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Tillman slams Sun-Times: “We will not be silenced”

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

* Press release…

Illinois Policy Institute CEO John Tillman announced today the results of a full compliance review of the good government organizations he has fostered over the years. The review was conducted in the wake of a hit piece by the Chicago Sun-Times, which made false allegations in the hope of triggering a legal investigation.

For example, the Sun-Times reported an alleged “no-interest loan,” which was actually a bookkeeping error that misidentified a double payment to a vendor and was quickly rectified.

The Sun-Times has refused to address these errors. Further, on Monday one of the two reporters involved in the February article began a new line of inquiry that indicates another agenda-driven article is forthcoming.

Statement from John Tillman:

“I joined the Illinois Policy Institute in 2007 because I wanted to find policy solutions that will help save this state.

“Since then, we’ve become the strongest voice for taxpayers in Illinois. We read every bill. We have top experts analyzing Illinois’ challenges and finding solutions. Thousands and thousands of Illinoisans have turned to us for a voice. And we are excited to be a champion for people who have felt neglected by their elected officials for too long.

“One way we’ve promoted free markets and small government is by serving as an incubator for other good government organizations, working with them as they launch and then stepping back as these groups go off on their own.

“Rather than focusing on this amazing work, on Feb. 11, 2018, the Chicago Sun-Times published an article riddled with errors that misled readers about our work. The authors presented this as if it were investigative journalism, but there was no investigation and no journalism – simply the stitching together of information found in publicly available documents in such a way that suggested wrongdoing, of which there was none.

“The article got a lot of things wrong and purposely misled readers. The Sun-Times singled out a particular transaction that an outsourced accounting firm referred to as a “no interest” loan to a related party where I have an ownership interest. We were not given time to research that transaction before the story was published. Since then, as part of our internal review, we have researched that alleged “no interest” loan. It turned out to be a bookkeeping error: A double payment on an invoice that was quickly rectified. The Sun-Times has refused to update their article with this information, despite their journalistic obligation to gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.

“Further, the Sun-Times presented perfectly normal contracts for services provided as money being ‘channeled’ to people improperly. They massively underreported the revenues of our total operation to create the illusion that my compensation is out of line.

“In a changing media landscape, it’s important that legacy media players such as the Sun-Times live up to the tradition of journalistic excellence. Sadly, they failed in this article and appear poised to try again. An email we received Monday reflected a new line of questioning that is equally inaccurate and misleading in its narrative.

“None of what is happening is a coincidence. It’s part of a concerted, bipartisan effort to silence effective voices of dissent that seek to hold politicians of both parties accountable for their policy and leadership choices.

“It’s important to have a healthy ecosystem of government watchdogs keeping elected officials from both parties in check, especially in a city like Chicago and a state like Illinois.

“But make no mistake, any effective voice for taxpayers at the state level will come under this sort of attack.

“We will not be silenced.”

For a rundown of the inaccuracies in the Chicago Sun-Times article, visit illin.is/suntimes.

* Related…

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* Editorial: Illinois Policy Institute nonprofit tax status begs for FBI probe

* Rauner ‘very troubled’ by Sun-Times-ProPublica report on past conservative ally

* Rauner won’t give ‘another nickel’ to former ally Illinois Policy Institute

* Chicago media team peeks into Illinois transparency think tank’s inner workings

- Posted by Rich Miller        

32 Comments
  1. - Dee Lay - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:22 am:

    “full compliance review”

    By whom? Will you be releasing the complete review like other non-profits have in the past?


  2. - Texas Red - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:22 am:

    “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”


  3. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:25 am:

    Tillman should get Project Six to work on this…


  4. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:26 am:

    “There was no investigation and no journalism — simply the stitching together of information found in publicly available documents in such a way that suggested wrongdoing, of which there was none.”

    Oh, the irony.

    IPI, heal thyself.


  5. - Uncle Merkin - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:31 am:

    Flapping like a bluegill on a dock.

    He challenged one claim of the many that were leveled against him. Notably absent is any contention over claims that they’ve illegally shifted money between charitable and non-charitable organizations for political use. Also, calling contracts awarded to other organizations that he runs might be “perfectly normal” contracts, but they still don’t pass the sniff test.


  6. - Non-Radical Candor - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:32 am:

    “The article got a lot of things wrong and purposely misled readers.”

    Just like a typical Proft/IPI “work of art.”


  7. - truth - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:48 am:

    The “outsourced accounting firm” that he’s blaming has extensive ties to the Tillman web. The Hechtman Group/Jordan Werblow, which are listed as the preparer on Think Freely’s 2015 IRS 990, did the taxes for Illinois Policy Institute from 2009 to 2013. They also did Illinois Opportunity Project’s taxes from 2011 to 2015. Jordan Werblow is also the registered agent for Leadership Consulting, LLC (Tillman), The Waldo Group, LLC (Tillman again), and Local Government Information Services, LLC (Proft papers)


  8. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:49 am:

    –“We will not be silenced.”–

    Unless you write me a bigger check than Sugar Daddy Dick.

    I’m overcome with emotion, the commitment of this great humanitarian.

    We will not be moved.

    We shall overcome.

    I am in earnest - I will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard.

    But, for the right price, I can go the other way, too. Give me a call.


  9. - Suburbanon - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 9:58 am:

    Anonymous 9:26 nailed it, followed closely by Non-Radical Candor.


