Tom Kacich: Liautaud seventh among Illinoisans in campaign gifts
James J. "Jimmy John" Liautaud contributed $609,550 to federal candidates, national party committees and political action committees in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based research group.
That was enough to put Liautaud, the former Champaign resident and founder and CEO of the Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches franchise, into seventh place among Illinoisans for political spending in 2011-2012.
Liautaud also put $22,752 into Illinois-based political activities in that two-year period, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
But that might be the end of all that spending. Liautaud now lives in Key Largo, Fla., and is registered to vote there, according to the county clerk in Monroe County, Fla.
He was removed from Champaign County's voting rolls in January.
His spending on Illinois-related politics had already been dropping. It peaked in the 2009-2010 election cycle, when he poured $285,000 into state election campaigns, including $110,000 to gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady, and $100,000 to state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
But in the next Illinois election cycle, he spent just $22,752. So far in this cycle — just a few months old — he hasn't put a penny into an Illinois campaign. That has to be bad news for both Rutherford and Brady, both of whom are running for the GOP nomination for governor.
In November, Liautaud told The News-Gazette that he would keep his corporate offices in Champaign, but that he and the licensing/franchising part of Jimmy John's would go to Florida. He was leaving Illinois, he said, because of the 67 percent income-tax increase enacted by the Legislature in January 2011, and because of what he has characterized as reckless spending.
Liautaud professed hope for Illinois' future.
"I'm an eternal optimist and I believe that most people want to do a good job," he said. "All they need to know is why, and I think that once the people who are making financial decisions for the state understand the ramifications of what they're doing, then they'll figure out how to change. You only change when you feel pain. You know when you get older and your heart hurts you go on a diet, right? I believe that.
"I believe that they are wonderful people who haven't felt the pain. Once they feel the pain, they're going to have to make a change because none of this (state spending) is sustainable. That's why I'm leaving."
Most of Liautaud's spending in the last federal cycle — a full $500,000 — went to Restore Our Future, a super PAC that supported Mitt Romney. He also gave $5,000 to the Free & Strong America PAC, also affiliated with Romney.
Liautaud also gave to the campaigns of U.S. Reps. Tim Johnson, Rodney Davis, Aaron Schock and Peter Roskam, all of Illinois, plus $5,000 more to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Other contributions included $5,000 to Romney's regular campaign fund, $18,300 to the Republican National Committee and $30,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Liautaud was the biggest political spender in downstate Illinois in the last election cycle, but his contributions were dwarfed by five separate Chicago-area donors who each spent more than a million dollars.
The biggest spender of all was Fred Eychaner of Chicago, who put out $14.1 million, all of which went to federal politicians, political action committees and super PACs affiliated with liberal causes or Democrats.
He gave $4.3 million to the Senate Majority PAC, $4.25 million to the House Majority PAC, $4.5 million to Priorities USA Action, $200,000 to the America Votes Action Fund, $750,000 to Women Vote and lesser amounts to Obama and various Senate and House candidates.
Eychaner also doled out 78 separate contributions to candidates running in Illinois, totaling $544,250.
Among the state recipients of Eychaner's largesse during the period: $10,000 to House Speaker Michael Madigan, $20,000 to the Democratic Party of Illinois, $5,000 to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, $2,500 to Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and $2,500 to state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana.
Shimkus in Mahomet
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, will be available to meet with constituents from 3 to 4:30 p.m. July 3 at the Mahomet Administration Building, 503 E. Main St. Anyone interested in scheduling an appointment should call 446-0664. Appointments are not necessary but are helpful in keeping wait times to a minimum, according to Shimkus' staff.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.