SYCAMORE – Drew Collins, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party, issued an apology Tuesday to the Sycamore-based Voluntary Action Center after U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, used a photo taken during a tour of the facility in a campaign ad that touts the lawmaker as a “pro-life leader.”
“On behalf of the Illinois Republican Party, I would like to apologize for authorizing the distribution of a political campaign mailer that contained a photo of you and others from within your organization without your consent,” Collins said in a statement.
The ad, which VAC Executive Director Ellen Rogers said she thinks was mailed throughout Kinzinger’s district, plays up the congressman’s anti-abortion agenda and features a photo of him with several young VAC volunteers during a 2016 tour of the facility.
Kinzinger’s district covers all of Lee, Ogle, Bureau, Boone, Grundy, Iroquois, LaSalle, Livingston, and Putnam counties, and parts of DeKalb, Ford, Stark, Will and Winnebago counties.
“It didn’t identify those in the photo as volunteers – it does appear as an endorsement of this message,” Rogers said. “They were excited by the visit, and so it was extremely disappointing to see it being used in a way that’s contrary to everything we’re about.”
The federally funded program cannot and does not endorse political campaigns, Rogers said.
Collins said the mailer was created by a third-party vendor, whom GOP officials thought obtained the proper permission and consent to use the photo.
“We did not intend to imply that Congressman Kinzinger’s tour of the Voluntary Action Center in 2016 was an endorsement of his candidacy, and for that, we are deeply sorry,” Collins said.
Those who saw themselves in the mailer were upset, Rogers said. Karly Zucker identified herself as one of those pictured on the mailer in a Facebook post Saturday.
“Please help me raise the awareness that Representative Kinzinger used that picture without our consent, and that the organization and some of us in the picture will be working hard to make sure he knows that what he did was wrong,” Zucker said in her post.