Republicans in Washington may be distancing themselves from Roy Moore — but the beleaguered Alabama Senate nominee has a powerful friend in Illinois.
The top donor to a political action committee paying for ads in support of the GOP U.S. Senate candidate is Lake Forest business magnate and mega Republican donor Richard Uihlein.
Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and current U.S. Senate candidate, is facing allegations that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl when he was in his 30s, with four other women alleging sexual misconduct while they were underage.
Moore, 70, has denied those allegations. He is running in a Dec. 12 special election against Democrat Doug Jones — a vacancy created when President Donald Trump named Jeff Sessions attorney general.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called on Moore to step aside, saying he believes the women. Trump has given his tacit support to Moore, arguing that Moore “totally denies” the allegations against him.
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that the president had no plans to go to Alabama to campaign for Moore.
According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, Uihlein contributed $50,000 on Sept. 8, and another $50,000 on Nov. 22 to the Proven Conservative PAC. The second contribution came as Moore was under a bright spotlight over the allegations. The contribution was first reported by The Daily Beast.
Uihlein — a free-markets, small government crusader — is the co-founder, with his wife, of Uline Corp., which distributes about 30,000 products such as bags, bubble wrap, bar-code labels and boxes. Uihlein personally donated $2.6 million to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2014 run for governor. Uihlein tossed in an additional $350,000 to a Rauner-allied group seeking to turn out the vote for Rauner by pushing a term-limits drive.
While Uihlein started out as a middle-level donor, he’s now a big-time super PAC player. That coincides with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling and related cases allowing unlimited donations from wealthy individuals, unions and corporations to political groups that make independent expenditures to support the election or defeat of candidates.
Uihlein was the largest contributor to conservative radio host Dan Proft’s failed primary bid for governor in 2010, having donating $595,000.
Proft also is the chairman of the Liberty Principles independent expenditure PAC, created in 2012 “to make independent expenditures in support of liberty oriented policies and candidates,” according to its filing with the Illinois State Board of Elections
Uihlein is the major donor to the Liberty Principles PAC, contributing more than $9 million, according to filings. That PAC is now running cable TV ads for Mickey Straub, the Burr Ridge Mayor running against Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs.
In the 2013-14 election cycle, Proft’s PAC was active in Illinois General Assembly primaries and other local GOP contests, siding with conservatives over GOP moderates. His energies are now being spent on backing State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, in the Republican primary against Rauner. So far, Uihlein has not contributed to her campaign.