GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein funding Awake Illinois

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A new report by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has revealed that anti-LGBTQ group Awake Illinois is getting its money from Republican megadonor Richard Uihlein.

Uihlein, CEO of package maker Uline, has long been known for his donations to conservative causes.

According to the CMD, Uihlein’s personal political action committee Restoration PAC has given $13,000 to Awake Illinois. CMD lists it as an advocacy group fighting Amendment 1, which would make worker rights to organize a constitutional right. However, the group has also been very active in opposing LGBTQ communities. They have repeatedly gone after any events where there are family-friendly drag shows. They most famously went after UpRising Bakery for a drag brunch and Downers Grove Public Library (DGPL) for drag queen bingo event. UpRising became the target of a hate crime and the DGPL cancelled their event after threats, including getting mailed a bullet.

The group has also taken aim at Lurie Children’s Hospital for its gender-affirming care program for transgender youth. They have vocally supported and shared anti-LGBTQ protestors and articles attacking any gender affirming care or LGBTQ-inclusive education.

Awake Illinois’ leader, Shannon Adcock, is also the chair of Moms for Liberty-Dupage and is running for the school board of Indian Prairie School District 204. Nationally, Moms for Liberty have been the loudest group working to get LGBTQ and social justice books removed from school libraries.

This also puts the organization into the same orbit as Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey and People Who Play By the Rules PAC.

The Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday that Bailey just received a $2 million donation from Uihlein. According to the newspaper, that is the biggest single donation to a political race in the state this year. He had donated $1 million to the campaign in August. He is Bailey’s single largest donor. He was also the biggest donor to Bailey’s primary campaign.

According to ABC Chicago, Uihlein has given more than $50 million to conservative causes in Illinois in 2022. The vast majority, $42 million, has gone to the People Who Play By the Rules PAC lead by radio host Dan Proft. While election rules forbid PACs from coordinating with candidates, all of their ads have been aimed at Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

Uihlein has also donated to anti-LGBTQ candidates like Jeanne Ives for Illinois governor in 2018 and Roy Moore in his run for U.S. Senator in Alabama. According to WBEZ, Uihlein was the biggest donor to the PAC that organized the rally before the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Proft himself has been the center of controversy after newspapers owned by his Local Government Information Services (LGIS) media company were mailed out across the state. LGIS runs a network of news sites across Illinois, usually with names to sound local such as Sangamon Sun in Springfield, Chicago City Wire in Chicago or Dupage Policy Journal in the Chicago suburbs. Despite the local names and a sprinkling of high school sports, much of the content is copied across more the more than 20 sites. Called “pink slime” newspapers because of the extreme right tilt and how they reprint the same information, they have been accused of being political mailings without being marked as such.

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