McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks’ campaign organization paid $19,500 to a Chicago-based political consulting firm now tied to the Illinois Integrity Fund, a dark money group that funded defamatory mailers calling McHenry County Clerk and Recorder Joe Tirio a “crook” and attacking other local Republicans running for office.
In April and May, the Supporters of Jack D. Franks political committee paid KNI Communications for data support, fundraising expenses and advertising, according to campaign finance records.
Facing jail time on a contempt charge in McHenry County court Friday, Richard Lewandowski, president of Breaker Press – the Chicago-based union mail-order house that printed the attack mailers against Tirio before the March primary – named Michael Noonan, Franks’ former campaign director; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and Sean Tenner, a former aide of Barack Obama and owner of KNI Communications, as the people behind the Illinois Integrity Fund.
Although he had no direct conversations with the Democratic chairman, Lewandowski said he “had reason to believe” Franks was involved after hearing that through third parties.
Noonan, Tenner and Franks could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Breaker Press, a commercial print shop in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, printed the attack ads bankrolled by the Illinois Integrity Fund.
The group filed no paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections reporting the spending.
The mailers targeted McHenry County officials, including Tirio, who was running for clerk, and Chuck Wheeler and Michael Rein, who were running for the County Board.
Breaker Press has a client list populated with many prominent Illinois Democrats.
Franks’ campaign committee has paid Breaker Press more than $57,000 since 2008.
House Speaker Michael Madigan has spent more than $173,000 since 2010.
Other clients include Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy.
Not all customers have been Democrats. McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan hired Breaker Press to fund a joint mailer with clerk candidate Janice Dalton.
In March, the Northwest Herald asked Franks whether he knew anything about the Illinois Integrity Fund. He said he did not, but he commended its mailers.
“It’s refreshing,” Franks said, “to see someone push back against an entrenched, entitled group that’s done a pretty poor job for a really long time.”