Is Rodney Davis being honest about his relationship with George Ryan? (IL-13)

My patience has worn thin listening to Rodney Davis complain about campaign ads on his ties to convicted former Governor George Ryan. Davis claims the ads by DCCC are misleading, but Davis has never denied the basic facts: that Davis worked for George Ryan and was on Ryan’s clout list. If you look at the bigger picture, Davis’ denials smell funnier than the original ads.

Davis says the ads are false because they call George Ryan “Governor,” while Davis worked for Ryan only while he was Secretary of State. That’s irrelevant nitpicking, especially since Ryan was convicted for what he did as Secretary of State. Davis further refutes the ad by saying he was a low-level, anonymous employee who never took favors from George Ryan. He doubts that Ryan even remembered his name or knew who he was.

As I wrote before, Davis was granted a leave of absence from his job with the Secretary of State’s office to run for State Representative in 1996. That’s a pretty big favor not available to people in most normal jobs.

I decided to do a little fact-checking with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Davis donated $200 to the Ryan campaign fund in December of ’96, shortly after losing his campaign for State Representative. There was no reporting requirement for smaller donations at that time, so there may have been additional unrecorded contributions, such as low-dollar tickets to fundraisers.I tried to confirm that the donation isn’t from a relative in Taylorville with the same name but the Davis campaign isn’t very responsive to me right now. Regardless, I found something much more interesting.

Campaign finance reports from the time period Davis ran for State Representative aren’t online, so I went to the state election office in Springfield to pick up a copy. I scanned some of the results and uploaded them here. As I looked through the documents, I googled the names of large Davis contributors from outside Taylorville. In most instances, I found that those individuals were working for George Ryan.

Davis raised thousands in campaign contributions from managers he worked with in Ryan’s Secretary of State office.The most generous donor was Craig Roberts, who was serving as a high-ranking aid to George Ryan and would later become Chief of Staff to Congressman John Shimkus.  Over the campaign, he gave a series of donations and in-kind contributions totaling over $4,700.00. That’s pretty generous for someone taking a public salary.

Others include April Cook, who contributed a series of donations and in-kind contributions coming to $579.63. She worked in the Secretary of State human resources division. Jane Vredenburgh, an executive assistant to the Secretary of State, made multiple donations adding up to $650.00, and in later years would be a major Shimkus donor as well. Deb Detmers was manager of the Indexing Department where Davis worked, finance director of the Ryan campaign fund, and later moved to the Shimkus staff. She helped Davis too, making in-kind contributions.

Judging by the items donated, it appears that management staff were helping Davis host fundraising events. One wonders how many other Secretary of State employees made smaller, unreported donations at Davis campaign events hosted by their coworkers and bosses.

All of this by itself isn’t necessarily anything sinister. It’s not unusual to raise political funds from co-workers. Davis and his donors may even have left Ryan’s office to work for Shimkus because they were bothered by corruption in the office. But, if that’s the case, then why not say so? Why the amnesia routine?

What makes it significant is the context of what was happening in the Secretary of State office under George Ryan. Employees were expected to buy campaign fundraising tickets and do political work, sometimes on state time. As one article put it: “In offices all over the state, employees came to believe that their careers, evaluations, promotions, and pay increases all depended on their ability to raise campaign contributions for their political patron, then-Secretary of State George Ryan.”

Davis donated to the Ryan campaign fund at a time when employees were pressured into doing so. In fact, the supervisor of his department, Deb Detmers, testified in court that she was pressured to meet quotas for selling fundraising tickets to employees she supervised. Continue reading Is Rodney Davis being honest about his relationship with George Ryan? (IL-13)

Rodney Davis (IL-13) Forgets Big Favor from Convicted Governor George Ryan

A recent DCCC ad highlighting Republican Congressional candidate Rodney Davis’ ties to former Governor (and current inmate) George Ryan brought back some memories for me, but it gave the Davis campaign a case of amnesia. Davis’ response and the resulting press coverage left out some important facts. First, the ad…

Pretty typical, unimpressive attack ad.

The Davis campaign responded with a fact check that nitpicked some details:

Fact: Rodney Davis began working for the Secretary of State’s office as a fellow right out of college. He was a low-level employee who was only there for a short time and never had a connection to any wrongdoing.

Misleading Claim #2: “named on the infamous George Ryan Clout List of political favors.”

Fact: Rodney Davis was added to Scott Fawell’s “master list” without his approval, consent, or knowledge. He never asked for a favor, job, or political help. The list included numerous people, both Republicans and Democrats, who had nothing to do with corruption.

In other words, Davis did work for Ryan (for at least four years) and he was on the clout list. The ad is correct. But, there’s a little more to the story. Davis’ “fact check” has its own problems with the truth.

In 1996, Rodney Davis was given paid leave from his Secretary of State job to run for State Representative. Getting paid to not work at your government job while you run for political office is a pretty big favor!

For a little historical context, it’s important to remember John Shimkus’ connection to the George Ryan scandals. Deb Detmers, who would later work on staff for John Shimkus, testified that Secretary of State employees under George Ryan were expected to raise funds and do political work, often during state taxpayer-funded time. Continue reading Rodney Davis (IL-13) Forgets Big Favor from Convicted Governor George Ryan