Oberweis pours $1 million into GOP bid; seeks nomination to run against Rep. Underwood

Oberweis campaigned this week with former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance – pardoned by President Donald Trump for the murder of two civilians in Afghanistan.

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Republican House candidate Jim Oberweis, a state senator who has a history of pumping his fortune into his campaigns.

Sun-Times Media file photo

WASHINGTON — House GOP hopeful Jim Oberweis loaned his campaign $1 million, according to a Federal Election Commission report posted Wednesday, while former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance — pardoned by President Donald Trump for the murder of two civilians in Afghanistan — headlined a series of fundraisers this week for the state senator.

“Honored to campaign with @LoranceClint today - he’s so thankful for @realDonaldTrump’ pardon #jim2020 #IL14,” Oberweis said in Tuesday night tweet.

On Nov. 15, Trump granted a full pardon to Lorance for an incident that took place in July 2012, shortly after Lorance took command of a platoon in an Afghanistan battle zone. When Trump freed Lorance from prison, he had served more than six years of his 19-year sentence.

The White House said in a statement in November that Lorance ordered his troops to engage “under difficult circumstances and prioritizing the lives of American troops.”

Trump’s clemency grant in November for Lorance and two others accused of war crimes was controversial because it was opposed, according to news accounts, by some Pentagon officials.

Oberweis, from Sugar Grove, is in a seven-way Republican primary for the 14th Congressional District seat held by freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill.

To win the nomination, Oberweis has to consolidate some of the GOP base vote and, perhaps, teaming with Lorance — and affirming the Trump pardon — helps in the primary.

However, strongly backing Trump — whose Senate impeachment trial is about to start — would give Oberweis little room to appeal to swing suburban moderates. Underwood, from Naperville, flipped the seat in 2018 because she won the support of Trump turf voters.

Underwood pulled off an upset in 2018 in defeating now-former Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., who was outraised by Underwood and her allies. Underwood beat Hultgren — who ran a weak campaign — 52.5% to 47.5%.

Underwood is a major Republican 2020 target.

Others in the March 17 Illinois GOP primary are state Sen. Sue Rezin, from Morris; investor Ted Gradel, from Naperville; Catalina Lauf, from Woodstock, who worked for Uber and the Trump Commerce Department; Jerry Evans, from Warrenville, who owns a music school; James Marter, from Oswego, a former Kendall County Republican Party chairman; and Anthony Catella of St. Charles.

Oberweis has a history of pumping his fortune into his campaigns. FEC records show that Oberweis loaned his campaign $600,000 in the last quarter of 2019 on top of the $400,000 he put in earlier.

Oberweis is a wealthy investor and ice cream magnate whose stores in the Chicago area, now run by his son, bear the family name. He loaned or gave his campaign $1.6 million for a 2014 Senate bid and loaned or gave $3.8 million for two House contests in 2008.

The FEC reports covering the fourth quarter of 2019 are not due until Jan. 31; the Oberweis team filed early.

Lorance headlined three fundraisers for Oberweis on Tuesday:

*A breakfast at the Bolingbrook Golf Club where one of the co-hosts, according to the invitation, was Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar, who is on the Trump Illinois delegate slate.

*A lunch event in Schaumburg and an early evening reception at the American Legion in Huntley. A co-host for these was Demetra DeMonte, a Republican National Committee National Committeewoman from Illinois.

On Tuesday evening, Oberweis, at theAmerican Legion in Huntley, co-hosted a fundraiser to benefit the organization providing assistance to Lorance, United American Patriots.

Oberweis spokesman Travis Akin said Oberweis, given his business background, wanted to help Lorance get back on his feet “to kind of help him, give him some advice (about) business and careers.”

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