its annual adult entertainment convention, which draws crowds of porn stars and their fans, at the Hard Rock at the same time as the gun show was in town.

Phelps said that the National Rifle Association arranged for his lodging and that he did not rub shoulders with porn stars. He says that he checked out when he discovered that porn stars were coming.

“When I heard that, I left early,” Phelps says. “They (the porn convention) came in the day after I left, supposedly. I was not there. God knows that I was not.”

The events did overlap (here and here). But Rep. Phelps’ explanation is buttressed by the fact that the adult entertainment show didn’t start until the day after the gun show started. That timeline conveniently wasn’t mentioned in the story, even though it took all of a minute to find with the Google.

I’ve asked Phelps for any receipt or proof that he checked out of the hotel early, but he’s at his eye doctor (he lost the use of an eye in an ATV incident years ago) in St. Louis and won’t be back home until the evening.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - AlabamaShake - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 8:59 am:

    Seriously? Phelps is getting attacked for being in Vegas at the same time as a Porn Convention being in Vegas?

    That is absurd.

  2. - guh - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:05 am:

    Does anyone else find it interesting the article only covers Democratic members. The GOP members aren’t saints when it comes to campaign expenditures.

  3. - LizPhairTax - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:05 am:

    My sources indicate that there are many events happening in Las Vegas simultaneously at any given time.

  4. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:06 am:

    ===the article only covers Democratic members===

    And one Republican: Sam McCann.

    Sense a pattern?

  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:07 am:

    –Phelps said that the National Rifle Association arranged for his lodging and that he did not rub shoulders with porn stars. –

    Not a shoulders guy, huh?

    –Coincidentally or not, Adult Video News was holding its annual adult entertainment convention, which draws crowds of porn stars and their fans, at the Hard Rock at the same time as the gun show was in town.–

    What does “coincidentally or not” mean? I’m at a loss.

    I get the prurient wink-wink, nudge-nudge attempt here, but it’s a nothing.

    He went to Las Vegas for a show, and there was another show in town. So what? That’s an everyday thing.

    For crying out loud, you don’t need a porn star convention happening in Las Vegas if you want to get strange.

    That’s available 24/7, 365. Big selling point for the town.

  6. - guh - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:08 am:

    Exactly, Rich. Exactly.

  7. - Jimmy CrackCorn - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:17 am:

    If it is coming out this early I am guessing smear… Why would you want to waste the good stuff now?

  8. - Ghost - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:20 am:

    so what i am seeing is Rich was doing porn reasearch as part of a “investigation”…..

  9. - AC - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:31 am:

    It’s a good thing none of them were in Chicago while the “Players Ball” convention was being held. /s

  10. - Not it - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:32 am:

    HDI has done worse.

  11. - Not it - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:33 am:

    (I meant DPI)

  12. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:33 am:

    [so what i am seeing is Rich was doing porn research as part of a “investigation”…]

    Hopefully not on a State computer /s …

  13. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:34 am:

    The governor spoke at a convention in Rosemont the same time the Godzilla show was going on in Rosemont.
    Does this correspond to what he’s trying to do to Illinois? Inquiring minds want to know…

  14. - Poolguy - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:36 am:

    are porn stars sub-human? you aren’t allowed to be in the same hotel as “them” when another show is going on? they aren’t allowed to eat at the same restaurants or use the same gaming tables when normal people are there? which seems to be the tone of the piece to me.

    I’m pretty sure they are not walking around the hotel sans clothing, or offering up free services cause they just can’t help themselves. and Vegas attracts adult trade shows if anyone was paying attention. jeesh.

  15. - SouthernIL - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:40 am:

    All this and Phelps doesn’t even have a GOP opponent yet?

  16. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:43 am:

    ===Phelps doesn’t even have a GOP opponent yet? ===

    Dude, if you don’t know even basic things, please don’t post comments here. Of course he has an opponent.

  17. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 9:59 am:

    As long as he does not practice nepotism or have a sister that is a thespian he should be ok.

  18. - wolf - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:07 am:

    Meh, it’s pretty weak.

  19. - Marty Funkhouser - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:07 am:

    Oppo smear? Please. You might not like the story, but anybody think the fact that this reporter broke some of the Mautino news led him to go look at other lawmakers’ expense reports?

  20. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:08 am:

    ===You might not like the story===

    The story is full of holes. I just pointed out one of them.

    For instance, legislators are allowed under law to spend campaign money to support state services. That actually saves taxpayer money. Never mentioned anywhere.

  21. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:12 am:

    All Dems, really?!? Weak…

  22. - Annonin' - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:24 am:

    What is curious is who is doing the work? seems unlikely the lone reporter has time to check on the stuff reported here ….just a wild guess

  23. - Will Caskey - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:25 am:

    Would I approve it for a hit? No.

    Will HDems use it in an incredibly hamfisted and unconvincing series of mail? Probably.

