Politics & Government

Former Rauner operative poses as SIUE student to ambush Democrat running for Congress

A Republican operative, posing at a student journalist, ambushed a congressional candidate during a conference call with reporters, according to a WCIA story.

Nick Klitzing, the former executive director of the Illinois Republican Party and former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s deputy campaign manager, posed as Jim Sherman, a student reporter for the newspaper the Alestle at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville during a conference call on July 17 with Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a Democratic candidate in the 13th District.

Dirksen Londrigan was meeting on the call with End Citizens United, and news reporters. To participate in the call, reporters needed a passcode.

End Citizens United is a campaign finance reform group which has listed U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, as one of its congressional targets to defeat in 2020.

Davis defeated Londrigan in 2018 by 2,058 votes in a close election. If no one else gets into the race, the 13th District will see a general election rematch in November 2020.

SIUE told WCIA that no one by the name of Jim Sherman was associated with the school. The Alestle denied having anyone on the conference call.

Klitzing later admitted to WCIA he committed the hoax. “I was willing to help. I’m just a volunteer,” Klitzing told the station.

Londrigan’s campaign accused Davis’ campaign of being behind the hoax, but offered no proof. Phone calls to Davis’ congressional and campaign offices were not returned.

During the call, Klitzing, posing as Sherman, asked Londrigan about receiving help from political action committee money.

“My question is about the corporate PAC money that comes through the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) that you mentioned earlier,” Klitzing said. “The DCCC has received $1.93 million from corporate, some of the biggest corporate PACs like Lockheed Martin, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, big Pharma companies, big coal companies. Betsy, will you vow not to receive any benefit through TV ads, through mail, not to accept any of that corporate PAC benefit that comes through an end run through the DCCC?”

Londrigan then said she had no control over who the DCCC receives money from.

“I don’t know what kind of answer I can give you on that,” Londrigan said. “But what I can tell you emphatically is my campaign is not accepting a dime of corporate PAC money. I want to make sure the people in Central Illinois and in the 13th district know that I’m going to Washington to serve them. I firmly believe in the term ‘public servant.’ That’s what I plan on being.”

The caller twice tried to interject with a follow up question, before getting another chance later in the call. Among the questions the caller asked was what would stop Londrigan’s husband, a corporate lobbyist, from funneling money to the DCCC.

“Um, look. I am running for Congress, not my husband,” Londrigan answered. “It’s 2019, and I think it’s time for women to be judged on our own and not by our husbands’ careers.”

After the WCIA report was published, the Londrigan campaign issued a statement.

“Once more, Rodney Davis proves his calls for civility are empty with his campaign again caught engaging in desperate, underhanded tactics.” Campaign Manager Jacob Plotnick said. “It’s not surprising that the Davis campaign is resorting to dirty tricks — they know Rodney can’t run on his record of voting against lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs, all while taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.”