Tom Kacich: Ives' strategist backing more than one horse

Tom Kacich: Ives' strategist backing more than one horse

The same strategist playing a large role in the campaign of conservative governor candidate Jeanne Ives also is a major supporter of a Decatur Republican who is running to succeed Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, in a three-way GOP primary.

Dan Proft, a Chicago radio host and head of the Liberty Principles Political Action Committee, has directed $105,610 into the campaign of Dan Caulkins, a former Decatur City Council member and current Eastern Illinois University trustee. Proft, formerly an ally of Gov. Bruce Rauner, now is advising the Ives campaign.

The independent expenditure in support of Caulkins — money spent on his behalf but not to be coordinated with his campaign — is almost twice as much as what Caulkins' own committee has spent on his behalf. According to State Board of Elections records, Caulkins' campaign has spent $56,854.

The Decatur Republican is running against Todd Henricks of Cerro Gordo and Randy Keith of Monticello in the 101st House District, which includes all or parts of Champaign, Macon, DeWitt, Piatt and McLean counties.

The more than $160,000 spent on Caulkins' behalf — both by his campaign and by the Proft group — dwarfs the expenditures for Henricks ($2,619) and Keith ($8,024) as of Dec. 31.

The unusually sizable Liberty Principles PAC expenditures, which went to mailings, television advertising, social media and digital advertising on Caulkins' behalf, also remove overall contribution limits for all candidates in the 101st District race.

The largely rural and very Republican 101st District is one of nine House districts — most of them Republican, with Proft's group involved — where money is pouring into primary races this winter and contribution caps are off.

Adding to the intrigue is Caulkins' relationship with Rauner. He helped pay for a fundraiser for candidate Rauner in 2013, and he was appointed to the EIU board by the governor.

Is Caulkins friend or foe? Who knows? Twice Tuesday he told me he'd call back in a little while and didn't. I get the feeling he didn't want to talk about what all that campaign money means.

Speaking of Ives

Her appearance Saturday night in Champaign drew a crowd of about 50 people, none of whom included her Republican legislative colleagues from East Central Illinois. None of them has endorsed her, and it may be because she doesn't spare anyone with her criticism.

Take this example where she hit both Rauner and the 15 House Republicans who joined with Democrats last year to pass a state budget and end a long impasse.

"You can make deals, but you cannot adjust and continually cave. He caved to pressure on the education bill. He caved to pressure on the budget bill," Ives said of Rauner.

"He made not a single phone call to get Republicans to hold off on that permanent 32 percent tax increase. He owns that tax increase. He caved, as did many of my colleagues. Many of them have been taken control of by lobbyists. It's frightening down there. Frightening."

The only past or present Republican officeholders I saw at the Ives function were Savoy Mayor Joan Dykstra, Champaign County Board member Jim McGuire, Parkland College Board member Greg Knott and former county board member Scott Tapley, who is coordinating the Ives campaign in Champaign County.

Ives also said the "entire Democratic ticket is like a bunch of socialists. They picked out the most extreme in terms of that. We think we have a fighting chance in this state to get out that message."

The most socially conservative candidate for governor since at least 2010, Ives insisted she can win in the fall.

"When it comes to November, the reason we win is because my message is universal, and I can back it up with real bills and real action I've taken on the most critical issues in the state of Illinois which are property taxes, the tax burden overall and public corruption," she said.

Also, she knows how to pick up free publicity.

Ives has spent little money on broadcast television in the Champaign-Decatur-Springfield market (just $13,948 at WCIA, according to records), but she got lots of free coverage earlier this week from her controversial TV ad attacking Rauner for his support of legislation benefiting transgender individuals, undocumented immigrants, abortion rights and funding for Chicago schools.

"We're happy to have them chatter among the media to raise my name i.d.," she said. "Go ahead. Love it."

15th District Democrats

The two Democrats hoping to get a chance to unseat U.S. Rep. John Shimkus next fall will meet in a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Friday at Los Zarapes Restaurant, 840 Eastwood Drive, Mahomet. The event is sponsored by the Mahomet Democrats.

Carl Spoerer of Mahomet and Kevin Gaither of Charleston will be at the restaurant to answer questions.

Shimkus, a Collinsville Republican seeking his 12th term in Congress, is unopposed in the Republican Party primary.

Also scheduled to appear at the event are Max Kennedy, the brother of Chris Kennedy, who is running for governor, and Champaign County treasurer candidate Laurel Prussing of Urbana.

Monticello schools tax vote

Kirby Medical Center in Monticello has donated $2,000 to the Students First for Monticello school bond issue campaign that will be on the March 20 ballot. The nearly $30 million bond issue referendum also got a $1,000 campaign contribution last week from Arthur Sievers, a facility consultant to the school district.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at

Sections (4):News, Local, Columns, Opinion