Beware of Pop Up Super PAC(s) Attempt to Smear Congresswoman Mary Miller

Written by John Lopez

Friday morning May 20 in downstate Lincoln, I participated in a political roundtable hosted by the daily POLITICO Illinois Playbook column writer Shia Kapos called “Pancakes and Politics”.  About two dozen people attended for the breakfast meeting ranging from party chairs (both Democrats and Republicans), political consultants, lobbyists and journalists including retired State Journal-Register reporter Bernard Schoenburg.

Given Lincoln is within the geographic boundaries of the 15th Congressional District and the incumbent-vs.-incumbent Republican primary between Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorsville) and first-term Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-Oakland), the IL-15 was the 2nd topic covered by Kapos with the participants, after the Republican gubernatorial primary.

During the discussion among the participants with knowledge about the Republican primary and politics, I pointed out with Congresswoman Miller’s endorsement by former President Trump plus the significant financial backing of the Club for Growth Action super PAC, whenever Trump and Club for Growth (CFG) are supporting the same candidate thus far in the 2022 election cycle, the Trump/CFG backed candidates are unbeatable.

This was why when Kapos took an informal poll of who would win, I was one of two or three participants to vote Miller would win the IL-15 Republican primary over Davis.

We’ll know who’s right on the night of June 28.

My assessment was met with some skepticism, but as I shared with the participants, the record thus far in 2022 primary season (Texas, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon) proves the point I’m making.

CFG and Trump have differed in a few races, most notably the open U.S. Senate primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and while the latter state is too close to call, CFG backed Kathy Barnette in Pennsylvania opposed to Trump’s backing celebrity Dr. Oz in a Republican primary and Barnette will not win.

Returning to the Illinois discussion, I also pointed out what happened in 2020 in the Republican primary in the IL-14 in the final two weeks up until the March 17, 2020 primary.

Pop up super PACs and the 2020 IL-14 Republican Primary

As the term implies, a “pop up” super PAC literally is created right before an election and the timing of its creation intended to prevent voters from determining who is bankrolling the new super PAC until after the election.

Super PACs, particularly at the Federal level in congressional races, support and/or oppose a congressional or U.S. Senate candidate through “independent expenditures” (IE), which are not given directly to a congressional candidate’s campaign committee, but is spent by the super PAC to implement TV commercials, digital marketing and/or mailers for the candidate the IE supports and/or opposes.

IEs are required to be reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in what is called a Form 24, which identifies the IE and which candidate(s) are being supported and/or opposed with the IE.

A pop up super PAC, called “Illinois Conservatives PAC” was formed on March 2 of 2020, 15 days before the primary election, and in the final 11 days of the primary campaign, spent $911K on broadcast TV and radio ads in an attempt to derail then-state Senator Jim Oberweis‘ (R-Sugar Grove) congressional primary bid in the IL-14 primary.

It almost worked, as Oberweis, according to an independent poll published at the start of March of 2020, had a double digit lead over state Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) in the crowded 7-person winner-take-all congressional primary.  After the pop up super PAC finished its work, Oberweis’ lead was cut down significantly, but he still bested Rezin by 2 percentage points, as no candidate could move-up in the wake of Oberweis being brought down.

On Friday in Lincoln, I pointed out the Illinois Conservatives PAC that attempted to stop Oberweis winning the IL-14 primary in 2020 was actually bankrolled by the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the major Republican super PAC funded significantly in the 2022 election cycle by Citadel Asset Management CEO Ken Griffin.

In addition to the tens of millions of dollars Griffin has bankrolled in the 2022 Illinois Republican gubernatorial primary backing Aurora Mayor Richard IrvinThe Wall Street Journal reported in mid April where else Griffin is contributing an additional $18.25 million ($7.5 million to CLF) including monies spent in the Honor Pennsylvania super PAC opposing Trump-endorsed Dr. Oz in the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania, along with the Senate Majority super PAC and the American Patriots super PAC.

But with pop up super PACs, the problem with these legal entities is the voting public does not know who’s funding them until after the election.  The CLF’s bankrolling of the Illinois Conservatives PAC was not made public until April 15, 2020, a month after the Illinois primary in 2020, when the Illinois Conservatives PAC filed its quarterly campaign disclosure report with the FEC.