  10. - Fixer - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:03 am:

    Tillman doth protest too much…


  11. - The Way I See It - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:19 am:

    It took me a minute to figure out the Tillman led good govt organizations included UP I. Who knew that trying to burn govt to the ground is the work of good govt organizations?


  12. - RNUG - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:21 am:

    == We have top experts analyzing Illinois’ challenges and finding solutions. ==

    Disclaimer: I don’t work for them. LOL (banned puncuation)


  13. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:21 am:

    “The “outsourced accounting firm” that he’s blaming has extensive ties to the Tillman web. The Hechtman Group/Jordan Werblow, which are listed as the preparer on Think Freely’s 2015 IRS 990, did the taxes for Illinois Policy Institute from 2009 to 2013. They also did Illinois Opportunity Project’s taxes from 2011 to 2015. Jordan Werblow is also the registered agent for Leadership Consulting, LLC (Tillman), The Waldo Group, LLC (Tillman again), and Local Government Information Services, LLC (Proft papers)”

    So in other words, it was a whitewash done by insiders with a financial stake in the outcome. Sounds like something about which a certain right wing “think tank” would normally scream bloody murder.


  14. - SaulGoodman - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:24 am:

    So… anyone notice that they only fact that correct is that there was no interest-free loan?

    I take that to mean that the rest of the SunTimes article is correct?


  15. - RNUG - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:25 am:

    == It’s important to have a healthy ecosystem of government watchdogs keeping elected officials from both parties in check, especially in a city like Chicago and a state like Illinois. ==

    When you have to fact check every statement IPI makes, they are not exactly non-biased watchdogs. While every organization has their tilt, I might respect them more if they tried actual reporting without massive slanting.


  16. - 19th ward guy - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:27 am:

    Yeah. No interest loan small part of story. Funneling not for profit funds into for profit entities violates state and federal tax laws. The AG and/or IRS will sort this out. And Tillman already silenced. No credible news outlet will put him on anymore. Time for him to move on.


  17. - Barrington - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:30 am:

    Nice investigative journalism. Sarah Sanders take note on denials and add to your index of quotes.


  18. - Juvenal - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:31 am:

    Top experts? Last time I checked, IPI’s staff had one masters degree per 30 employees. None with practical policy experience. All focused on lobbying and p.r.

    Tillman will not be silenced as long as there is someone crazy enough to write a check knowing that he is going to be funneling a percentage into his own pocket through some shell companies.

    But the IPI will probably never be taken seriously again by anyone outside of the editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune, Champaign News-Gazette, and Belleville News-Democrat.


  19. - Whatever - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:35 am:

    From the “complete rundown” of the Sun-Times article:

    ==The authors spoke with Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer of the University of Notre Dame Law School and wrote: “‘If this is basically seen as an indirect loan to the officer, that’s a flat-out violation of nonprofit law in Illinois,’ Mayer said.”

    This quote describes loans to officers when it is crystal clear that the loans described by the Sun-Times were loans to businesses.==

    So Tillman doesn’t understand what Mayer meant when he said that the loans to a business owned or operated by an officer could be seen as indirect loans to the officer. Either that or he’s hoping his readers don’t. Why am I not surprised?


  20. - Someone you should know - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:51 am:

    John sounds Kind of like a snowflake, actually……


  21. - 44th - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:51 am:

    I don’t know a lot about IPI, but I did add my name to one of their petitions one time (anti tax petition that was posted on Capitol Fax). Well that was a mistake, IPI started sending me all sorts of spammy crap, including goofy tax cartoons. The kind of cartoons old men email each other 20 years ago….


  22. - walker - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:52 am:

    We must not be questioned.


  23. - SaulGoodman - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:57 am:

    ** No credible news outlet will put him on anymore.**

    LOL - if only that were true.


  24. - RNUG - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 10:58 am:

    == Well that was a mistake, IPI started sending me all sorts of spammy crap, including goofy tax cartoons. ==

    I’m on their email list too. Most the stuff I skim and delete, but some of the cartoons are both funny and make a point.


  25. - Hamilton - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 11:26 am:

    These sorts of legal structures are so common with not-for-profit advocacy groups (progressive and liberal), especially since Citizens United. I don’t like it. I don’t like their mission. But there is nothing more than political theatre happening here around this network of organizations. If you think it is more, you are fooling yourself.


  26. - anon2 - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 11:26 am:

    === another agenda-driven article is forthcoming ===

    Tillman is an expert on agenda-driven hit pieces.


  27. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 12:27 pm:

    Sorry John,
    Illinois government is too poorly run to take suggestions from other poorly run organizations.

    Thanks for playing….


  28. - Demoralized - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 1:39 pm:

    John Tillman talking about journalistic integrity is pretty rich.


  29. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 1:47 pm:

    I’m sure a cartoon will take the Sun Times to task too.


  30. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 16, 18 @ 7:28 pm:

    Perhaps Tillman should get a real job.


  31. - Union Thug Gramma - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 12:25 am:

    The IPI gets its funding and talking points from the National Policy Institute, and the head of that? Is Richard Spencer, an avowed white supremacist…so, as most white supremacists that I’ve dealt with in my life, they just whine and blame others. How about no one wants your hate speech cuz you’re a jerk? Sounds about right.


  32. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 9:15 am:

    “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
    Wizard of Oz


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