  24. - Jimmy CrackCorn - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:27 am:

    If I may answer the question with a question… Can one visit modern-day Las Vegas and NOT “rub shoulders with a pornstar?”

  25. - Chicago_Downstater - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:38 am:

    The porn convention is a pretty straightforward oppo smear in my opinion. Event overlap is bound to happen in Las Vegas. Now some of these other expenditures from the linked article could be a legit hit, and I’m very confused about how a fishing tournament could be related to governmental or political work. Perhaps someone can correct my lack of imagination.

  26. - guh - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:53 am:

    Campaign accounts do save taxpayers some money. Reports aren’t always clear why an expenditure was made, but there are often legitimate purposes. The Illinois Times took a few democratic members and found what they believe to be questionable expenses. You can look at GOP reports and find similar issues. I’m betting 99% of these are legit, but you wouldn’t know it because the person completing the reports does not fully explain the purpose. Take a look at the latest quarterly report filed by Leader Durkin. His committee made a bunch of expenditures for parking in Chicago, direct payments to some members, , and rent for a property in Springfield. It’s unclear if those are related to politics or if these are expenses paid by his committee rather paid for by the state.

  27. - Bruce Rushton - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:54 am:

    On the road today and unable to respond in depth–I will when I get to a real keyboard. For now, I’ll say this regarding R’s vs. D’s: Which Republican would you suggest? Rightly or wrongly, I chose to go with what seemed most egregious, and you’ve seen the result. Yes, there are R’s who take trips and buy sports tickets and the like, but not, it seemed to me, on the same scale. I’ll note that the BAG and Chicago magazine did a similar exercise a few years ago and also found that the issue is, by and large, with D’s. The Chicago Sun Times reported a couple years back that of 32 legislative trips to Turkey reported as gifts, 29 were taken by D’s.

    You can disagree with this story or not, but, at least to me, these are the equivalent of expense rreports, and if I turned in something like some of the stuff I found, my boss, after he stopped laughing, would fire me.

    The story was not written for insiders, it was written for the real world. And when the chief enforcer says it’s OK to pay yourself an hourly wage for doorbelling, it seems to me there’s an issue.

    As I say, I’m on the road now. A more detailed response, particularly with regard to Phelps and Vegas, to come.

  28. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 10:56 am:

    Wouldn’t give a dime to any politician. I wouldn’t give my handgun to a five year old.

  29. - walker - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 11:05 am:

    Just reminding everybody Phelps was attending a gun show, will help him more than hurt him.

  30. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 11:08 am:

    ===And when the chief enforcer says it’s OK to pay yourself an hourly wage for doorbelling, it seems to me there’s an issue.===

    That’s where your lack of understanding of politics really comes into play.

    Winning a legislative campaign requires hours and hours of walking precincts. Some people cannot afford to take leaves of absences. Campaigns pay workers to walk precincts, or whatever else. I see no problem with a candidate getting a bit of money for all the time they put in. And it’s legal. It’s in statute.

    And some folks, like Rep. Mike Smiddy, find themselves in financial trouble due to severe family health issues. That was an issue in his last campaign and he overcame it.

    There’s often a decent explanation for things if you are willing to understand stuff. Some, not so much. I get that.

  31. - guh - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 11:15 am:

    ==Yes, there are R’s who take trips and buy sports tickets and the like, but not, it seemed to me, on the same scale.==

    If you’re comparing the number, um, you’re forgetting a very important fact - the Dem outnumber the Republicans 3 to 1.

  32. - Vole - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 11:17 am:

    From Rushton’s article:

    “Lightford is right about at least one thing. Tens of millions of dollars that flow into campaign accounts for legislators are coming, by and large, from corporations, political action committees and various interest groups, not voters. Kent Redfield, a retired University of Illinois Springfield political science professor, says the public has an interest in how lawmakers spend that money.

    “You don’t have the money because you’re a nice guy and you have a winning personality, you have the money because you’re an elected official,” Redfield says. “The issue is, when spending starts to get into something that is either a perk, allowing you to live a better lifestyle than you would have been able to live otherwise, or something that could clearly be perceived as a perk, the question becomes, is your loyalty to your contributors or to your constituents?””

    It seems like some of the legislators cited in Rushton’s article share the same attitude about campaign expenditures as Aaron Schock who for months received quite a drubbing from commenters here. Anyone care to tell me what the difference is? Be interesting to go back and examine Schock’s campaign spending while in the IL legislature. Were some of his questionable ethics shaped while in Springfield?

    Thank you Bruce Rushton!

  33. - AboutThat - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 11:23 am:

    Phelps’ being at the SHOT Show is no surprise. He’s openly 2A, very much and very admittedly an NRA guy and was — before he lost use of one eye in an accident — said to be an exceptional shot in his own right. The SHOT Show is the shooting world’s biggest annual trade show, and his presence amounts to a given.
    And, where Brandon’s from, none of that’s considered a bad thing.

