SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan on Thursday called on incumbent Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) to “come clean and quit making these empty calls for civility when he and his staff are engaging in the dirtiest of politics.”
Her challenge comes in response to WCIA’s report that a Republican political operative lied about his name to pose as a student reporter for a downstate college newspaper in order to gain access to a closed press conference call last Wednesday.
“It was overly aggressive and just seemed out of the blue, the level of aggression and questioning,” Dirksen Londrigan recalled. “I mean, I answered the questions. It was just odd and overly aggressive.”
After WCIA traced the call back to a GOP operative’s cell phone, Nick Klitzing confessed to the hoax, saying, “I was willing to help. I’m just a volunteer.”
Klitzing currently works as a paid political consultant at a GOP firm. The Davis campaign is not among that company’s clients. He previously worked as deputy campaign manager for former Governor Bruce Rauner.
Klitzing told WCIA the Davis campaign informed him about Dirksen Londrigan’s press call, asked him to interject with questions, and he willingly agreed. He said offering a fake name was his own idea.
“It makes sense that he was prompted with talking points or questions from the Davis campaign,” Dirksen Londrigan said. “Then it all made sense that he was put up to it and given those types of questions to ask.”
Reached by phone on Tuesday, Davis’ campaign manager Matt Butcher correctly pointed out that Klitzing does not work directly for the campaign. Butcher also claimed he had not spoken to Klitzing since the Rauner campaign ended last fall. That statement is inconsistent with Klitzing’s account of what happened.
Butcher and Davis’ official government spokesperson Ashley Phelps both declined multiple requests seeking an explanation, including repeated requests for comments from Congressman Davis.
While they remain silent, their opponent is stepping up the pressure.
“He’s clearly nervous and probably weakened and embarrassed at the moment at his last quarter by his low fundraising numbers,” she said. “He can’t run on his record because he has a record of failure, so he’s trying to change the subject.”
The tense episode reminded Dirksen Londrigan of a different fundraiser event last fall when one of Davis’ paid campaign staffers got drunk and harassed her and her husband, tracking them around a Springfield bar with a smartphone camera in hand. The staffer was arrested and later fired by the campaign.
“Congressman Davis and his staff attacked my family last cycle,” Dirksen Londrigan said. “So again, this is nothing new.”
In last Wednesday’s call, Klitzing asked Dirksen Londrigan “what’s to stop a corporate lobbyist…like your husband, a corporate lobbyist at McGuire Woods, from just funneling money to the DCCC, which you then benefit from?”
This week in a call with WCIA, she repeated a similar defense that she should be judged on her own merits instead of her husband’s, and added another explanation.
“I’m running for federal office and he works within the state of Illinois,” she said.
Asked if McGuire Woods seeks to influence policy on Capitol Hill, she replied, “You’d have to talk to Tom about that. Tom and I have three kids. He’s a coach of a girl’s swim team. The things that Tom and I talk about are our children, our family, the swim team, what we’ve got going on in our daily lives. Other than that, I guess you’d have to ask Tom.”
The global lobbying firm’s website boasts “connections in the nation’s capital and, importantly, in key state capitals across the country,” adding assurances to potential corporate clients that, “our unique blend of federal, state-based and subject matter experience can spell the difference between futility and success.”
WCIA has not reached out to Tom Londrigan seeking a comment about the scope of his role at the firm.
Before newly elected members of Congress are sworn into office, they are invited to attend orientation where they receive ethical training about how to navigate potential conflicts of interest.
Dirksen Londrigan accused Davis and his campaign of using dirty tricks to plant political land mines for her campaign.
“They want to talk about [my husband’s job] because they don’t want to have to talk about Rodney Davis’ record. They don’t want to have to talk about the underhanded games they are playing to try to distract voters from his record. They will try and change the story to anything other than his record. If he was proud of his record, he would want to talk about it. If he was proud of his accomplishments last quarter fundraising, he’d want to talk about it. But they are operating from a position of weakness, and it shows.
“He’s taken over $2.4 million dollars from corporate PACs in his career. $2.4 million dollars. He’s taken over $600,000 from the pharmaceutical industries. “Look no further. Follow the money. That’s who he’s voting for.”