For your reference, we've re-published the June 6-7, 2005 2-part Illinois Leader interview cited in Melissa Bean's attack piece on David McSweeney, which hit 8th CD mailboxes the weekend of September 23, 2006. . .
8th Congressional District Republican candidate David McSweeney, Part 1 of 2
Illinois Leader | June 6, 2005 | Fran Eaton
IN THE SPOTLIGHT -- Barrington investment banker David McSweeney is likely to mention his political role model and hero Ronald Reagan Saturday when he formally announces his second attempt to run for Congress in the 8th district.
The 39-year old stuck his political toe into campaign waters volunteer for Reagan’s presidential campaign waters almost 25 years ago, when he was barely fifteen years old. During those same years while other kids were focused on school activities, the teenager worked afternoons with stock brokers. The youngest of four children, McSweeney was a serious student of politics and the world of high finance before he could drive.
“I was too young to drive when I volunteered in the 1980 Reagan campaign, so my mother would take me to the campaign office,” he said over lunch in his Barrington home last Friday.
Indeed, both McSweeney and his wife of fourteen years, Margaret, continue to adore Reagan. Their oldest daughter’s middle name is Reagan. Prominently displayed in their two story home’s entry hall is a 1993 portrait of McSweeney and his wife, holding their newborn daughter Melissa, posing next to President Reagan.
“That was an experience as memorable as my wedding day and the day our daughters were born,” McSweeney said, gazing at the photo with pride.
McSweeney says his interest in running for Congress is not as some critics have already begun chiding - that he is bored with making millions in investment banking and has now decided to take on the challenge of politics.
Ten years ago, at age 29, McSweeney was first elected as a Palatine Township Trustee. And since winning his first election, McSweeney says he has raised almost a quarter of a million dollars for U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-14).
The family's home office walls are crowded with photos of McSweeney with national political heavyweights such as President George W. Bush, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Speaker Hastert. There are three framed photos marking different occasions when McSweeney shook President Reagan’s hand.
In the 1998 Republican primary, McSweeney says he challenged longtime incumbent U.S. Congressman Phil Crane because he wanted a more active representative in Washington D.C. He admired the class of Republicans who took over Congress in 1994, and saw Crane as out of touch with his district.
And after 35 years of serving the 8th district in the U.S. Congress that very criticism from the lips of Democratic challenger Melissa Bean cost Crane his 2004 re-election bid. Bean's win over Crane marked one of biggest upsets last year, and ignited a race to win back the 8th, drawn as a safe Republican district.
McSweeney is determined to get the 8th back in the hands of Republicans next year, but may be forced into a bloody GOP primary with the likes of former State Rep. Al Salvi (R-Mundelein), State Rep. Bob Churchill (R-Lake Villa), moderate-leaning businesswoman Teresa Bartels and furniture store executive Walter E. Smithe III.
Part one of the two-part “In the Spotlight” interview with David McSweeney will focus on his controversial 1998 challenge and the lessons he learned as well as his position on the issue of abortion, already controversial in the race.
IL: This is not your first attempt at running for Congress in the 8th District. The district’s boundaries are slightly different than they were in 1998 when you challenged Phil Crane in the Republican primary.
How is the district different than it was seven years ago?
McSweeney: Actually, the district is more Republican than it was then. It now has part of McHenry County including Crystal Lake, and several other counties. Speaker Hastert reminded me about a month ago that the district was designed to be more Republican after the last census and I hope it will be a Republican district again after this election.
IL: How did you decide to make the bold move of challenging a long time incumbent like Phil Crane?
M: I was frustrated that we weren’t seeing a higher level of activity. I always admired Congressman Crane for his stands on the issues. At one point in the 1970s and early 80s, he was a real leader in the conservative movement. I was concerned that eventually there was a chance we could lose the Congressional seat and wanted to see more activity out of Phil.
I really admired the class that came in in 1994 when we took over Congress -- the Tom Coburns, the Steve Largents, the Mark Sandburgs -- who came in and made a difference in D.C. as active players. I thought we should have a congressman in this district that modeled himself as an activist and I wasn’t seeing that.
I ran a campaign based on my ideas, which was conservative leadership in Washington, and never personally attacked Phil. At that point, he told everyone he was going to become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, but that didn’t happen.
