Strange bedfellows

PAC helps Badger, Feger in city treasurer’s race

A political action committee headed by a longtime Republican is backing both Colleen Redpath Feger and Lisa Badger in the Springfield treasurer’s race.

Citizens For New Leadership, a PAC set up by Leland Grove resident Frank Vala, sent out mailers this week urging voters to support Badger. The mailer, which includes a photo of Badger with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and notes that she’s been endorsed by county Democrats, hit mailboxes a week after Vala’s PAC, using a defunct name for the committee, sent mailers urging voters to support Feger, who’s been endorsed by Sangamon County Republicans.

Vala’s committee has been consistent in its opposition to William McCarty, who entered the race last fall after Feger and Badger had declared. According to Illinois State Board of Elections files, the PAC has spent $13,105 on ads opposing McCarty, who lost a 2018 GOP primary in the Sangamon County treasurer’s race. The latest attack came a few days ago.

“Bill McCarty not only ran as a Republican and voted for Republican candidates, Republicans have given money to his campaign and he’s donated to multiple Republican candidates and organizations,” the mailer states. “He may run for a non-partisan role, but he’ll lead as a Republican.”

The largest donor to Vala’s PAC since it began raising money to influence municipal elections is the Sangamon County Republican Foundation, which contributed $20,000 on March 17. “The foundation board felt that Frank’s campaign committee would communicate information to the voters that they might not otherwise receive,” Sangamon County board chairman Andy Van Meter, foundation treasurer, wrote in response to a text requesting an interview.

Vala declined comment when reached by a reporter, who asked if he had time to talk. “Not for you,” Vala said.

All told, Vala’s PAC has raised $75,000 from such donors as Richard Levi, chairman of the board of Levi, Ray and Shoup, who tends to donate to GOP causes but also has, since 2019 municipal elections, contributed $11,000 to Mayor Jim Langfelder, the biggest target for Citizens For New Leadership, which has spent $30,000 on attack ads against the mayor. Three unions have contributed a total of $9,000 to Vala’s PAC.

“This is Vala’s committee, but it’s the Sangamon County Republican Foundation that’s put money in, plus the usual suspects and a couple of unions are there, in addition," said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at University of Illinois Springfield. “Like you, I’m trying to make sense of this.”

One explanation is fear of McCarty, who has said a poll he conducted last fall, before entering the race, showed him with double-digit leads over Feger and Badger, Redfield said.

“One way this might make sense is if they believe McCarty is Feger’s primary problem – they’re trying to pull Democrats and independents away from McCarty, and they’re trying to boost Badger,” Redfield said.

More ads may be coming before next week’s election. Redfield said that it appears Vala’s committee, which hasn’t yet reported what it’s paid for pro-Badger ads, appears to have money left.

“They’ve spent $48,000; they’ve still got another $27,000,” said Redfield, who has reviewed campaign disclosure reports filed by Vala’s committee. “They will have to disclose what they’ve spent (for Badger ads) – I assume they will. They have two to four days to report expenditures.”

Penalties aren’t harsh for late expenditure reports, Redfield said.

“The worse the State Board of Elections can do to you is give you a small fine,” he said. “The law hasn’t caught up with the shenanigans here.”

Bruce Rushton

Bruce Rushton is a freelance journalist.

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