The first in a series of investigative reports from Illinois Citizens for Ethics Reform
Chicago, Illinois – The so-called “conservative” Illinois Policy Institute has racked up contributor dollars as a reform-minded policy think tank dedicated to change. But like Media Matters for America, the Illinois-based 501c3 tax-exempt organization’s political and financial activities raise serious red flags about its operations and intentions and those of its questionable key players, John Tillman, Dan Proft, Andy McKenna, and Patrick Hughes. Hughes, Proft, and McKenna have run previously for statewide public office.
Utilizing its 501c3 status, Illinois Policy Institute raises millions of dollars researching and publishing policy positions on a myriad of issues, ranging from ethics in government to waste, fraud, and abuse of Illinois taxpayer dollars to campaign finance reform.
In order to qualify, a 501c3 organization must pass a series of requirements. Once granted 501c3 status, organizations pay no federal income tax and donors may deduct their charitable contributions because the IRS presumes that these “charitable” organizations benefit the public. But a 501c3 organization may not “participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.”
Critics have charged that Illinois Policy Institute is merely a corrupt front group organized to farm donor lists, form and manage political action committees, and advance the political ambitions of its Board of Directors.
A flowchart of the organization’s activities and affiliations raises a number of questions and spotlights the hypocrisy of Illinois Policy Institute Executive Director John Tillman:
- Why is Illinois Opportunity Project, a 501c4, organization operating out of Illinois Policy Institute? What is its relationship to Illinois Policy Institute?
– Does Illinois Opportunity Project share office space, equipment, and personnel with Illinois Policy Institute?
– Who is funding Illinois Opportunity Project? The same donors that fund Illinois Policy Institute?
– Why is Empowering Children PAC listed at addresses used by Illinois Policy Institute?
– Why is Dan Proft’s Liberty PAC listed at addresses used by Illinois Policy Institute?
– Why did John Tillman set up Fiscal Accountability PAC and why is it listed at the address for Liberty PAC’s accountant?
– Why did Illinois Opportunity Project give $10,000 on March 12, 2012 to Dan Proft for Governor and who made that decision? Why did Illinois Opportunity Project give $20,000 to Dan Proft’s Liberty PAC a week before the primary election in March 2012?
– Are the same four donors that are funding the three PACs also funding Illinois Policy Institute and Illinois Opportunity Project?
– Why did the Tillman-controlled PACs give contributions to political candidates on the same day?
– Through these activities and others, isn’t Illinois Policy Institute engaging in the same unethical political practices that it accuses Democrats like Michael Madigan of engaging in?
The Internal Revenue Service and responsible media should demand some answers from Illinois Policy Institute Executive Director John Tillman about his organization’s dubious shell game activities.
Donors to Illinois Policy Institute-affiliated political groups should think twice before contributing; who knows where your dollars are really going.