BARRINGTON - The Republican Primary contest to determine who will challenge Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth in Illinois' 8th CD took on an international turn last week when Indian-American candidate Manju Goel lost the Barrington Township GOP's endorsement to retired U.S. Marine Larry Kaifesh.
Goel has been endorsed by three GOP Congressmen - Pete Sessions (TX), Aaron Schock (IL) and Rodney Davis (IL) - as well as former congressman and now radio talk show host Joe Walsh. She is also backed by Indian-American community leader Shalli Kumar, who founded the National Indian American Freedom PAC and actively supported Joe Walsh's 2012 campaign.
Kumar's close ties to Goel troubled north suburban Patriots in Action leader Carrie Miller, who admits she distributed leaflets criticizing Kumar at the Barrington Township GOP event with the purpose of affected the group's support.
"I wanted people that were deciding who they were going to help in the primary to have an idea about Shalli Kumar's political activities," Miller told Illinois Review. "I made the copies of the story and handed them out myself. The Kaifesh team had nothing to do with it," said Miller.
Goel's campaign manager Jon Zahm told Illinois Review that the leaflets criticizing Kumar had been distributed by a person connected with the Kaifesh campaign and were an attempt "to smear Manju Goel by promoting an exaggerated claim against one of her financial supporters."
According to Zahm, Shalli Kumar is "a longtime conservative and Republican donor," who has aided many Republican candidates. He told Illinois Review that a Kaifesh operative passed out the flyer, which he claims is based on comments by Biju Mathew for which he provided a Wikipedia link (HERE).
Ms. Miller says her handout referred to a dust up in Washington D.C. last week where Goel-backer Shalli Kumar received a "cease and desist" order from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers about a fundraising event Kumar and his organization National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) promoted on Capitol Hill.
The promotional materials for NAIPPI's event illegally used the seal of the U.S. House of Representatives, and included the names and pictures of the top Republican Leadership without their consent.
Rodgers' "cease and desist" letter showed a dramatic shift in Rodgers' relationship with Kumar. She, along with Congressman Aaron Schock, visited India earlier this year with Mr. Kumar, and came back enthused about Republicans reaching into the Indian-American community. Rodgers and Kumar spoke on this YouTube, wherein Kumar reinterated his passion for America and President Ronald Reagan:
Congressman Sessions, who was enlisted by Kumar to attend Goel's announcement for Congress, expressed a similar change of tone. His office issued the following statement about Kumar's Washington D.C. event:
"It has come to my attention that the National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) recently used my name and image on an invitation to an event that it is hosting in Washington, DC, on November 19. At no point in time did I agree to attend this event, nor did I approve of the use of my name or image on this invitation. Further, I did not see the invitation until it had been distributed publicly. Had I known that my name and image were on this invitation before it was distributed, I would have requested that they both be removed.
"Additionally, I have contacted NIAPPI to request that they remove my name and image from this invitation and that they explicitly ask my approval before using my name or image in any of their materials going forward."
Kumar's Republican activities date back before George W. Bush. Over the past few years, his involvement in the Chicago area has grown. Last summer, Kumar addressed an event in DuPage County co-sponsored by the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. At the event he declared a goal of 1 million Indian-Americans voting by 2016.
Kumar has also formed several PACs, one of which was active in former Congressman Joe Walsh's 2012 campaign. Kumar was reprimanded by the FEC in 2012 for running ads for Walsh while failing to file required PAC paperwork on time, and FEC filings on two other PACs show a modest amount of funding raised while the PACs were active.
Even though the former Congressman endorsed Goel, the Tea Party base that's normally warm to Walsh's leadership appears not to be following his 8th CD primary recommendation for Goel, Patriots' in Action leader Carrie Miller told Illinois Review.
"No one among the Patriots in Action is supporting Goel. She has a Democrat voting record and she doesn't even live in the 8th District. We're all much more comfortable with Larry Kaifesh to run against Duckworth in 2012," Miller said.
Kaifesh's campaign said they were focused on promoting their candidate, appreciated the help his campaign is getting, and didn't want to comment about the issues associated with Shalli Kumar.