The former executive director of the Illinois Republican Party was busted Wednesday for crashing a press call held by a Democratic congressional contender. He used a fake name and falsely claimed to work for a local student newspaper.
Nick Klitzing has a long history with the Illinois Republican Party, including as a policy director for former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first campaign, deputy campaign manager for Rauner’s second campaign, and executive director of the state GOP in the years in between the two gubernatorial races. He’s served as an assistant state’s attorney and clerked for state Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier.
But Klitzing, whose LinkedIn page shows him as a professional political consultant, claims he wasn’t acting in any official capacity when he called into a press call for Democratic congressional contender Betsy Dirksen Londrigan. Rather, Klitzing later said he was just a “volunteer” for the re-election campaign of Dirksen Londrigan’s opponent, Rep. Rodney Davis. (R-IL).
It isn’t clear how Klitzing found out about the press call last week, or whether Davis or his campaign were aware of Klitzing’s plans. But last Wednesday, as he waited his turn to ask Dirksen Londrigan a question, Klitzing was actually posing as “Jim Sherman,” an apparently made-up student reporter from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“Hello this is Jim… Sherman from the The Alestle, the newspaper at SIUE,” Klitzing began on a press call co-hosted by Dirksen Londrigan and the group End Citizens United.
The Republican operative proceeded to ask some very pointed questions of Dirksen Londrigan, who has accused Davis of voting for the priorities of the corporate political action committees (PACs) from which he accepts campaign donations.
After local news station WCIA traced the call from “Jim” back to Klitzing, he admitted to what he’d done.
“I was willing to help,” Klitzing said. “I’m just a volunteer.”
Davis campaign manager Matt Butcher, in WCIA’s words, “initially tried to deny having any knowledge about the phone call” but wouldn’t respond any further to questions from the station. Neither Klitzing nor Davis’ campaign responded to TPM’s requests for comment, either.
WCIA noted Wednesday that Klitzing’s lines of attack on the call with Dirksen Londrigan sounded “nearly identical” to Davis’ own line on the Demcoratic contender.
Klitzing said on the call that while Dirksen Londrigan was not accepting corporate PAC donations, she had still accepted money from Democrats’ national congressional campaign organization, which itself accepts money from such PACs.
A few days later on Monday, WCIA noted, Davis said that campaign donations have “no more clout over me than it has clout over her for taking money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who takes funding from the same sources.”
In a statement shared with TPM, Dirksen Londrigan campaign manager Jacob Plotnick said, “Once more, Rodney Davis proves his calls for civility are empty with his campaign again caught engaging in desperate, underhanded tactics.”
End Citizens United, the group that co-hosted the call, said in a statement from its president Tiffany Muller, “Impersonating a college student in order to lob false partisan attacks is dirty politics and shows how low Rodney Davis’ campaign is willing to sink.”
David and Dirksen Londrigan have a history.
Two years ago, Davis’ field director was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after he drunkenly crashed a Dirksen Londrigan campaign event. Davis apologized to Dirksen Londrigan and later said “There is no way that I would ever send anyone to go sit at a bar for multiple hours and become intoxicated with my opponent’s supporters.”
“I did not send anybody there,” Davis added. “I don’t believe anybody on my campaign has ever said that they sent Levi to that event, and I certainly don’t condone the behavior.” The staffer was fired.
Dirksen Londrigan is currently Davis’ only declared potential opponent. The Democratic primary vote is in March.