CHICAGO – The latest campaign tactic in an already heated race for Illinois governor – fake news releases – drew a scolding Friday from the state's highest-ranking Democrat.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin called a fake news release sent by the Illinois Republican Party "a new low." But it was Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign that started the shenanigans.
They issued a news release Thursday night and again Friday morning purportedly from Republican rival Bruce Rauner's campaign. It said Rauner would "emerge from hiding" to discuss whether he used "clout" – namely his connections with Chicago Public Schools officials and donations to CPS – to get his daughter into an exclusive high school. The email also listed two locations where Rauner was holding campaign events.
The state GOP, with the blessing of the Rauner campaign, then sent an email falsely stating Durbin would call on Quinn to testify in the investigation of his troubled anti-violence program. Federal and Cook County authorities and the state's Legislative Audit Commission are looking into the $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which was the subject of a scathing state audit earlier this year.
The GOP's email included a phone number and email address for Durbin's spokeswoman, bringing a rebuke from Illinois' senior senator.
"I know things get tough, but this is a new low," Durbin said. "For goodness sakes, let's maintain some credibility with the public and the media in terms of our releases."
But his comments only cued more finger pointing.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson noted Rauner has yet to answer new questions about his daughter's admission to Walter Payton College Prep.
"Our memo was clearly a light-hearted attempt to let the press know where Mr. Rauner would be," Anderson said.
Illinois GOP spokesman Andrew Welhouse called the party's news release a "tongue in cheek" attempt to draw attention to an important issue.
And Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf turned the tables back on Durbin.
"Dick Durbin should talk to Pat Quinn about it," Schrimpf said. "And while he's at it, he should tell him to testify about [the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative]."