Watchdog founders anticipate harsh reception at Coles County Republican dinner
The two founders of the Edgar County Watchdogs, who have a record of exposing local and state government waste and fraud, are gearing up for an old-fashioned showdown March 1 at the Coles County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner.
Kirk Allen and John Kraft said they have heard through more than one source within the local Republican party that off-duty police will work the doors at the dinner with instructions from Coles County GOP Central Committee Chairman John Clough to bar them for entering. The dinner will be held at the LifeSpan Center on County Road in Charleston.
“We are going as media and we have other media going as well,” Allen told Prairie State Wire. “It will be interesting to see if they keep us out but let other media in.”
Allen said that Clough was furious at them for writing a series of stories posted late last year on the group’s Illinois Leaks website, stating that Clough “filed a false statement of economic interest and used a state vehicle for electioneering purposes.” The stories also said that Clough was exposed for using racist language. In January, Clough was removed from his job at the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. Then, an Illinois Leaks story posted on Feb. 9 demanded that scheduled keynote speaker for the Coles County dinner, Erika Harold, a Republican candidate for attorney general and an African-American, turn down the invitation to speak, given the revelations about Clough.
Harold did not return a request by Prairie State Wire for comment.
In response to the statements by Allen, Clough said he did instruct the Central Committee not to sell tickets to Allen and Kraft but said “don’t know where they are getting that from” when asked about having them barred at the door.
“I don’t want to have dinner with them,” Clough said. “Their malicious attacks resulted in my being unemployed.”
In addition, Kraft wrote in the Feb. 9 post that pro-Rauner Clough “has reportedly gone out of his way to make sure that only his preferred candidates have tickets to the event. This includes ‘not having enough tickets’ for certain people that want to attend. Of particular interest is the claim we are not allowed to attend.”
Allen said that he and Kraft had to secure their tickets to the dinner through a local state lawmaker.
But Clough said that the assertion that the dinner was closed to some Republican candidates was false.
“We sent out 1,600 fliers to Republican all around the county telling them about the dinner,” Clough said. “Speaking time for the candidates might be limited but that’s only due to time constraints.”
Last week, state Republican Party officials, including Chairman Tim Schneider, demanded that Rauner’s primary opponent Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), remove a campaign video they characterized as racist and homophobic.
In his Feb. 9 post, Kraft wrote: “If the ‘Rauner Slate’ and particularly Erika Herald, were genuinely concerned about offensive racist, sexist, and homophobic language, why have none of them called this GOP Chairman out for his actions? Is it because he is a Rauner supporter? Why hasn’t Erika Herald refused to attend and especially refused to be the keynote speaker at a Lincoln Day Dinner planned and conducted by a known racist acting as the Coles County GOP Chairman?”