Sep 12, 2022 - News

Fake news being delivered to greater Chicago homes

Photo of newspapers on a table.
Publications tied to conservative political operative Dan Proft have been mailed to thousands of homes throughout greater Chicago. Photo: Todd Panagopoulos/Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

Gov. JB Pritzker is speaking out against a new round of political ads disguised as newspapers being delivered in Chicago and the suburbs.

Why it matters: The publications — designed to trick readers into thinking they are reading a vetted, objective news source — feature stories the governor says are racist.

  • Though these "newspapers" are political ads in disguise, they aren't illegal. The state attorney general's office tells Axios it hasn't received any complaints and is not pursuing legal action.

Context: The mailers are distributed by conservative radio host Dan Proft, who also is behind the People Who Play By the Rules PAC.

  • Headlines from papers include "'Lightfoot's 'Summer of Joy' one of murder, mayhem," and, "The coming end of cash bail in Illinois: What it means for you and your family," the latter paired with mugshots of a Black man.
  • Proft's PAC was also behind the ads that Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused of "darkening her skin."
  • He also teamed up with then-governor Bruce Rauner in 2016 to deliver fake newspapers.

Between the lines: The papers focus mainly on the Safe-T Act, the criminal justice reform law going into effect in January that includes the elimination of cash bail in Illinois.

  • Illinois will be the first state to do away with cash bail, which advocates say punishes poor people and continues the cycle of incarceration.
  • Law enforcement is worried it will limit arrest powers and put criminals back on the streets after committing crimes.
  • "It's going to be literally the end of days," a Democratic state's attorney said to one of Proft's newspapers.

What they're saying: "Instead of engaging in a serious debate about pretrial policy, Dan Proft has chosen to blow his racist dog whistle while spreading disinformation meant to confuse Illinoisans about the impacts of the law," the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice said in a statement.

  • "This is a messaging that's coming from a racist political consultant," Pritzker said at a recent press conference.
  • "It's a scare tactic. It's meant to have people (show) concern for their safety. The truth of the matter is that what he’s purveying here is complete hogwash."

The other side: Proft responded on Twitter with, "JBelly infuses race into every, single policy debate. He never deal on the merits, particularly on public safety. He signed the state's death warrant with his no cash bail law."

Image: Twitter

Editor's note: This story was corrected to show that Will County state's attorney is a Democrat, not a Republican.

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