Joe Tirio is attempting to strike back.
The McHenry County recorder wants to unmask an anonymous group that calls itself the Illinois Integrity Fund and have them pay for a series of defamatory mailers issued before the March primaries.
The faces behind the untraceable dark money source could be revealed through court summons probing potential informants for the names and addresses of of the fund’s key players.
Tirio doesn’t know who’s behind the flyers that referred to him as “Crooked Joe” – but he might not have to.
He and Woodstock lawyer Phil Prossnitz are using an Illinois Supreme Court rule that allows limited evidence to determine who’s responsible for the Illinois Integrity Fund.
A petition filed with the McHenry County Circuit Clerk on Wednesday names Chicago printing company Breaker Press, Co. whose name appeared on the mailers, and Tirio’s opponent for McHenry County clerk, Janice Dalton, who Prossnitz said used similar accusatory language in automated telephone calls.
Prossnitz hopes to press both Dalton and the printing company to release names and other information relevant to the Illinois Integrity Fund, which is not registered with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Neither Dalton nor representatives from Breaker Press could be reached for comment Friday.
Three flyer published by the Illinois Integrity Fund repeatedly accused Tirio of keeping a secret taxpayer-funded slush fund to take trips and pad his payroll with patronage workers, Prossnitz wrote in the court filing.
When Tirio drove to the Hoffman Estates address listed on the mailers, he found an office building with no trace of anyone or anything associated with the Illinois Integrity Fund, Prossnitz said.
The county recorder Republican nominee for County Clerk said he suffered “scathing personal attacks” from the Illinois Integrity Fund, which accused him of committing financial crimes.
“Anonymous, false, malicious ‘hit pieces’ go beyond mere damage caused by fake news,” Prossnitz said in a statement. “This lying undermines American democracy.”
A proposed defamation lawsuit drafted by Prossnitz seeks $50,000 in money damages for the mailers, which depicted Tirio in a cartoon robber getup.
“This lawsuit is about answering: When is lying about an opponent in a political campaign going too far? Should people be allowed to use aliases or hide behind fake organizations and make false accusations to gain an advantage in an American political campaign?” Tirio said. “Does blatant, knowing, overt lying undermine American democracy? Does this behavior rob you of your vote? In an American political campaign should we teach our children – ‘anything goes?’”
McHenry County Judge Kevin Costello will hear Prossnitz’s petition May 23.