One way that U.S. Rep. RODNEY DAVIS, R-Taylorville, has tried to get things done in the nation's capital was to be part of a formal group of more than 70 House members, called the Republican Main Street Caucus and described as moderates and conservatives interested in "governing" and "getting to yes" on legislation.
But, as reported by NPR, after 18 members of that group were defeated in the 2018 election and questions arose about spending by an outside group with a similar name that backed elections of people including Davis, the caucus dissolved.
Davis, who spent time as chairman of the group, told the publication The Hill in 2017 — the year the caucus was formed — that those in the group were "people who are taking the tough votes and sometimes swallowing what wouldn't be a perfect bill, but one that is about 80 percent good." He said the members would also "go back and try to fix the 20 percent that might not have been perfect."
According to the Aug. 23 NPR story, the outside group that inspired the name of the caucus is the Republican Main Street Partnership. That group's super political action committee is called Defending Main Street, which according to OpenSecrets.org, spent $203,000 in the 2018 cycle spent to help Davis narrowly defeat Democrat BETSY DIRKSEN LONDRIGAN of Springfield. The group — independent of the Davis campaign — ran TV ads linking Londrigan with House Speaker NANCY PELOSI, now-Gov. J.B. PRITZKER, and Illinois House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN.
NPR reported that some in the caucus questioned why more than $722,000 remained unspent by Defending Main Street in 2018 when the money might have helped. But SARAH CHAMBERLAIN, president of the Main Street Partnership, defended her work saying the partnership network spent nearly $6 million in the cycle. And the partnership said the $722,000 wasn't spent because those funds were earmarked for 2020, NPR reported.
NPR also said caucus members raised questions about Chamberlain's pay — which a spokesperson for the partnership said totaled $500,000 for 2018 — and her promotion of a group called Women2Women in the days before the election, as opposed to working more directly to help members hold onto congressional seats.
The story said lawmakers demanded, and were denied, an audit of the partnership's activities. An official of the group, DOUG OSE, said Davis asked to be removed from the partnership's website, and "we complied with his wishes." A former partnership employee told NPR that if a member of Congress ever accepted a donation from the organization, that member was promoted as part of the partnership.
"I didn't have anything to do with the story," Davis told reporters while in Springfield this week. He said that "after many of the members were defeated in the last election, we decided that there were other caucuses on the government side" in which to participate.
He said he's still someone seeking to work across the aisle, and he noted he's ranked 50th out of 435 members of the House in a bipartisanship ranking by The Lugar Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that looks at bipartisan sponsorship of legislation.
"I haven't changed ... who I am and how I govern," Davis said. "This was a disagreement with a political organization that had supported me in the past that I chose not to be a member of."
Spicer for Davis
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Hoping to help Davis waltz into re-election, the congressman's campaign is getting some help from "Dancing with the Stars" contestant-to-be SEAN SPICER — also known as the first White House press secretary of the President DONALD TRUMP administration.
"When I served in the White House, I always knew that President Trump and our team had a key ally on Capitol Hill in Rodney," Spicer is quoted as saying in a fundraising email in which he calls Davis a friend.
That and a second Spicer email combine to call Londrigan a "leftist" and a "radical."
"Now, Chicago Democrats are gunning for him again this election cycle," Spicer says in one email, though I'd consider that odd wording coming from the campaign of a candidate — Davis — who was actually shot at in that horrible 2017 shooting incident where House GOP Whip STEVE SCALISE of Louisiana was injured at a baseball practice.
"I hate to say it but Rodney and his congressional seat are vulnerable," Spicer is quoted as saying. "Rodney is counting on us to keep this district Red."
Davis knows Spicer from the time Davis worked for U.S. Rep. JOHN SHIMKUS, R-Collinsville, and Spicer was with the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the House. Spicer, who is doing political consulting, is also a contestant on the "Dancing with the Stars" season beginning Sept. 16 on ABC.
In a recent column, I noted some over-the-top rhetoric in Davis campaign emails — such as one signed by him making the clearly out-of-whack claim that Londrigan was getting millions of dollars from out-of-state billionaires. Davis said then that he doesn't approve his campaign emails before they are sent — even that one under his name.
At a public forum at Parkland College in Champaign on Aug. 19, Davis was asked about Londrigan taking money from sources including billionaires, and about his own sources of funding.
"I guess that came out of fundraising email solicitations," Davis responded in front of a crowd that included people who had jeered him at times. "If you don't like the fundraising email solicitations, I can show you where the delete button is on your computer."
Meanwhile, a Davis spokeswoman admitted he misspoke in Springfield this week, when he said new GOP presidential candidate JOE WALSH, a former Illinois member of Congress, once "ran for the legislature as a Democrat."
Davis, according to spokeswoman ASHLEY PHELPS, "said he must have misremembered (Walsh's) Statehouse run because Walsh had very different stances on social issues from then and when he ran in 2010 and 2012." Walsh won his sole two-year term in the U.S. House in 2010, but lost his re-election bid in 2012. He ran as a pro-choice Republican for Congress in 1996, and ran for the Illinois House in 1998. He is now pro-life.