Everyone has grown accustomed to receiving junk mail this time of year disguised as official government business with bold-faced warnings such as “Important Tax Announcement Please Read Immediately.”
But you don’t really expect to get that sort of sneaky solicitation from the governor of the State of Illinois.
Republican Bruce Rauner recently sent out a campaign mailing that could have easily passed as a tax notice from the state. It turned out to be a fundraising request.
The envelope sure looked official.
The return address bore the name “Governor Bruce Rauner” alongside a tiny drawing of the Capitol dome in Springfield and a P.O. Box in Chicago.
Right below that was one of those see-through plastic windows allowing the recipient to read “Illinois Department of Revenue” and something about “New Tax Rates Take Effect from…”—both highlighted in yellow.
And printed right there on the front of the envelope was the aforementioned “Important Tax Announcement” in lettering large enough to get somebody’s attention but not so large as to be a giveaway that it’s a fake.
It’s not until after you open the mailing that you learn it contains a four-page fundraising solicitation from the governor’s political campaign committee, Citizens for Rauner.
The fundraising letter is tied to the increase in the Illinois income tax that was enacted last year over the governor’s veto with lots of references naturally to Rauner nemesis House Speaker Mike Madigan.
The Illinois Department of Revenue part turned out to be a purported press release from the agency, repurposed by Rauner with a hand-printed note that “taxpayers like you deserve the hard evidence of how Mike Madigan and his allies raised your taxes yet again!”
The note is signed by “Bruce” with a small disclaimer at the bottom: “Not Paid For At Government Expense.”
It’s hard to imagine such fakeout mail helping the governor win much support for what the letter calls his “Illinois Taxpayers Pledge to Governor Bruce Rauner,” which comes complete with checkoff boxes for campaign donations in amounts ranging from $35 to $2,500.
It certainly didn’t seem to go over very well with the person who received the letter that eventually found its way into my hands. I was told it arrived in the mail a few days in advance of the primary.
The Rauner campaign said it does not discuss ad strategy.
The mailing appears to have been targeted to past Rauner supporters, so maybe the anti-Madigan message was sufficient to overcome any initial negative reaction to the envelope ruse.
Campaign mailings have become increasingly sophisticated in recent elections with some candidates even sending out computer generated letters that truly appear to have been hand-written in cursive. The Rauner fundraising letter was not of that caliber.
In the past, Rauner has funded his campaigns primarily by writing a big personal check or asking his friend, Ken Griffin, Illinois’ richest resident, to lend a hand.
But Rauner has fallen out of favor with his other big financial benefactor, Richard Uihlein, who backed his GOP primary opponent, Jeanne Ives.
“My friend, I truly can’t emerge victorious in this campaign without your immediate and generous support of my re-election,” Rauner’s letter states.
If this is how he’s going about it, maybe he’s in bigger trouble than I realized.