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Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018 12:15 am

Hat trick

Rodney Davis spins truth

Here’s an ad we haven’t seen.

Rodney Davis goes low with a top hat.

“Hello, I’m Rodney Davis. In 2015, I voted for a $1.1 trillion budget bill that exceeded spending limits by $66 billion. Barack Obama called it a Christmas present for the American people. Donald Trump blasted Republicans for cooperating with Democrats, but I took that vote, regardless of political consequences, because it was the right thing to do.”

It’s impossible to say whether Davis voted for the bill out of conviction or because he’s a hack who does what he’s told to do by hacks who never dreamed Trump would gain the White House. We’re talking about a guy who lost races for Taylorville mayor and the state legislature before lucking out to win a seat in Congress by virtue of a progessive independent getting 7 percent of the vote in a 2012 contest where Davis prevailed by less than one-half of one percent of the vote. And there’s now an air of desperation in Davis’ camp.

With early voting underway, challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan on Oct. 8 released a poll showing a statistical dead heat. Two days later, Davis countered with a poll showing he had a 13-point lead. But vice presidents don’t waste time stumping for shoo-ins, as Michael Pence did last week at a Panther Creek Country Club fundraiser. Bizarrely, the event began with the song “All Right Now,” a thinly veiled ode to prostitution:

There she stood in the street
Smiling from head to her feet
I said hey, what is this
Now baby, maybe she’s in need of a kiss

“I respect your congressman so much I’d about be here if he was uncontested,” Pence subsequently gushed when he wasn’t quoting Abraham Lincoln. “I really would.”

If you believe that, you surely love the ad Davis released last week that tries chaining his opponent to the fiasco surrounding a stovepipe hat purchased by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, where Londrigan once worked as a fundraiser. The announcer calls Londrigan a lobbyist, which is true enough. She did, after all, register as a foundation lobbyist in 2013. There was wasteful spending that brought the foundation to the brink of bankruptcy. True again, but no public money was involved, and there’s no evidence that Londrigan, a hired hand, played any role in the foundation’s decision to blow money it didn’t have on a hat no one can prove ever graced Lincoln’s head. Then comes the really stinky part.

“So Londrigan turned to Mike Madigan, lobbying for a taxpayer-funded bailout,” the announcer intones. “Betsy Londrigan: a Madigan crony. She can’t be trusted with our tax dollars.”

It’s a trick straight from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s playbook, and we’ll soon see how well the Madigan-is-evil schtick works. Not being able to show malfeasance, Davis insinuates that Londrigan did something dastardly in doing what she was hired to do, pry loose state money. Davis surely knows that successful lobbyists lean on the most powerful politicians available. Otherwise, they should find other lines of work, which Londrigan has done.

Londrigan called Davis a liar at a Monday debate. “You’re saying I have something to do with Abraham Lincoln’s hat (sic),” Londrigan said. “It’s ridiculous. The hat was purchased years before I worked there, and you know that. I never met with Mike Madigan. You’re lying about that, too.”

I don’t know whether Madigan and Londrigan are tight, but the speaker hasn’t exactly been the foundation’s friend. Long before other politicians did the political calculus, Madigan treated Londrigan’s former employer as radioactive. “We have instances where the foundation, which is not elected, not appointed by a governor, is actually making spending decisions for the library,” the speaker tsk-tsk’d in 2015. Madigan also refused to cooperate with a foundation-funded study that – surprise – recommended that the state bail out the foundation and put it in charge of day-to-day operations at the presidential museum. “Madigan to museum foundation: Drop dead” – that was the headline in Illinois Times three years ago. And Davis plasters Madigan with a villainous smile on his face, ghoulish music playing in the background, next to a photo of Londrigan, who, by appearances, wasn’t much of a fundraiser or lobbyist.

Meanwhile, Davis is ripping Londrigan for not denouncing an ad created by Women Vote that features footage of the congressman’s wife and kids, cribbed from the Republican’s own campaign ads. The congressman’s smiling kids are juxtaposed against Davis’ voting record on healthcare issues. Davis whines that his family is being attacked. “Leave my kids out of it,” Davis complained on Monday. “It’s not acceptable.” Couldn’t agree more. Quit using your family like cheap yard signs, congressman, and stick to issues.

Worried politicians are prone to snarling and biting and saying anything – anything – to preserve their own hides. It’s second nature in the Beltway, where scoundrels have more lives than cats and less integrity than starving sewer rats. Davis learned from a master, having once been employed by proven liar U.S. Rep. John “Term Limits” Shimkus, R-Contract With America, who’s running for reelection 23 years after vowing that he would serve no more than a dozen years in Congress. And so no one should expect Davis to stop serving up quadruple Whoppers with extra cheese. That doesn’t mean that anyone has to eat them.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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