I have a great deal of respect for Phil Crane. I admire his leadership early on in the conservative movement and he’s one of the people in 1976 with Ronald Reagan who challenged Gerald Ford. It was the run that ultimately set up the success of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
I admire Phil a lot for his service to his country, and I know he’ll continue to be a force in the future. I know he’s doing some work with the Heritage Foundation.
IL: What was the vote in that primary?
M: He defeated me 65 to 35. I actually received more votes than Peter Fitzgerald when he ran against Crane in 1994, there were a couple more candidates in that race.
Don’t forget that Barack Obama ran against Bobby Rush in 2000.
I stand by that campaign, I’m glad I did it - it was a good experience and it positions me well and I learned a lot of lessons which I will use to benefit this race to take back the seat from Melissa Bean.
IL: What lessons did you learn?
M: I need to start early.
In that campaign, I didn’t have the capability to resign my job and leave . . .
IL: How old were you then?
M: I was 32 years old at that point. I’ve always believed in issues closest to my heart: the Reagan message on taxes, spending and national defense.
I learned that I started late - I didn’t get into the race until the filing deadline. I also self-funded because I didn’t have time to raise money and at the same time, try to gain political support. I didn’t have time to put together a grassroots organization.
IL: This time are you receiving a different response?
M: Very positive. Yes, this time I’ve had a lot more organizational Republican party, conservative support. It’s very difficult for people to leave an incumbent congressman who they thought was going to be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
IL: In 1998, there was some confusion and controversy about your position on the life issue. Could you explain what happened?
M: Absolutely. I’m glad you asked. In 1998, what I said very clearly is that I was pro-life and still am pro-life. The political atmosphere in 1998 was that you couldn’t even get a ban on partial birth abortions adopted by the U.S. Congress, and of course, Bill Clinton was president of the United States.
What I said was that we need to change our culture and protect the unborn, and what we should do as a tactical matter, is that we should ban abortions post the eighth week in a step toward banning all abortions. I always talked about the need to ban all abortions, and I believe life begins at conception.
What the Crane campaign did, is that they took that statement and made the accusation that, in fact, I favored abortions in the first eight weeks. What they left out - it’s politics, I understand that - is that it was the first step toward eliminating all abortions.
It’s the political silly season now, and some of my potential competitors are raising this issue again now. I was actually cited in one of these articles where it said I actually favored abortions in the first eight weeks. There was no quote from me on that. The reporter left out the part that that was the first step in eliminating all abortions.
IL: What was the original source of this information? Was it in a news story or in a public forum?
M: I was on record saying that a number of times in the campaign. To the best of my knowledge, I was always in the position of saying it was the first step towards eliminating all abortions.
IL: You are not for abortions in the first eight weeks?
M: No, absolutely not. That was spun that way in ’98, and the attempt is being made today. I am very comfortable with my position and we need to protect the unborn.
Again, with the political atmosphere back in ’98, we couldn’t get the ban on partial birth abortions done. This was, from a tactical standpoint, a good move to eliminate abortions post-eight weeks, a step in eliminating all abortions.
IL: What do you think about this position now?
M: I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think we need to go that actual step. We have George Bush in the White House and we have Republicans who control Congress, and we’re changing the culture. We have the Born Alive bill here in Illinois, a federal ban on partial birth abortions that’s been adopted, more parental notification - so from a tactical matter, I don’t think it’s necessary, it’s a different environment. We’ve made progress. I think we’re on the offensive.
IL: You do allow for exceptions for abortion - the life of the mother and in the case of reported rape and incest, is that right?
M: Life of the mother, and reported cases of rape and incest. But what I’ve also said is that if on the final text of legislation rape and incest exceptions are not included, I would still vote for it. The reason I would vote for it is I think it’s imperative that we protect the unborn and I’ve been consistent and won’t back down from the view that in the cases of reported rape and incest.
IL: What makes the value of a baby’s life different if it was conceived as the result of reported rape or incest?
M: The distinction is whether it has been reported - not a question of the baby’s value. It insures that an incident has occurred. There have been stories and concerns in the past that someone could just say they were raped or a victim of incest. That creates too broad of an exception up to that point. That’s where I’m drawing the distinction - why I use the word “reported.” Someone has to actually go to a police department and then be in a situation of reporting.
