For 15 years, the Family Taxpayers Network (FTN) has battled to promote conservatism in Illinois, where the state Republican Party is divided into warring camps of conservatives and moderates. Founder and president Jack Roeser wanted to help conservative volunteers, who often didn’t know how to go about affecting public policy or electing candidates in an efficient way, be more effective. “I wanted to help the volunteers on the right to life, taxpayer, and 2nd Amendment issues,” he said.
“Before we can successfully elect people to the general assembly, voters must be educated on the issues,” says FTN. “Many organizations, including FTN, educate voters on the issues and rally volunteers. However, because we are a PAC, we can also take stronger measures in the political arena.”
FTN is divided into a 501(c)3 and a PAC. Its initial big project was providing voter lists to conservatives. “We fixed it so we could supply precinct lists for everyone in the state,” said Roeser, a successful businessman with a high-tech engineering company. “We provide them to volunteers.”
Six years ago, Illinois conservatives scored a big success with the election of Peter Fitzgerald as a U.S. senator, although Fitzgerald turned out not to care for being a senator and is leaving after one term. “Electing Sen. Fitzgerald was done with a combination of conservatives, against the party [establishment] by the way,” said Roeser. “They did all they could to stop his election.”
Illinois conservatives have another champion in Dr. Alan Keyes, who has moved from Maryland in an attempt to win the open Senate seat against Democrat Barack Obama. The race is the first in U.S. history in which both major party Senate candidates are black. But Keyes, a longtime conservative champion famous for his oratory skills, dismayed supporters when he endorsed reparations for the descendants of slaves–albeit by making black Americans exempt from income taxes instead of by writing them checks. But he cheered many conservatives when he bluntly labeled homosexuals “selfish hedonists.”
But out-of-stater Keyes will have a hard time defeating the smooth Illinoisan Obama. Nevertheless, and despite the reparations proposal, Roeser is behind him. “Whenever Keyes speaks, he generally gets a broad audience to agree with him,” said Roeser. “Obama is a young man without accomplishments.” He said that Keyes would shake up the Senate, which has remained remarkably resistant to conservative ideas even since the Repblican takeover in 1994. “We should inflict him on the Senate,” said Roeser. “He would be a one-man Lincoln-Douglas debate in there.”
Having to choose someone from out of state as its Senate nominee after the man initially chosen to be the Illinois GOP’s choice, Jack Ryan, was forced out by scandal, demonstrates the disarray into which the state party has increasingly descended. Corruption and incompetence have turned the party that once dominated Illinois–Abraham Lincoln’s home state–into a shell of its former self. The state government as a whole isn’t doing too well, either.
“The Democratic governor has made an immense mess of it and put future generations in hock,” said Roeser.
“You may have read about the so-called public school ‘funding crisis’ in Illinois,” says FTN’s website. “The reality is, the problem isn’t with funding but with school district spending.” Reciting a story familiar to well-informed residents of just about every state in the union, FTN says, “Illinois taxpayers have doubled state funding for education over the past decade. State funding for education and total funding for education have grown at an average of between 6% and 7%–significantly higher than the rate of inflation….The bottom line is that taxpayers have proven their commitment to the funding of public schools for 20 years. The fact that 80% of school districts are in deficit spending is due to administrators and school boards that have failed to achieve the goal set out in the Illinois state constitution of providing for an ‘efficient’ school system.”
“Gov. [Rod] Blagojevich issued bonds to bail out the state,” Roeser said. But the previous governor, Republican George Ryan, was no good either, he said. “At the time he went it, there was going to be a $1 billion surplus. He turned it into a huge deficit. Everyone in the state legislature went on a spending spree.”
Drastic measures are being proposed to return Illinois to solvency. “The legislature is considering a bill to raise the income tax by 60%,” said Roeser. “That would be both the personal and the corporate income tax. We’ve started a big fight against that. Businesses are already leaving the state.”
FTN may be reached at 8 E. Main St., Carpentersville, Ill. 60110 (847-428-0363; fax: 847-428-9206; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.thechampion.org).