JB Pritzker

Conservative-Funded Mailers, Styled as Newspapers, Sent to Illinois Voters

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

A conservative group that is behind a recent series of television advertisements critical of Gov. J.B. Pritzker is using another medium to get its message out, sending out a paper publication that blasts Democratic candidates and platforms.

Republican political strategist Dan Proft crafted the mailings. He runs a political action committee called ‘Play by the Rules’ that has been purchasing ads in recent weeks to criticize Pritkzer and Democrats who supported HB 3653, a criminal justice reform bill that has sharply divided the electorate in recent years.

The PAC has received significant donations from billionaire Dick Uihlein, with more than $20 million contributed since the primary. Uihlein is one of the driving forces behind the fundraising efforts of State Senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey.

The papers are being mailed to groups of registered voters, and are tailored to the community where the voter lives. For example, a Chicago-centric version of the mailer was entitled “Chicago City Wire.”

In one of the editions, the articles criticized HB 3653, and made notes of several provisions of the bill that have angered Republicans, including changes to the bond system and other law enforcement-reform efforts.

In DuPage County, one of the papers, entitled the “DuPage Policy Journal,” showed two full pages of photos of men – mostly Black and Latino – whom the publication says will be released from prison because of the new legislation.

“It’s pretty awful,” Pritzker said. “These are lies and they’re putting them out in various forms, attacking people based on their background.”

 Pritzker says that the mailers are not marked properly as campaign material, and says that the reduction of local media outlets throughout the state has allowed the paper to gain circulation.

“When you get one of these in the mail, you should know that this is not a real newspaper,” he said. “It isn’t even marked properly as campaign material. It’s put out by this right-wing network of newspapers that we all know exists in Illinois, and they’re trying to take over where local, real journalism unfortunately has receded.”

Proft dismissed Pritzker’s concerns about the publications in an email to NBC 5 Political Reporter Mary Ann Ahern.

“Newspapers spreading misinformation and representing only one point of view? Pritzker must be talking about the Chicago Tribune and the NPR/AFL-CIO (Chicago) Sun-Times.”

The Chicago Tribune endorsed former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner over Pritzker in the 2018 election. It has not yet released an endorsement in 2022. The Sun-Times’ editorial board endorsed Pritzker.

It is unclear whether the conservative-funded newspapers violate any election laws, even with the criticisms of the biases contained within their pages.

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