Illinois Special Election: Establishment K Street’s Darin LaHood Against Tea Party’s Mike Flynn

AP Photo/John O’Connor
AP Photo/John O’Connor

Word is quickly spreading through the Illinois 18th District that establishment candidate Darin LaHood is flush with lobbyist cash and that the special election to replace disgraced Rep. Aaron Schock is quickly becoming a race between LaHood’s big money K Street donors and grassroots Tea Party favorite Mike Flynn.

LaHood, a sitting state senator and son of liberal Republican Ray LaHood, Obama’s former Secretary of Transportation, has been primed with hundreds of thousands of dollars by establishment donors such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, House Speaker John Boehner and his GOP leadership team, big agriculture lobbyists, and even liberal lobbying groups such as the Clinton-connected Podesta Group.

And despite claiming to be the “conservative” in the race, LaHood has already been part of multiple crony capitalist deals that have benefited his big dollar donors.

But even as Illinois voters are learning about the long list of lobbyists that LaHood will be indebted to if he goes to Washington, in two recent candidate debates LaHood has insisted that he would vote against many of the issues that his donors are fighting hard to get passed.

In a recent article at The Washington Examiner, senior political columnist Timothy P. Carney notes that “proximity to K Street and big business is the norm for LaHood.”

The dichotomy between LaHood’s campaign trail claims and his growing list of lobbyist donors is causing many to question the veracity of his statements.

Carney went on to point out that in situations where a politician says one thing but takes stacks of cash from lobbyists who are fighting for the opposite, the money is usually a better guide than the hoary claims of the politician.

Carney says, “in Washington, the circles you run in are often a better predictor of future performance than your stated ideology, or even your past voting record. If you hang out with lobbyists and former Republican members, and if your friends spend their days at DLA Piper and the Podesta Group, the conventional wisdom you pick up will be different than if your friends are GOP dissidents and grass-roots agitators.”

The 18th District primary is coming quickly and will be held on July 7. Early voting is already underway.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at


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