IL: So you would say this isn’t moderating your position, saying that these babies are human, but they could be aborted because of the circumstances in which they were conceived?
M: I wouldn’t say I am trying to moderate my position, it’s just what I believe. I personally oppose abortion in all cases, except when a mother’s life is in danger. I don’t think I can put myself in a position to dictate what a person should do in reported cases of rape and incest. That’s where I draw the distinction.
IL: Your background in politics didn’t begin in 1998. Just how did you become involved?
M: Don Totten, the former Illinois senator, headed the Reagan campaign in Illinois. His office was in Schaumburg. How I got involved in the Reagan campaign is Dave Regnar, a former senator and Palatine Township Supervisor, who my father knew. He was involved in the Reagan campaign.
My mother would drive me every day after school to the office. Don Totten will tell you I was a permanent fixture around the office throughout the primary and the general election campaign that year.
In 1980, they ran a slate of Reagan/Crane delegates in the 8th district. Phil was running for President, and the whole theory was that whoever at the convention was ahead at the point, the delegate would go with the party’s favorite son.
In 1984, I worked in Washington with the Reagan/Bush campaign. I was a paid summer intern. I worked with the campaign in Washington. It was a great opportunity, and I worked on the voter registration, which they called the “Reagan Roundup.”
I had a chance to learn from Lee Atwater, didn’t work for him directly, but worked in the offices nearby. The same year I also worked for Congressman Bill Cobey, a good conservative, who won a congressional seat in North Carolina. That’s when I was at Duke. It was a major upset. I worked for him as a summer intern in 1985.
IL: So are you saying that you’re not just an investment banker who has made his fortune, is bored, and he wants to now pursue a different career - this one in politics? This is how you’re being portrayed.
M: I really believe in the Reagan message. I believe it is relevant today. I have been involved in stuffing envelopes on campaigns. In 1980, when then-Governor Reagan used to come into town, there wasn’t the security they have today. I would do the luggage on the plane. So the plane would come into Midway Airport, I would take the luggage - now he had along Lyn Nofziger, Ed Meese, and people - I would take the luggage and put it in the van.
I’ve started off knocking on doors in mayoral campaigns here in Barrington, and I’ve worked at a whole bunch of different things. I’ve done all the nuts and bolts.
As far as where I am now, every single penny I’ve made is my own. I’m not ashamed of my success. I’ve worked extremely hard. It’s not been easy on my family or on me, I’m proud of what I’ve done.
The only reason I would give up a very successful career is because I believe I can make a difference. I think we need more people in Washington with more business experience, who are courageous and who’ll fight the battle for what they believe in Washington. I’m not doing this for power - I had far more power on my job, and I’m certainly not doing this to make money, that’s for sure.
As far as that’s concerned, I want to serve my country, leave my family here, and come back and go back into the business.
IL: Some may not know that you recently walked away from your career at age 39 to run for Congress fulltime. Can you go back to your career after you’ve served several terms?
M: Yes, I can’t tell you what company I’d return to, but I would expect to go back into investment banking.
IL: Is your point that you believe in citizen/lawmakers versus career politicians are the strength of our political system?
M: Yes, and our system isn’t that way anymore. That’s why we have $500 billion deficits - because we give to special interests. Everyone wants to protect his or her interests.
Everybody has an agenda. The thing many elected officials worry about is just getting re-elected. That’s not what this is all about. We need people with courage in Washington who are willing to take the stands, tell people where they stand, and say what they believe in.
I had a good conversation a couple of weeks ago with [former U.S. Congressman] Pat Toomey - Pat ran against Arlen Specter [in Pennsylvania] for the U.S. Senate. Good man. He said it was the most liberating experience to run on the platform of term limits.
He said, “You’re doing the smart thing.” He said, “I was independent, I wasn’t a robot, I didn’t have to worry about the special interests.”
He was elected to the U.S. House three times but lost to Arlen Specter for the U.S . Senate in the 2004 Republican primary.
He reaffirmed that with term limits, he could maintain his independence and not worry about bucking the leadership.
That was one of the great strengths of Peter Fitzgerald. . .