    Linking him to an overlapping porn convention? Not cool, IMO.

  34. - Mongo - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 11:45 am:

    Governor Rauner was in Chicago in December of 2014 when the Furry convention was being held in Rosemont. (jk)

    This is a cheap shot article. I attended, because I had to, it is my trade, our annual convention in Las Vegas last year. Wasn’t fun, was expensive, but those meeting planners like it as a venue.

  35. - OneMan - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 12:11 pm:

    Was in Vegas for a vendor event (computer storage) a few years back that overlapped with either the AVN or the adult tech show they do around the CES show. They had an event or two at the hotel we were at.

    Suffice to say, it led to some interesting sightings at the restaurant the vendor took us to at the hotel and in the casino.

  36. - Original Rambler - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 12:39 pm:

    guh 10:53 Durkin having expenditures implies he was a player this election cycle. Color me skeptical.

  37. - efudd - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 1:31 pm:

    Might want to re-consider whether this is a hit or not.
    Yeah, we’re an evangelical bunch down here in the 118th.
    However, between Brandon’s stand on the 2nd, and the thought he had a naked Asia Carrera on his shoulders partying in Vegas, wouldn’t exactly dim a lot of our views on him.

  38. - Marty Funkhouser - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 1:50 pm:

    ==I just pointed out one of them.==

    That’s legit. But the title of this post speculates the story stems from an oppo dump when, as with the Phelps example, there is another reasonable explanation within grasp.

    None of these expenditures surprised me. Using their campaign funds this way is standard practice. But I spend a lot of time in political bubbles as does everyone else here. As Rushton noted, the general public does not and may think, rightly so, that some of this stuff is out of line.

  39. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 1:51 pm:

    ===as with the Phelps example, there is another reasonable explanation within grasp===

    Supposedly spend hours meticulously combing through numerous campaign finance records and can’t spend 60 seconds to check on Phelps’ story?

    Color me skeptical.

  40. - Marty Funkhouser - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 2:09 pm:

    Phelps, sure, but oppo on Kim Lightford, Dan Burke, Mattie Hunter, Luis Arroyo, etc., helps you do what? I guess Illinois GO might be more ambitious than we know, but it seems unlikely. Even if they are, I’d imagine Illinois Times is not your average Raunerite’s first choice for an oppo dump, particularly when the story mostly concerns a bunch of Chicago Democrats. Don’t you think Kass and McQueary would love to write a column about this stuff? They’ve tried to turn much more wrinkled, decayed lemons than this into lemonade.

  41. - Boone's is Back - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 2:44 pm:

    Utterly ridiculous.

  42. - Bruce Rushton - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 4:43 pm:

    Regarding Phelps and Las Vegas, here is what the available records show.

    The adult entertainment convention was held Jan. 21-24 at the Hard Rock. Campaign disclosure reports show that Phelps paid his hotel bill of $1,340 at the Hard Rock on Jan. 26. Campaign reports also show that he dined at Sushi Samba in Vegas on Jan. 20, a bill for the Stadium Club a The Palazzo on Jan. 20 and bill at TAO on Jan. 22. There were no other hotel bills from Las Vegas reported for this time frame. I gave Mr. Phelps a chance to respond and printed his response. There is a simple way to get to the bottom of the matter: Campaigns are required to keep financial records for two years, so there should be a record in Phelps’ possession showing check-in and check-out dates from The Hard Rock.

    As for criticism that I don’t know anything about politics, I’m the first to admit that I am a generalist, not a Statehouse reporter. That said, the records show that legislators made payments to themselves for Election Day expenses and campaign work when they had no opposition at the polls. Now, maybe they worked for other campaigns. I don’t know. The story also points out that it is legal to pay yourself for doorbelling. The larger point is, a lot of folks who are just regular folks would scratch their heads at a politician paying himself or herself to do something that they would have done anyway. There is also, I suspect, a school of thought that would say, if you’re doing work for another campaign, then get paid by that campaign instead of paying yourself. Folks are free to agree or disagree. But paying yourself to campaign is not, I’m told, allowable in some states.

    I have more to say, but it’s late, and I appreciate Rich giving me the chance to respond.

  43. - Bruce Rushton - Friday, Mar 18, 16 @ 5:47 pm:

    Almost forgot.

    This was no oppo feed. I dreamed this up all by myself and take full responsibility for it.

  44. - Doh - Saturday, Mar 19, 16 @ 12:36 pm:


    Please address why no mention of a single GOP, other than some defense of Rauner and brief mention of McCann. I randomly reviewed 5 GOP legislators and found the same, if not worse. It doesn’t make sense.

    As for Phelps, that was a cheap shot. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of conventions. A toilet paper convention was in town that week too. No mention of that.

  45. - Bruce Rushton - Monday, Mar 21, 16 @ 9:30 am:

    ==Please address why no mention of a single GOP==

    I addressed that issue in my post at 10:54. As I say, if your research revealed different results than mine, let me know.


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