The business side of the change struggle went to megadonor Uihlein, conservative political group

The debate over the proposed workers’ rights change was meant to be a rematch between known enemies – unions and corporate interests.

Except it’s not exactly that.

Unions are largely opposed to a right-wing political group and man, Richard Uihlein, CEO of Uline, a packaging materials distributor. Uihlein is a prominent supporter of conservative causes and the primary supporter of Darren Bailey’s Republican campaign for governor. Other donors from big money companies are absent from the fight.

Todd Maisch, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, has spoken out against what critics are calling Amendment 1, but his faction’s political action committee has put no money into fighting it. Maisch said business leaders are prioritizing other races in the Nov. 8 vote, including two seats for the Illinois Supreme Court.

“In comparison, the change theme is a bit orphaned, maybe even very much,” said Maisch.

Other sources said that big donors spent heavily during this year’s primary and are awaiting more money calls from Chicago mayoral campaigners. “It boils down to donor fatigue,” said one political adviser.

State campaign records show that Uihlein sent $2 million to vote no on Amendment 1, the committee formed by the Illinois Policy Institute to oppose the measure. John Tillman and Matt Paprocki are the chair and president of the institute, respectively, and the chair and treasurer of the campaign committee.

The Vote No committee booked an additional million dollars from the Government Accountability Alliance, another wing of the policy institute Tillman heads. Aside from a few small donations, the $3 million is all that was raised to fight the change, according to the latest filing.

The union side has now raised about $13 million, mostly in large chunks from locals and other labor organizations. It has allowed Labor to run TV adverts for the amendment, along with traditional efforts to get the vote.

The Policy Institute has revealed little about how it is spending money against the change. Reported expenses of approximately $337,000 cover website design, printing and shipping. The group has not started any TV commercials.

The group declined to say whether it will run last-minute ads or discuss its spending strategy. It provided this statement from Paprocki:

“The Board of Elections is spending money on initiatives that educate voters about Amendment 1 and its dangerous impact on Illinois taxpayers, families and businesses. Unlike the goal of the agenda-driven lobbyists behind Amendment 1, the committee’s focus is to spread the truth that the amendment will only benefit government union bosses at the expense of Illinois’ most vulnerable communities.”

Lake Forest’s Uihlein did not respond to a request for comment. His company is based in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

The Sun-Times has reported that he and his wife have given at least $6.4 million to Republican congressional candidates who have questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election.


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