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Dan Proft’s questionable involvement in Darren Bailey’s campaign

The internal dispute between Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey’s campaign and the recently departed A Bailey political worker has raised questions about the extent of the Bailey campaign’s involvement by the conservative leader of a political action committee that backs Bailey.

At issue is an attempt by Dan Proft, a longtime GOP operative and one-time losing candidate for Illinois governor, to join a potential legal settlement sought by Brett Corrigan, a friend of the Bailey family who worked for the campaign for more than a year before leaving around mid-September . Corrigan’s attorney described his client’s complaint as an “internal HR” or human resources matter, but did not provide any additional details.

Proft, a resident of Naples, Fla., runs the People Who Play By The Rules PAC, which opposes the bid by Democrat J. B. Pritzker for re-election and is almost exclusively funded by conservative mega-donor Richard Whelein to the tune of $42 million.

The political committee is an independent spending PAC and is not required by law to coordinate its spending activities with Bailey’s campaign. But the apparent effort by Proft, who also hosts a conservative radio show on which Bailey has been a frequent guest, to try to intervene in a potential legal case involving Bailey suggests he may have a bigger role than previously acknowledged.

Proft is also involved in political mailers disguised as newspapers which were mailed to thousands of homes across the state, spreading misinformation to discredit Pritzker. In 2016, a similar mailing was financed by former Proft Independent Spending PAC The Illinois State Election Commission accused him of illegally coordinating with candidates.

Corrigan declined to comment and referred all questions to his attorney, Scott Kaspar of Orland Park. Kaspar said Corrigan attended the private Full Armor Bailey Christian Academy in Louisville, Illinois, and lived with the Bailey family on their farm in nearby Xenia. Corrigan on the campaign trail served primarily as a “body man” for the GOP gubernatorial candidate, who is also a state senator, keeping a close eye on Bailey at events and assisting Bailey as needed. As of June 2021, Bailey’s company paid him $18,861, according to public campaign finance records.

But around mid-September, Corrigan left Bailey’s company — his attorney said he was fired or left on his own. Corrigan now fills a similar role with GOP attorney general nominee Tom DeVore, whose campaign Corrigan joined almost immediately after leaving Bailey’s.

In an interview, DeVore said he was aware of the dispute between Corrigan’s company and Bailey and that the two sides were trying to reconcile their differences. DeVore had no comment when asked about Proft’s involvement.

After Bailey left the campaign, Corrigan hired Kaspar to draft a proposed confidential financial agreement with the Republican gubernatorial candidate’s campaign about his reasons for leaving.

During those negotiations, Proft weighed in, apparently trying to stave off filing a possible lawsuit in the case that could have gone public and hurt Bailey’s chances.

Publications under various titles, all associated with conservative politician Dan Proft, were sent to thousands of homes throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

On Oct. 23, Proft contacted Kaspar, first through a phone call that the attorney did not return, and then through a series of text messages. The Tribune reviewed the text messages and verified they came from a phone number used by Proft.

“Scott. Dan Proft. Can you call me?” – began the message to Kaspar. Caspar replied, “Hi Dan. What is it about?” Proft replied, “I’m hearing rumors of some complaint you’re going to file against Bailey.”

Kasper didn’t answer.

After a while, Proft wrote “And?” to the lawyer. Caspar continued to not respond, prompting Praft to text: “Okay. Forward. Please submit.”

Kaspar eventually responded, “Dan, I don’t normally discuss legal matters with third parties, especially members of the press. I understand that you chair the PAC supporting Senator Bailey’s candidacy. The company is represented by a lawyer, and communication from my side must go through the lawyer.”

Proft replied, “We can talk off the record. And, yes, I have nothing to do with the company. It will be in the press when you submit it. There has already been a request from a law journal. So I don’t see a threat to any canon here.”

Kaspar did not answer.

Caspar, who shared Proft’s text messages with the Tribune, said he is “confident” the settlement between Bailey’s company and Corrigan “will be resolved.” But he said he was “disappointed that the confidential material of the agreement is getting into the press and otherwise.”

“Dan is a press representative. He’s the chairman of the independent spending committee,” Caspar said, endorsing Bailey. “It’s amazing to me that he would be aware of this internal personnel issue and would contact me.”

Given the confidential nature of the negotiations with Bailey’s company, Caspar said he did not know how Proft learned about it. But after being contacted by Proft, Caspar said, “I initially thought he was trying to intimidate me.”

“This is Dan Proft. In conservative Chicago circles, Dan Proft is a thing. He’s calling you, you listen,” said Kaspar, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Party candidate in Illinois’ 6th congressional district in June.

Asked about Proft’s involvement in the issue and the appropriateness of his involvement in running a PAC that is not supposed to be involved with the campaign, a spokesman for Bailey responded in an emailed statement that did not directly address the questions raised. Closing the email with, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The company did not respond to a request to clarify.

The Tribune also emailed and texted questions to Proft about his involvement in the Corrigan case and Bailey’s campaign. Proft issued an unanswered response accusing the Tribune of “an 11th-hour hit full of trash accusations by some stupid lawyer trying to make a name for himself.”

The support that Uihlein, the founder of office supply and packaging company Uline, gave to Proft’s PAC, rather than Bailey directly, was largely seen as the fact that the billionaire did not believe his contributions would be effectively used in the Republican nominee’s campaign.

Wiline spent $12 million on Bailey’s campaign, but only $3 million after Bailey won the June 28 GOP primary with 57.5% of the vote. By contrast, Wyline has given nearly $34 million to PAC Proft since Bailey won the nomination.




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