Illinois Policy Institute Files Questionable Lawsuit Over Denial of its Press Credentials

Chicago, Illinois -  The Illinois Policy Institute has filed a lawsuit over the denial of press credentials to its so-called “journalist-in-residence” Scott Reeder and it is a real stretch. Apparently, Reeder is being denied access to Illinois state house and senate press boxes because of his affiliation with Illinois Policy Institute, which is also a lobbying organization.

I find it fascinating that the Illinois Policy Institute personnel are complaining over the denial of press credentials and that Scott Reeder even has the gall to represent himself as a reporter given his organization’s activities. He is an employee of the Illinois Policy Institute, an organization that to-date has been unable (or unwilling) to see the IRS line between tax-exempt activity, political activity, and the financial self-interest of its members.

The $500,000 Illinois Policy Institute received from GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and the aggressiveness with which Reeder has promoted Rauner’s policies and positions this election cycle is just one case in point. Illinois Policy Institute’s board member Elizabeth Christie, a co-finance chair of Rauner’s campaign, must be pleased.

For a year, Reeder has written pro-Rauner articles and placed them with various online media with only a two-sentence disclaimer of origin: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Another case-in-point: Last year, Illinois Policy Institute personnel were directly involved in the Illinois Virtual Charter School Plan, which was attempting to secure millions of dollars in local tax dollars for an online school. In fact, Ted Dabrowski, VP of Policy for Illinois Policy Institute became the president of Virtual Learning Solutions, the entity involved in the charter school plan, after top officials resigned when questions and concerns were raised by parents and the school boards.

None of this stopped Illinois Policy Institute (or Scott Reeder) from using the organization to lobby to defeat the moratorium legislation that ultimately placed a one-year ban on virtual charters in Illinois.

Now here is the other thing that is interesting about Illinois Policy Institute’s caterwauling about the denial of its press credentials: After I wrote an article criticizing the Illinois Policy Institute’s involvement in the virtual charter schools, IPI contacted my editor at Chicago Now, attempting to get the blog taken down, and argued that that the site was giving me credibility where none was warranted.

 Read the letter from Illinois Policy Institute here. 

This is not the first time Illinois Policy Institute has attempted to get my columns taken down. The organization has contacted every publication I have contributed to or worked for and attempted to get my columns taken down in full.  Fortunately, because the articles were factual, Illinois Policy Institute personnel – including John Tillman and Dan Proft – have been unable to get the columns they objected to removed.

Sorry guys.

Last summer, John Tillman contacted me in attempt to resolve “our differences.” He did not like my columns on Illinois Policy Institute’s potential taxpayer windfall with regard to the Illinois Virtual Charter School plan. (Question: Is that why Illinois Policy Institute is involved with Bruce Rauner?)

In the interests of full disclosure, Tillman admitted during our meeting that he had convinced Dick Uihlein of Uline, Inc. to break his agreement with my company over the funding of a TV project, “America’s Instant Townhall.” Uihlein had provided the initial round of seed money for the project and had promised the balance if our team completed three episodes, which we did.

Uihlein, a large donor to Bruce Rauner, also pays for Joe Walsh’s radio show on the largely brokered time radio station known as AM 560 WIND and is likely the reason Dan Proft has a radio show on WLS, declining ratings and all. (Ask talk show host Cisco Cotto how he feels about political money determining radio contracts on WLS).

So much for freedoms of press and free speech that Illinois Policy institute claims it is so committed to.

Normally, I would be sympathetic to any reporter or blogger that was hit with the charges of “not being a real reporter.” I have faced that criticism as well – it is part and parcel of being a member of the “new media.”

I was buying airtime on WIND when I interviewed Rahm Emanuel on a public sidewalk back in 2011. Emanuel did not like the questions I was asking and the interview soured when CBS reporter Jay Levine threatened “to deck me if I didn’t shut up." WIND was quick to throw me under the bus after the video of the encounter went viral, indeed claiming “I wasn’t a reporter.” That was an act of cowardice on their part and they were wrong to make that judgment: At the time, I was a contract columnist with the DC-based Communities at Washingtontimes.com, an entity that more than meets the definition of a "journalist" under the new media shield legislation.

The question about my journalistic credentials also came up again during a press conference with Dick Durbin one year later.  It is true: I come at things from a conservative perspective. I am honest about that.  Unlike media with a liberal disposition, I always have been honest about that.

As a producer of Emmy award-winning TV, I have also had a variety of financial arrangements with TV networks from shared revenue arrangements with stations like FOX to brokered time deals – and, frankly, I prefer it that way. Here's a good example of why. The week before my new program, “Power Player” aired  last fall, the TV station was flooded with calls asking why the station was “dealing with me.” Fortunately, in that instance and others, our contracts protected us.

But take a guess who was responsible for the calls.

But there is a big difference between what Illinois Policy Institute is doing and what I and many other conservative bloggers and reporters do. I may come at things from a conservative perspective but I don’t have any horse I am profiting from in the race.

Illinois Policy Institute receives millions in tax-exempt funding and – in my opinion – misuses it for financial and political gain. The organization has repeatedly misused its tax status and played footsie with political candidates and causes that it has a vested interest in.

The IRS and the attorney general's office really need to take a serious look at how the Illinois Policy Institute and the Illinois Opportunity Project operate – especially where candidate Bruce Rauner is concerned.

If I were a Democrat, I wouldn’t let Scott Reeder in the press box either.

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