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.
(Chicago, IL) – Is it ethical for a radio talk show host to be raising campaign funds for a second statewide political bid for governor while he is promoting himself on Chicago radio? WLS-AM Chicago talk show host Dan Proft does not appear to be troubled by the ethical quandry. Either the honchos at Cumulus Media, which owns WLS-AM, know about it or they do not.
Michael Damsky, former general manager and President of Cumulus-owned WLS-AM who was fired last week, tapped Bruce Wolf, a veteran sports broadcaster and Proft, a political operative with a history of questionable no-bid contracts in Cicero and dirty dealings with Cicero’s mayor Larry Dominick, for weekdays from a weekend shift back in June. WLS-AM’s ratings have been in a state of decline since the fall. Over the weekend, Cumulus’ Lew Dickey and Jon Pinch named Damsky’s replacement – David Crowl, formerly of Clear Channel.
Proft also ran a failed bid for governor in 2010, coming in last in the Republican primary.
Recently, Proft formed a political action committee called Liberty PAC, which is operated out of Illinois Policy Institute, a 501c3 group, and, in a move that outraged many Illinois Republicans, heavily funded questionable candidates in the 2012 Republican primary. Proft is on the board of Illinois Opportunity Project (a 501c4), which also operates out of the Illinois Policy Institute. How can a 501c4 and a PAC operate out of a “Republican-leaning” tax-exempt 501c3 that raises money promoting ethical reform in politics? Because this is Illinois and ethics is snickered at in this state.
Proft seems to snicker at it as well considering his on-air rants against House Speaker Michael Madigan and the corruption that is Illinois politics. It is a case of “do as I say” but not “do as I do.” On March 20 – primary election day in Illinois, Illinois Opportunity Project contributed $10,000 to Proft for Governor. (See snapshot from the Illinois Board of Elections website).