Welcome to Clout Street: Morning Spin, our weekday feature to catch you up with what's going on in government and politics from Chicago to Springfield.
A super political action committee allied with Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s re-election campaign is going on the air with TV and radio ads critical of Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth’s stance on national security.
The Independent Voice for Illinois Super PAC is headed by former Kirk chief of staff Eric Elk, and it reported more than $1.3 million on hand to start the month after raising $845,000 in the first half of this year, federal election records showed.
The ads backing Kirk and criticizing Duckworth, a two-term congresswoman from Hoffman Estates, are airing in the Peoria, Champaign and Rockford markets. A spot check showed the super PAC spending about $27,000 alone to air 115 half-minute TV ads on WCIA Ch. 3 in Champaign.
The ads are critical of a statement Duckworth made last year about Syrian refugees that are in dispute by the two campaigns. The Kirk camp argues Duckworth indicated she wants 200,000 Syrian refugees to enter the United States — 20 times the number authorized by President Barack Obama. Duckworth’s campaign has said the candidate supports resettling 200,000 refugees overall in the United States, not just from Syria.
The ads also are critical of her support for the Obama-led nuclear deal with Iran and plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba used to hold foreign terrorism suspects.
“Tammy Duckworth is wrong on national security,” a female narrator says in the one-minute radio ad.
“Unlike Duckworth, Mark Kirk opposed the Iranian nuclear deal. Kirk is fighting to stop Syrians from coming to America until they can be safely screened and Kirk is opposed to closing Gitmo. The stakes are high. The choice is clear. Sen. Kirk is the strong leader we can trust to keep America safe,” the narrator says.
Among the top donors to the super PAC are several supporters of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, including prominent hedge fund leaders Ken Griffin, of Chicago, and Paul Singer, of New York. Griffin has donated $350,000 to the super PAC and Singer has donated $250,000.
Other donors include frequent GOP contributor Craig Duchossois, of Elmhurst, and real estate magnate Sam Zell, who each gave $50,000. Zell led a heavily leveraged buyout of then-Chicago Tribune parent company Tribune Co. in 2007. Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2008.
Also donating to the PAC was Sam Fox, of St. Louis, founder of the Harbour Group. Fox, a former ambassador to Belgium under President George W. Bush, contributed $25,000.
In Bush’s 2004 re-election, Fox, prior to his ambassadorship, contributed $50,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a political group that claimed Democrat John Kerry inflated his military record in Vietnam and led to the term “swift-boating” a candidate. Ironically, Kirk has been forced to apologize for inflating his own service record as a Naval reservist.
What's on tap
*Mayor Rahm Emanuel has no public events follwoing the Democratic National Convention.
*Gov. Bruce Rauner has no public schedule.
What we're writing
*Tale of two conventions: Emanuel goes from influential Democratic leader to fading star.
*Democratic convention video leaves Emanuel "under the bus."
*Widow of slain Chicago police officer gives emotional convention speech.
*Rauner seeks new firm to run Illinois Lottery.
*Laquan McDonald's mother opposes release of son's juvenile records.
What we're reading
*Prosecutors drop charges in Chandra Levy D.C. murder case.
*A livestream for Lollapalooza in Chicago.
*Most-watched calf in Chicago that's not in a zoo?
From the notebook
*Durbin for gov?: The roughest part of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s time at the Democratic National Convention had to be the daily questions about whether he’ll challenge Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018.
At the final Illinois delegation breakfast, the state’s senior senator again pointed to the November election while deflecting those questions, saying he'll "talk it over with my wife and make a decision and, you know, make an announcement," eventually.
The four-term senator and second-highest-ranking Democrat in that chamber gave new life to the line of questioning Thursday when he bashed Rauner. "I am sickened and saddened by what I see across our state," Durbin said. "What this governor has done to our state is inexcusable and unacceptable."
Durbin, who was born in East St. Louis and has homes in Springfield and Chicago, railed against Rauner for "trying to divide our state," by using regional rhetoric to push for his economic agenda. He called it "the cardinal sin, the mortal sin."
"We cannot allow any politician to divide this state," he said.
That sparked quite a few questions from reporters, but Durbin wouldn't go beyond setting a vague post-election deadline for a decision.
"I started the week by telling you what I'm going to say again: I'm focusing on this election," Durbin said. "I'm focusing on electing Hillary Clinton, Tammy Duckworth, Susana Mendoza ... the next election will run its own course."
Reminded that Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan had said earlier in the week that he'd recently discussed the race with Durbin, the senator said that was part of a long-running conversation between the two party elders.
"Oh sure, many times, not just this year, but many times he's brought it up to me," Durbin said.
"I'm not going to be coy about this, but I'm not going to make an announcement today, other than to say we have an important election, a history-making election coming up, and I want to be part of the effort to make sure Illinois does its part." (Kim Geiger)
*House Republican Organization gets $500k: The House Republican Organization got another $500,000 from the Illinois GOP — money from a $5 million contribution from Gov. Bruce Rauner back in May.
The HRO has now received $3.5 million from the state Republican Party since May 10 as it continues a concerted cable TV advertising campaign targeting potential Democratic incumbents. House Republican leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, is trying to cut into Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan's supermajority.
In addition to the HRO campaign operations, the state Republican Party last week also reported spending an additional $132,526 on legislative campaign mailings supporting 11 candidates against many of the same targeted Democrats.
The Democrats being challenged by Republicans in the mailings are Reps. Michelle Mussman, of Schaumburg; Sam Yingling, of Grayslake; Kate Cloonen, of Kankakee; Andy Skoog, of LaSalle; Mike Smiddy, of Hillsdale; Daniel Beiser, of Alton; John Bradley, of Marion; Brandon Phelps, of Harrisburg; and Sens. Tom Cullerton, of Villa Park; Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, of Shorewood; and Gary Forby, of Benton. (Rick Pearson)
*The Sunday Spin: On this week’s show, Chicago Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson recaps the Democratic National Convention with WBEZ-FM reporter Tony Arnold, author Michael Golden and Christopher Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Politics at the University of Illinois. The “Sunday Spin” airs from 7 to 9 a.m. Sunday on WGN 720-AM.
Follow the money
*Track campaign contribution reports in real time with this Tribune Twitter account: http://www.chicagotribuneem.com/ILCampaignCash
*Hillary Clinton lays out vision, hits at Trump in accepting historic nomination.
*Trump: Media missed the sarcasm in Clinton Russian email hack comments.
*AP looks at Trump's record on Putin.
*Turkish military in shambles after failed coup.