DIXON – Some Lee County residents may remember seeing a flier before the election suggesting they “vote no on creating a new sales tax for Lee County.”
Or getting a robo call with a similar message.
Both were paid for by the Americans for Prosperity Illinois.
Americans for Prosperity is a national conservative political advocacy group to which more than 90,000 Americans in all 50 states contribute, according to its website.
The state chapter operates out of Naperville.
That begs the question, why did this large national 501(c)(4) organization weigh in on a referendum in a county of about 36,031 residents and about 75 miles away from its home base?
David From, state director for Americans for Prosperity, said the mailers and phone calls were part of a statewide project. The group weighed in on 12 referenda throughout Illinois, nine of them county sales tax initiatives similar to the 1 cent sales tax that failed in Lee County.
“We made an effort to support local taxpayers in opposing referenda questions to increase debt or raise taxes throughout the state,” From said. “We’re a grassroots advocacy group with a message to provide economic freedom and support policies that mean less taxes, less debt and less government.
“We feel the reasons these popped up in so many different counties was from a coordinated effort within the state from educational groups and bond writers. It just wasn’t by accident.”
From said the state chapter spent about $2,000 sending mailers and issuing automatic calls to some Lee County residents. Not all residents were contacted.
While he confirmed there are a number of donors and activists in the county, noting some from Dixon and Paw Paw, that did not factor into the group’s decision, he said.
“Oftentimes when there’s a referendum, there’s a group pushing for it, and there’s nobody there to represent those who feel it may not be a good idea.”
The “We are Dixon” group campaigned for the referendum, which would have been used to build a sports complex in the city.