File this under incredibly creepy. The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that private detectives hired by the Illinois Republican Party have been intimidating people gathering signatures to get the Libertarian Party on the state ballot for November. Check it out, from columnist Dan Mihalopouls:
A couple of months after Julieus Hooks signed [the Libertarian Party's] nominating petitions, a man with a gun walked up to Hooks as he left his home in Oak Park.
The man said he was a private investigator. He told Hooks the petition that he had signed was fraudulent and asked him to sign something. Hooks hastily agreed to sign the paper.
"I did not have time to fully review this document because the man with the gun instructed me to sign it, and I was afraid of him and what he may do to me if I refused," Hooks says….
Hooks had signed a petition for the Libertarians in May. He recanted his story in the affidavit that the man with the gun got him to sign. But then Hooks swore a second affidavit saying he did not mean what he said in the affidavit for the armed man.
According to the most recent version of his story, Hooks said, "On or about July 20, 2014, I was exiting my house when a tall Caucasian man and a woman approached and startled me. The man had a gun, which was visible. They told me that the woman who had circulated the petition sheet that I had signed had violated the law because she had obtained too many signatures and committed fraud. I was then given a piece of paper and told to sign."
Sarah Dart, who was paid to circulate petitions for the Libertarians and obtained Hooks' signature, told me a similar story. Dart says a private investigator named Carlos Rodriguez contacted her, asking about a missing girl who knew someone she supposedly knew.
She believes the story about the missing girl was a ruse. When she met with Rodriguez, Dart says he confronted her with a stack of petitions and asked her to admit that the signatures for the Libertarians were obtained fraudulently. She refused, and the state's hearing officer later found that her signatures were legitimately gathered.
Dart says Rodriguez displayed a holstered gun when he met her. He gave her a business card showing he works for Morrison Security in Alsip. The company's owner is the Palos Township Republican leader, Sean Morrison.
The Sun-Times also reports that
Bruce Rauner's spokesman says the Republican nominee for governor knew nothing about the unusual strong-arm tactics used by his allies in their failed effort to keep the Libertarian Party candidates from appearing on the November ballot.
The statement from Rauner's campaign followed my column last week on the Republican deployment of armed private investigators to challenge the Libertarian slate's nominating signature petitions.
"Bruce wants as many people engaged in the political process as possible," Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said in an e-mail. "Bruce has no knowledge of these alleged activities, and if they are true, he strongly denounces them. Bruce doesn't agree with any form of voter intimidation."
As of now, the state election board has ruled the LP has gathered enough valid signatures to be on the ballot in the fall, where the Libertarian is expected to take votes away from the Republican candidate Rauner.
The story isn't over yet, though: The Illinois LP has filed criminal complaints with the state attorney general the Cook County state attorney over the alleged intimidation. Here's hoping the whole story comes out and is dealt with quickly, publicly, and fairly.