Bernard Schoenburg: Ratings move race toward Davis; fight over corporate PAC money goes on

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As we barrel toward the Nov. 3 election, and with Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan starting TV ads, a couple of national ratings have changed the 13th Congressional district race from a tossup to leaning toward incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis.

Davis, of Taylorville, won a razor-thin race against Londrigan, of Springfield, in 2018.

The D.C. publication Roll Call recently changed ratings on 29 House races across the country – many of them just slight shifts, like solid Republican to likely Republican. Only two of those changes went in the GOP direction, including Illinois 13, which went from a toss-up to tilting GOP.

Roll Call is predicting a good Democratic year nationwide.

"After losing a net of 40 seats and the House majority in 2018, Republicans convinced themselves that things couldn’t get any worse," a Roll Call analysis stated. "But with less than three months to go before the elections, President Donald Trump has yet to regain his footing and Republicans are likely to sink deeper into the House minority."

In an Aug. 6 article, Roll Call rated Davis as the 8th most vulnerable House incumbent.

Meanwhile, another D.C. staple, the Cook Political Report, this week moved the race from tossup to leaning GOP.

Online polls generally don’t get the respect of a Roll Call or Cook, but the Londrigan campaign in recent days was touting an outside poll showing Londrigan slightly ahead, but well within the margin of error. The RMG Research Inc. online poll of 500 registered voters from July 31-Aug. 7, showing a 43-41 advantage for Londrigan, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. A group called U.S. Term Limits promoted the poll in a news release.

Also this week, Londrigan began running a one-minute TV ad on the theme of health care – the main issue she ran on in 2018.

It recounts a life-threatening infection that struck her son, Jack, 11 years ago, landing him in intensive care, on a ventilator and being read last rites. He recovered, but his case, Londrigan says, bolsters the need for health insurance. She favors improvements to the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – while Davis has consistently said it has yielded premiums that are too high and should be repealed and replaced, with protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In her ad, Londrigan says she will fight for every family to have "quality, affordable care that won’t bankrupt them if they get sick," and alleges that "drug and insurance companies are standing in the way" of lowers costs and choices of doctors and health plans.

The ad briefly shows pictures of President Donald Trump and Davis as she says the companies have given "millions to Washington politicians to vote their way. …"

"Corporate special interests can’t buy me," she says. "I don’t take their money. … When your family’s health is at stake, your congressman shouldn’t be working against you."

On the screen, as Londrigan talks of "special interests," are the printed words: "No corporate PAC money ," which is her pledge this election cycle.

Davis and his campaign say that Londrigan does get corporate help – through support of leadership political action committees from other members of Congress that do take corporate PAC money, and from donations from lobbyists.

"She has lied consistently about not taking corporate PAC dollars, because she has taken money directly from corporate lobbyists, like (Illinois House Speaker) Mike Madigan’s inner circle," Davis said.

"When you take donations from other members of Congress who take corporate PAC money, it’s just a form of laundering. … It’s dishonest," Davis added.

Londrigan has been endorsed by a group called End Citizens United, and its president, Tiffany Muller, has said that members of Congress with leadership PACS decide which people to help – so it’s not a direct decision of a corporate executive or lobbyist. And if a contribution from a corporate to a leadership PAC is meant for a specific candidate, it would have to be marked as such in campaign filings, the organization says.

"Rodney Davis could never dream of taking the (no corporate PAC money) pledge because his chances of re-election would be grim without corporate special interests propping up his campaign," Muller said.

Eliza Glezer, spokeswoman for Londrigan, said Davis has taken more than $200,000 from big Pharma and insurance PACs.

Davis, Glezer said, "knows that Betsy’s pledge not to take corporate PAC money, now or when she’s in Congress, and her fight to increase access to quality, affordable health care for Central Illinoisans resonate with voters so he’s trying as hard as he can to change the subject and muddy the waters."

Among people close to Madigan who have given to Londrigan campaigns is former state Rep. Mike McClain, who had lobbied for Commonwealth Edison and gave $550 to Londrigan. In November, Londrigan donated that amount to a Decatur nonprofit, Sista Girls and Friends.

Hosts of a couple of Washington, D.C. fundraisers for Londrigan say their long-time friendships, not clients, led to those efforts.

A Dec. 11 event was hosted by Amy Souders, a principal with the Cornerstone Government Affairs group, and her husband Patrick, chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, of Springfield.

The Souders have lived in Springfield in the past — relocating to help Durbin in his 1996 campaign.

"Pat and I have known Betsy and her family for more than 25 years," Amy Souders said. "This is not about my firm or its clients. It’s about continuing to support a friend who we believe would be a congresswoman that would make us all proud." She donated $2,000 to Londrigan in 2019, and said it was personal money.

Her firm has drug-maker Pfizer as a client, according to OpenSecrets.org.

A June 3, 2019 fundraiser at Platinum Advisors DC had several hosts including lobbyist Erik Huey.

"I’ve known her for 30 years and I was in her wedding," Huey said. "We all know each other from Notre Dame."

Londrigan’s husband, Tom, a lobbyist, got his law degree at Notre Dame. Huey donated $500 in September and another $500 in June to the campaign.

Meanwhile, it appears that besides his own campaign, Davis will continue to get the benefits of ads from outside groups.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC endorsed by House Republican leadership, announced Monday that it was spending $45 million in 40 media markets across the country. That includes $1.2 million in the Champaign and St. Louis markets – which target the Illinois 13th.

The same group in April announced $43 million in fall bookings in 33 markets – including $625,000 in Champaign. Thus expect the group, which ran ads attacking Londrigan late in the 2018 race, to do so again – perhaps to the tune of $1.8 million — closer to Nov. 3.

A group to which the pharmaceutical industry has donated millions of dollars, the American Action Network, has also been running a $350,000 ad campaign promoting Davis and a bill he supports, H.R 19. Londrigan supports a different bill – H.R. 3 — one that would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. AAN says H.R. 3 would yield less resources and fewer new drugs could be developed.

Contact Bernard Schoenburg: Bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, twitter.com/bschoenburg

26-Delivered

via The State Journal-Register

August 15, 2020 at 04:13PM

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