IL: One of the most controversial positions you’ve conveyed is your decision to limit yourself to three terms. How do you obtain enough seniority to get into influential committees to bring home the bacon to your constituents if you don’t stay past three terms?
M: I have an outstanding relationship with Speaker Hastert. I believe the Speaker and other people in leadership will see the value that I can add with my years in Congress, particularly with my expertise in taxes and fiscal policy.
I’d be a strong advocate for the people of the 8th district, particularly since I’m doing this fulltime. I’m talking to people in the community - I understand what people are talking about. They have a need for better transportation in the district. There is a need for more funding particularly in Lake and McHenry Counties - I understand that in detail.
I understand the need for the 125 bypass for one project. I also understand the need in McHenry County to widen Route 31. So I understand those issues, and my focus would be on making a difference, being attentive, but also working hard to deliver for the people of district.
It’s a focus. I don’t have to spend all my time worrying about special interests and running for re-election or worry about what people are going to say. I can maintain my independence and make a big difference on tax and spending issues.
I’m not running this campaign on term limits. It’s a liberating experience to maintain my independence. I have zero interest in becoming a career politician. If people are interested in professional politicians, I’m the wrong person, because that’s not what I’m all about.
I’ve been on an aggressive schedule for what I want to do. I think I can get a lot done in a short time. I’m a hard worker.
My family’s going to stay in this house in Barrington, my children will go to public schools, and we’ll stay involved in the community. We can’t do that if we move to Bethasda - we need to stay in touch with the people of Antioch and our local district.
More on part 2 . . .
8th Congressional District GOP candidate David McSweeney -- Part 2 of 2
Illinois Leader ^ | June 7, 2005 | Fran Eaton
IN THE SPOTLIGHT -- Barrington investment banker David McSweeney will be formally announcing Saturday in Wauconda that he will be a candidate in the 2006 GOP primary to unseat Democrat U.S. Representative Melissa Bean, who defeated longtime conservative Congressman Phil Crane in the 2004 General Election.
McSweeney, who describes himself as disciplined and a hard worker, completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees in five years and worked for Chase Manhattan in New York for five years before returning to his home state of Illinois.
In 1998 he challenged Crane in a Republican primary because, McSweeney says, he was frustrated with Crane’s legislative inactivity.
Ironically, Crane and McSweeney hold similar political views. Both are big fans of Ronald Reagan and hold dear the four pillars of conservative politics - lower taxes, less spending, strong national defense and strong family values. McSweeney says one of the books most influential on his political views was Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose.
But critics say that the 8th Congressional District has changed, and that Melissa Bean is closer to mainstream values than the views Crane held.
Part Two of the 2-part interview with David McSweeney picks up with the discussion . . .
IL: Let’s talk about this current race. State Rep Mark Beaubien (R-Mundelein) is saying that only a moderate can win back the seat from Melissa Bean, that the demographics of the districts have changed, and a candidate with Phil Crane’s views could not be elected in the 8th.
What are your thoughts on that?
M: That’s absolutely untrue. I’m a mainstream conservative, and that is the best fit for this district. Phil Crane didn’t lose his race over the issues. Melissa Bean refused to talk about a lot of the issues. She was on multiple sides of the issues during the campaign.
She ran the entire campaign based on attacking Phil for being out of touch. There wasn’t a debate about abortion, about taxes in the sense of being critical of Crane on that. She was all over the map on her positions on these issues. She had a very, very simple message that she was young and aggressive and more in touch with the district.
We didn’t lose this over the issues. The problem in this state is I firmly believe that Republicans do not win issueless campaigns. Period. End of story.
Unless we draw the issues contrast on taxes, spending, national defense, and of course, the family issues, we’re going to lose every time.
A good mainstream conservative message is a winning theme. We can’t hide from what we believe. And that’s the problem of the party in the state - we’ve hidden from what we believe. We’ve got to give a vision and tell people what we believe, and that’s what I intend to do in this race.
IL: What is your vision?
M: My vision is a policy which includes lower taxes, which would promote more growth, reducing spending so we can control these deficits, supporting President Bush on national security, and adopting pro-family policy. We need to make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent.
