Company tied to Joe Berrios sets up bogus website in primary challenger’s name
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In another wild election year in Illinois, the race involving Joe Berrios has produced the most bizarre whodunit tale — and what may have been the dirtiest trick of this political season.
Soon after announcing he would take on Berrios for the Democratic nomination for county assessor, challenger Fritz Kaegi says he noticed someone had set up websites purporting to represent him and his rage-against-the-machine campaign.
But Kaegi says he had nothing to do with the new FritzKaegi.org website. Nor, he says, did he set up other accounts that supposedly communicated on his behalf on Twitter, Facebook and a political fundraising site.
So Kaegi hired lawyers who filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court to find out who was essentially impersonating him online.
Now, ahead of next month’s primary election, the mystery apparently has been solved.
The GoDaddy domain registrar and website-hosting company has identified the man behind the fake Kaegi campaign site as Quenton Galvin, according to court records.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Galvin is owner of Non Stop Web Design of Grayslake — a company that has done campaign work for many years for Berrios, who’s chairman of the powerful county Democratic Party.
Non Stop Web Design has been paid thousands of dollars by the Cook County Democratic Party, the Committee to Elect Joseph Berrios Assessor and other political funds controlled by Berrios, state campaign-finance disclosure documents show.
Galvin did not return calls or emails seeking comment. Neither did Berrios.
Berrios is best known as an unabashed defender of self-serving, Chicago-style politics. As assessor, he has been eager to fight for the legal right to employ kin on his payroll, successfully arguing that the county’s anti-nepotism rule doesn’t apply to his office.
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In 2016, I counted a dozen members of the Berrios clan enjoying county and state jobs or public pensions. They included the party boss’ daughter, son, four siblings, two nephews, a sister-in-law and a brother-in law. Together, those Berrios relatives cashed taxpayer-funded salary and pension checks worth nearly $1.1 million a year back then.
Berrios doesn’t care if you mock him for taking care of immediate and extended family on your dime. He once compared himself to President John F. Kennedy, noting that JFK hired his brother Robert as his attorney general.
And Berrios — whose roots are in Puerto Rico — also has argued that he’s rapped unfairly just for doing what the Irish and other ethnic groups practiced with impunity for decades.
The alleged shenanigans involving the pseudo-websites and fraudulent social media accounts suggest Berrios may have learned a few new tricks, too.
“We expected the Berrios campaign to use machine tactics to deceive voters and try to distort the democratic process, but this is a new level of deceit,” Kaegi campaign spokesman DeRondal Bevly said in a statement Friday. “This is what the machine’s old-school trickery looks like in the digital age.”
In court filings, Kaegi’s lawyers wrote that FritzKaegi.org and other websites were “published without his knowledge, consent or direction,” but they “inferred association with his campaign.” The fake accounts solicited “volunteer signups” and campaign contributions that were supposed help Kaegi unseat Berrios, according to court records.
The lawyers sought information from GoDaddy, Twitter and Facebook.
“We were trying to find out who is falsely insinuating a connection to the campaign,” attorney Scott Kane said.
In a letter last month, a GoDaddy executive responded, saying, “Quenton Galvin is currently the registrant of the domain name fritzkaegi.org and has been since May 18, 2017.”
Galvin failed to show up for a deposition, Kaegi’s lawyers say. On Thursday, they asked a judge to order him to appear and answer their questions on Feb. 14.
But voters could end Berrios’ bid for a third term long before we ever learn the full story of how Kaegi got done dirty online.