WASHINGTON — Super PACS are now in play in the heated Democratic primary battle between Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., and Marie Newman, spending last week for negative cable TV ads and direct mail as the March 20 election looms closer.

A just-spawned super PAC, “Citizens for a Better Illinois,” last week spent $412,556 to produce ads opposing Lipinski, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The expenditure will bolster the cash-strapped Newman.

And “United for Progress, Inc., created in 2017 — with mega donations from three Chicago area contributors — reported last week spending $37,767 on direct mail designed to re-elect Lipinski.

According to FEC records, that was $20,237 to oppose Newman and $17,530 to support Lipinski.

FEC records show the 2017 mega donors to “United for Progress” include $200,000 from White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf; $100,000 from Craig Duchossois, the chairman and chief executive officer of The Duchossois Group, and $100,000 from Jim Frank, the CEO and president of Wheels.

This “Citizens for a Better Illinois” money — and any other super PAC jumping in — will be crucial for Newman because when it comes to fundraising, she lags considerably behind Lipinski, who has been stockpiling campaign cash.

As of Dec. 31, Newman had $236,612 cash-on-hand compared to Lipinski’s $1,648,912.

And even if Newman’s fundraising has been on the upswing these past few weeks, as her allies claim, she has a big gap to bridge.

“I think it is fair to say reinforcements are on the way,” a source close to the “Citizens for a Better Illinois” independent expenditure campaign told me.


The “Citizens for a Better Illinois” and “United for Progress, Inc.,” are what is known in campaign finance law as independent expenditure committees.

While federal law puts a cap on contributions to campaigns from regular PACs and individuals — and bans direct giving from corporate and labor sources — a super PAC can take unlimited donations from these sources.

The catch is a super PAC is banned from giving directly to or communicating or coordinating with the campaign it is trying to help. That’s why the giving is called an “independent expenditure.”


FEC records show the new group, “Citizens for a Better Illinois” filed its statement of organization on Feb. 13. Donors were already lined up since the group told the FEC it spent $412,556 on Feb. 16 to produce television and digital ads.

The treasurer of “Citizens for a Better Illinois” is Steven Kravitz, the Washington-based chief financial officer at NARAL Pro-Choice America.

NARAL has taken on a leading role in helping Newman. Abortion is a factor in this 3rd Congressional District race. Newman supports abortion rights; Lipinski is anti-abortion.

There will be other organizations donating to this super PAC, I am told — more abortion rights and progressive groups and unions whose agenda includes raising the minimum wage.

Lipinski has not taken a lead role on raising the minimum wage and that is animating a segment of organized labor to contribute to this new super PAC, I am told.

Seeing political trouble ahead — with likely political spending against him — Lipinski in recent weeks has been repositioning himself on the wage issue.

On Jan. 29, Lipinski signed on as a cosponsor of a main Democratic bill to raise the minimum wage to $15-an-hour House records show — a measure introduced on May 25, 2017. That came after Lipinski and Newman, who backs the $15 target, discussed the minimum wage at a Jan. 24 Sun-Times editorial board session, throwing a spotlight on their differences.


The “United for Progress, Inc.” super PAC, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, spending to aid Lipinski, is the only 2018 candidate so far it is helping.

As of Dec. 31, the group had $1,066,564 cash-on-hand after raising some $1.3 million — with $400,000 of that from the Illinois donors.

A big chunk of money “United for Progress” spent last year was on research.


Lipinski is so far ahead of Newman in fundraising because he is the incumbent. Non-super PAC political action committees can donate directly to campaigns.

In 2017, Lipinski’s campaign had receipts of $696,149, of which $425,019 came from PACs. Newman took in only $16,000 from PACs.