IL: But there are some things with which you differ with President Bush. How will you explain to the President your differences when he is deciding whether or not he will fly into town to campaign with you in the last weeks of the election, as he did for downstate Congressman John Shimkus in 2002?
You’re critical of his views on immigration, on Homeland Security, on the federal No Child Left Behind education program . . .
M: I am a strong supporter of President Bush. I think he is one of the great presidents of this century. He has had the courage to stand up to the terrorists and is fighting a winning battle that is protecting our freedom.
Thank God George Bush is President of the United States. Imagine if Al Gore were president after 9/11. Imagine if John Kerry were elected president of the United States. I am a big supporter of President Bush. I was a maximum contributor to his presidential campaign. I’m with the President 99 percent of the time.
Let’s just talk about where there are areas of small difference, for instance, where the President was very well intentioned with what he was trying to do with No Child Left Behind. I understand the standard, I just slightly differ. I think the answer is is better to leave education to the state and local governments. I think with NCLB law unfortunately has too much heavy-handed federal intervention and it is unfunded. That’s a small difference.
The president has spoken highly of education vouchers, of cutting bureaucracy in education.
On immigration, I’m very close to the President. What I have said though, is that I don’t like the component of the guest worker program he’s proposed that would allow illegal immigrants to benefit from their status in the states.
The better option, which is really an amendment to what he proposed, is that we could increase the number of legal immigrants who have gone through background checks, increase the number of legal temporary workers, the number of legal workers that would come into this country. This is a national security issue. It’s just a small difference.
What I’ve said about Homeland Security is that it is the legislators, the Robert Byrds of the world, the appropriations committees in Congress who tried to make the Homeland Security measures into a pork barrel program. The President has actually done a good job, and actually just appointed a Homeland Security director who is trying to rein in Congress on these issues. The President has actually done a good job on this.
But let me make myself very, very clear on this point. I think President Bush is a great president and I’m with him 99 percent of the way, and we have some minor, small differences that I pointed out. I’m a Reagan/Bush (43) Republican.
The President is an independent guy, a self-made person. I am with the president but I’m also going to say what I think.
IL: What are your thoughts on the current hot issue of stem cell research?
M: I am absolutely opposed to the bill that just passed the House of Representatives. I support the President 100 percent on that issue. There was a much better alternative that allowed stem cell research on umbilical cords - I support that. But I do oppose federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. I would have voted no on the Castle bill.
IL: You would make the Bush tax cuts permanent?
M: Correct. They’re going to expire in the next couple of years. The reductions in the tax rates, the child care tax credit, the reductions in dividend tax rates. The economy is shaky - the last thing we need is a tax increase. The tax rates rise again, and it could set off an economic calamity. It’s the tax rate cuts that kept us out of recession.
IL: What makes you see the economy as being shaky right now?
M: Right now, there’s been a lot of speculation in the markets. We’ve seen the vast amount of money going into the debt and the stock markets, and that can’t continue forever. We’re seeing right now high oil prices and the declining value of the dollar and an increase in inflation is expected. Now is the absolute wrong time to be talking about raising taxes.
IL: Everyone's concerned about the high gas prices. Have any ideas on how to handle that issue?
M: I strongly support the President’s energy policy. The U.S. House of Representatives voted for an energy bill which Melissa Bean opposed, that bill would have allowed a safe development of natural gas resources in the U.S., safe development of nuclear power, and I’m strongly in favor of trying to increase our domestic capabilities on energy production.
Mark Kirk has a good idea for a national standard for refined gas - that’s what (the lack of a national standard) is driving up the cost of gas in some regions. There are different standards for the Midwest than there are in Texas, and different standards in California than in Texas and the Midwest. You can’t ship gasoline between those different markets because of different EPA standards.
If we had a national standard, that would relieve a lot of this congestion also. Right now, gasoline prices are high because of political uncertainty in the Middle East. There is also speculation - this morning, I think it was $3 a barrel - but what I’ve seen is that the price will probably go to $40 a barrel, based on supply and demand. We’ll see some better times, but we need an energy policy.
We need to also end purchasing oil from the strategic oil reserves. Little is known that at this high oil prices, we’re still spending federal dollars to build up the reserves. If we were to end buying from the reserves, it could also have a positive effect on oil prices.
