U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson is no longer a candidate, but he's not out of politics. The Urbana Republican, who will retire from political life in early January, still has a campaign fund with more than $270,000, and he's planning to spend some of that to support candidates.
Johnson's latest filing with the Federal Election Commission shows that he has given $1,000 to both John Farney, the Republican candidate for Champaign County auditor, and Katie Blakeman, the GOP candidate for county circuit clerk; $500 to both Caleb Briscoe, a candidate for Greene County state's attorney, and Shirley Thornton, a contender for Greene County circuit court clerk; and $250 to Republican central committees in Greene, Jersey and Macoupin counties.
He's also given $1,000 to the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Moline. He has not, however, contributed to Rodney Davis, the Republican candidate in the 13th Congressional District.
"I do think we have a couple more who we'll be giving to," said Johnson.
Mark Shelden, Johnson's chief of staff, said "we're looking at a couple more races where some money might be helpful this fall. We haven't settled on what we're going to do yet."
As for the possibility that Davis could be a beneficiary, Shelden said, "I wouldn't want to comment on who is going to get money. The determination about where we give money, or the races that Tim cares about, the people he knows and supports, or where it's going to be a close race and where some funding might make a difference, there are a lot of factors that go into the decision.
"But the absence of a contribution, no one should take that as meaning anything."
Johnson also has refunded more than $135,000 in campaign contributions since announcing in April — after the March 20 primary election — that he would not be a candidate in the general election. In the last three months, he's refunded $3,730 in individual contributions and $20,500 in political action committee contributions.
Among the groups getting their money back from the Johnson campaign were the Automotive Free International Trade PAC; the campaign fund of Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.; the National Association of Home Builders PAC; the fund of Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill.; the National Corn Growers; and the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Shelden said he believes the Johnson campaign has made all the campaign refunds requested.
"Some people gave for the primary (election) and some gave for the general," he said. "People who gave for the general election I think were refunded. And a few people made requests and we gave back to them as well. Generally, I think that's where we're at.
"So I think we'll just keep looking for opportunities to support people, not only in this election but down the road."
Frerichs' future. State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, is engaged in a battle for reelection this fall but that doesn't keep people from forecasting his future beyond the Statehouse. The guessing may have been ratcheted up after a speech at Sunday's Champaign County Democratic Party fall dinner.
After the speech Frerichs insisted he had no interest in a federal office. But his speech focused not on Springfield but on national issues.
He defended public employees against what he said were the "attacks" by Govs. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Mitch Daniels in Indiana, and the idea that public sector salaries and pensions had created financial problems for state and national governments.
"They decided not to pay any attention to the deregulation of the financial services industry, or the two wars that were run up without enough money to pay for them but with tax cuts at the same time. They say that our firefighters and police officers are just making too much money," Frerichs said. "As Joe Biden said, that's a bunch of malarkey."
He said Democrats believe not in handouts but hands up and talked of his education at Yale, a place he said his parents told him they couldn't afford.
"They couldn't afford it, but because of the federal government, they offered federally guaranteed student loans that allowed me to go and afford my college," he said. "I think when we offer that to young people without a crippling burden, we improve our communities. There's an old Celtic saying that I've recently discovered that 'we have all warmed ourselves from fires that we did not build, we've all drunk from wells we did not dig.' We as Democrats know that people came before us and fought to give us the opportunities that we have as Americans, and we have a responsibility to keep those fires lit for future generations."
He ended saying that "Democrats believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are only interested in lifting the yachts."
Andrzejewski to speak to Ford County Tea Party. Adam Andrzejewski, chairman of the For the Good of Illinois political action committee, will speak at the Oct. 25 meeting of the Ford County Tea Party at the Moyer Library, 618 S. Sangamon Ave., Gibson City.
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Andrzejewski will speak on the "Save Illinois Taxpayers" pledge.
Candidates are being asked to sign the pledge in which they promise to freeze property taxes for three years, enact "adversarial audits" that would detail wasteful spending, and repeal the 67 percent income tax increase approved by state lawmakers in January 2011.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.