Rich Miller

Rich Miller

PAC pays price for SAFE-T Act opposition

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By Rich Miller

The political action committee affiliated with the Illinois Network of Charter Schools is always well-funded, well-organized, well-run and often quite successful at electing legislative candidates who are supportive of their cause.

But, unlike, say, Personal PAC, which focuses almost solely on the issue of abortion in its ubiquitous direct mailers, you don’t often see charter schools even mentioned in the cash-rich INCS Action’s mailers. And “INCS” is the only identifier on its mailers. They don’t mention the full name of the group itself.

There’s nothing illegal or even particularly wrong about that. The group wants more allies at the Statehouse, so they use polling to shape their campaign messaging, instead of using their own core issues, which may not move enough voters. Because they’re an independent expenditure committee, campaign contribution caps do not apply. So they can spend big. And they do.

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Rich Miller

This year, though, INCS broached an issue that caused them some Statehouse trouble.

“Repeal the dangerous SAFE-T Act,” blares one dot-point in a mailer on behalf of Rep. Chris Bos (R-Lake Zurich). “Violent Criminals shouldn’t be allowed out on the streets with no cash bail.” It’s the top item in what INCS claims is “Chris Bos’ plan to reduce crime and make our communities safer.”

There’s probably not a huge overlap between staunch charter school proponents and enthusiastic criminal justice reform advocates, but the latter group does have quite a bit of influence in both legislative chambers, which is how the SAFE-T Act was passed in the first place.

Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago), who has been one of the SAFE-T Act’s most vocal proponents since the massive pushback against the criminal justice reform law began, issued a statement last week about the INCS mailer.

“It’s disappointing to see this from the charter school industry especially since their own website says they serve 92% of students of color,” Peters’ statement read. “They should support the elimination of cash bail given 87% students are on free and reduced price lunch and are profoundly impacted by the issue. I hope they reconsider their position especially for the families their schools serve.”

Sen. Peters was described by the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this year as being a “staunch CTU supporter,” and that union is perhaps the most vocal opponent of the charter school system.

I’ve since been told that INCS Action will no longer use the issue in future mailers. Somebody over there just wasn’t thinking things through. It’s one thing to help a super-minority party candidate win, it’s quite another if how you aid that person winds up damaging your core issue with the super-majority party. I figure they’ll find a way to patch things up. They’re usually pretty good at this stuff.

According to disclosures filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections, INCS has, as of this writing, sent three mailers on Bos’ behalf, at $11,400 a pop. It reported having $1.9 million cash on hand at the end of September.

Rep. Bos definitely needs the help. He ended June with just $10,000 in the bank and has since reported raising just $19,000. INCS has already reported spending more money on Bos than the incumbent has available.

Bos is up against Nabeela Syed, a hard-charging opponent who has reported raising about $372,000 between the beginning of July and Oct. 14. Rep. Bos isn’t yet a Tier One target, but Syed walks a lot of precincts and convincingly won a Democratic primary, which undoubtedly boosted her name recognition. So, unless the bottom drops out on the Democrats, she could make it a close race, particularly if the House Democrats put her cable ads on Chicago broadcast TV.

What money has been spent by the Republicans has focused mainly on the crime issue, which INCS evidently picked up on. The Republicans have been criticized, however, for using a photoshopped image of Syed which falsely makes her look like she’s holding a sign saying “Defund the police.” The Democrats have been known to do this sort of thing, too, of course.

The House Dems are running two cable TV ads for Syed. One mixes economic issues with abortion.

“Rising prices hurt everyone,” the 15-second ad begins. “I’m Nabeela Syed. I’m fighting to cut property taxes and prescription costs. Extreme politician Chris Bos opposes a woman’s right to choose, no exceptions. I’m Nabeela Syed. I’ll protect your pocketbook and your rights.”

The other 15-second spot focuses solely on Bos, claiming he will “outlaw a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest.”

According to Illinois Right to Life Action, Rep. Bos is “fully pro-life.”

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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