IL: As for the issue on the War on Terror, what are your thoughts on Bush’s doctrine of pre-emption?
M: I think the President has been absolutely right. He’s fighting every single day to protect our freedom. He receives an intelligence briefing first thing in the morning, but it is a horror show of threats to our country. Terrorist plots, biological/chemical threats, Al Queda, nuclear threats - he has to fight for our freedom.
If we don’t want war, we need to defend our freedom. If by fighting and going on the offensive is the only way to protect ourselves, than that’s what we’re going to have to do.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who are protecting our country. Look in Iraq. Is there anyone who can say we’re better off if Saddam Hussein were in power? I don’t think so. Not even the New York Times can say that.
We have a coalition interim government, we have a situation where Omar Kadafi has disarmed his nuclear programs, the Syrians are withdrawing from Lebanon, we have the beginnings of democratic reform in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
We’re facing a real dangerous world. Thank God George Bush is president of the United States as we face Iran and North Korea. Those are two very problematic areas. I support the President in the approach he’s taken. We need John Bolton at the U.N., we need him soon so we can work on a strong policy of sanctions and putting pressure on an international basis on both Iran and North Korea.
IL: Let’s touch on the morale of the troops. Many who are serving now are not interested in re-enlisting because they are concerned that they will be spending six months out of the year in Iraq for the next several years. This is a question you’re sure to face in this campaign.
M: I have a nephew that serves in the U.S. Army, and he says a lot of the same things. Here’s what I think: Number one, we’re relying way too much on the National Guard. I do support the permanent increase in the number of permanent armed forces, I think that’s important.
The second thing, I’m a businessman and I know the value of maintaining good people and I think we need to do two things - we need to dramatically increase the retention bonuses for people in the armed forces already. We’ve already trained them, we’ve paid for their training. The last thing we should be doing is being cheap and not paying them what is necessary to retain them.
I am open to limiting troop deployment rotations, of course, relying on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Department’s advice, so that people can have more certainty surrounding that.
One thing I know for sure is that I am in favor of higher retention rate bonuses. We spend sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to train these people, and then we lose them if they don’t re-enlist. That’s bad for our country.
IL: How do you keep informed on all these issues? Do you read a lot?
M: I read six publications every day - the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Herald, the Sun Times, the Tribune and yes, I read the New York Times - want to hear what the opposition is saying and they have good international coverage. I read USA Today - about an hour a day of reading newspapers. It was a part of my job to know what affects global economic policy. I was in a competitive business and information is power.
IL: It’s fairly clear that you do model yourself after Ronald Reagan. . .
M: He’s my hero. He is a man who told people what he believed in, he stuck by his beliefs, and no matter how bad things got, people always knew where he stood. He was an optimist - that’s one of the things that the party loses sight of sometimes.
I like George Bush for the same reason - he’s an optimist. We can’t be the party of divisiveness, we have to have an optimistic message.
That’s what gets us back to the beginning of this conversation. Ronald Reagan didn’t just win landslide elections because he was a nice guy, he won these because he had a message and he stuck by it.
It’s the same message I have, relevant 25 years later: Low taxes, less spending, strong national defense and strong family values. History has proven that the Reagan philosophy works.
David McSweeney says he expects the 8th district primary to cost two and a half million dollars. He is willing to put in “seven figures,” but is focused now on raising outside funding.
On Saturday at Cook Park in Wauconda, McSweeney will kick off his campaign nine months out from the 2006 GOP Primary. Running his race will be campaign manager Jim Thacker and coalitions director Charlie Johnston, both of whom were staffers for Al Salvi’s during his 1996 U.S. Senate primary victory.
While McSweeney avoids discussing potential primary opponents, there are several names being floated including moderate-leaning businesswoman Teresa Bartels, who reportedly has the quiet backing of U.S. Rep Mark Kirk (R-10). McSweeney says that Kirk told him last winter that he was staying neutral. He assumes that is still true.
McSweeney’s early start has landed him several key Republicans’ endorsements, including six township committeemen in Lake County, McHenry County GOP Chairman Bill LeFew, Sheriff Nygren, also of Will County, Cook County GOP Chairman Gary Skoien, as well as Schaumburg Township Committeeman and State Rep. Paul Froehlich.