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Rep. Davis operative faked student reporter alias to join opponent’s press call

Illinois GOP congressman has had previous issues with campaign staffer crashing opponent’s events

Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis could face a rematch next year with Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis could face a rematch next year with Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated Aug. 1, 2019, 1:36 p.m. | An unpaid political operative working for Rep. Rodney Davis pretended to be a student reporter for a local university newspaper to join a press call hosted by one of the Illinois Republican’s opponents, Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan.

Nick Klitzing, a former executive director of the Illinois GOP and campaign staffer for former Gov. Bruce Rauner, created the alias “Jim Sherman,” a (nonexistent) student journalist from the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, in order to join the call held last Wednesday, July 17, Central Illinois CBS affiliate WCIA reported.

Press members had to RSVP to the call to be granted access.

Once on the call, Klitzing grilled Londrigan about whether she would accept money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which receives corporate PAC donations and helps Democratic House candidates across the country.

Londrigan has vowed that her campaign will not take direct PAC contributions, though she declined to disavow help from the DCCC.

“What I am vowing is that on my report that I am in control of, I am not taking any corporate PAC money,” Londrigan said in response to a question from Klitzing (posing as Sherman), according to a transcript from WCIA. “That is what I am vowing to the people in central Illinois, and it is not just for the course of this campaign. It is also for when I get elected to Congress. I am going there to answer to the people, and not to corporate PACs.”

Since the success of Bernie Sanders’ disavowal of corporate PAC donations in 2016, scores of Democratic candidates have followed suit and made a campaign finance overhaul a key item on their platforms.

Londrigan and Davis are roughly 16 months away from a potential rematch of their hotly contested 2018 race for Illinois’ 13th District, when Davis squeaked out a narrow win by less than 2,100 votes. CNN briefly called that race for Londrigan early on election night, but later retracted the call when the projected vote tally became less clear.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 2020 race for Illinois’ 13th District Tilts Republican.

The issue of corporate PAC contributions already promises to be a continuing theme in the potential rematch between Davis and Londrigan.

Last week, Londrigan’s campaign sent an email criticizing Davis for accepting “over $2.4 million in corporate PAC contributions over his political career while voting against protecting people with preexisting conditions and to cut corporate taxes on the backs of the middle class.”

Londrigan’s campaign described the incident with Klitzing as “underhanded.” 

“Congressman Davis likes to go on television and talk about civility in politics. All the while, his campaign is again engaging in an ongoing series of dishonest distractions,” Londrigan told NPR Illinois.

A representative for the Davis campaign could not immediately be reached for comment on the incident.

Klitzing’s infiltration of the press call last week was not the first time someone working for Davis has caused a stir sneaking into a Londrigan event.

Davis’ former campaign field director, Levi Lovell, was arrested and charged in 2018 after he crashed a Londrigan campaign event at a local bar.

Lovell reportedly shouted at Londrigan, a businesswoman and former aide to Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin, and then punched someone at the event before he was arrested.

Davis fired Lovell as soon as the congressman became aware of the situation, his campaign manager, Matt Butcher, said at the time, adding, “This campaign has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or violence of any kind.”

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