Source: FEC website

Before leaving the breakfast event in Lincoln, I made clear to the participants to expect something similar in IL-15 with the pop up super PAC.  After returning to Chicagoland Friday afternoon and I should have realized, the pieces had already been put into place for IL-15 to have a repeat of IL-14, for a pop up super PAC has already been formed to oppose Congresswoman Miller in IL-15.

History Repeats Itself in IL-15 with April Formation of Illinois Values PAC and TV Commercials

As reported Friday afternoon on Capitol Fax, a new TV commercial ad was released early Friday afternoon by a group calling itself Illinois Values PAC.  The hit-piece against Congresswoman Miller can be viewed here.  The issue has to do with Congresswoman Miller’s controversial votes on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last fall in the U.S. House.
The Illinois Values PAC that produced the anti Mary Miller ad appears to be a “pop up” super PAC.   According to the FEC, Illinois Values was formed on April 12, and the only trace of who’s running Illinois Values PAC is a Beverly, MA-based FEC compliance consulting firm.
A dead giveaway of a pop up super PAC the vague, out-of-state entity on the super PAC’s FEC Statement of Organization. Unless the people running Illinois Values PAC voluntarily identify themselves, voters will not know the full story until mid July, when Illinois Values PAC must file its quarterly FEC campaign disclosure report. The FEC filing, of course, is after the June 28 primary.
To date, the only IE FEC Form 24 filed by Illinois Values PAC is a very small dollar (<$14K) IE from May 12, for text marketing only.
Clearly, the production of the new TV commercial, and the broadcast TV air time purchase, will be known when Illinois Values PAC files its Form 24, which will be a far greater IE spend than the $14K from earlier in May.
Given the quality of the TV commercial production, it’s expected the next IE in relation to the new TV commercial will be in the six-figure, possibly 7-figure dollars range.
UPDATE:  The IE was posted to the FEC and made public late Monday afternoon, May 23, through the California Target Book Twitter BOT, with the graphic below, with the commercial production cost $30K, and the remaining $1,119,307 to purchase TV air time:

From California Target Book Twitter BOT

Does anyone care to speculate who may be bankrolling Illinois Values PAC and its anti-Mary Miller messaging, either directly or through 3rd parties?

From February POLITICO

One must wonder, if Ken Griffin, who’s given $7.5 million to CLF, sees by helping Congressman Rodney Davis win over Congresswoman Mary Miller, he can help Richard Irvin win over state Senator Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) at the same time?
How much did Griffin spend in the just-completed U.S. Senate Republican primary in Pennsylvania with the bulk of the super PAC donations he spent opposed Trump-backed Dr. Oz?
Trump-backed Miller vs. Davis, another battlefield for Griffin vs. Trump.
One must remember, the Club for Growth Action super PAC is backing Miller, and ULINE CEO/Owner Richard Uihlein has contributed $14 million during the 2022 election cycle to CFG.
And Uihlein is financially backing Bailey in the governor’s race.
I admit, this is all educated guesses concerning Illinois Values PAC, but given what was witnessed in Illinois just 2 years ago, the educated guess fits the facts of the new TV commercial against Miller, with Griffin, Uihlein, Irvin and Bailey and the highly watched IL-15 Republican primary are all players for a very expensive finish for the Illinois primary campaign, particularly in IL-15 in the final 30+ days until June 28.
And will former President Trump come to Illinois to campaign in-person with Congresswoman Miller?
Saddle-up, and while on the ride to June 28, in order to track additional expenditures of the pop up super PAC Illinois Values, please click here.

John Lopez has written about policy and elections through the McHenry County Blog since 2019. He is now semi-retired, and does freelance work with analytics, as well as political candidates, emphasizing policy as the means to advance the conservative message, by engaging through policy “dog fighting”, applying discernment for winning and advancing God’s Kingdom agenda.

John’s known for getting past the talking points, the narratives, the abstracts, the platitudes and the bromides in order to discuss policy and apply Scripture to overcome unholy divisions in the local community, our state, and nation.  John has been married for over 16 years.

Follow John on Twitter: @MarcVAvelar