SPRINGFIELD - Prior to endorsements and check-writing, most state political action committees (PACs) send surveys to candidates asking their opinions and positions on issues of interest to the PACs constituents and donors.
The Illinois Education Association's Illinois Political Action Committee on Education gathers funds from public school system teachers throughout the state, specifically outside the Chicago area. In the IEA-IPACE's last quarterly report to the Illinois State Board of Elections, IPACE reported having $2,859,091 on hand to invest in union-supporting candidates in the March 2014 primary.
IPACE meets with candidates individually as they seek the PAC's endorsement and financial support. Before the interviews, the candidates are asked to return completed surveys. Illinois Review was able to obtain a copy of IPACE's questions, providing insight into the issues the teachers union leadership is most concerned about in the upcoming legislative session. Presumedly, candidates seek endorsement when their positions are favorable with the IEA's.
In the "Revenue" section of the IEA-IPACE questionaire, candidates are asked about their support for the current income tax rate (raised by 67 percent in 2011), as well as their support of a graduated (or progressive) income tax system, and their support of expanding gambling and closing tax loopholes for businesses.
The section also asks about a candidates support for vouchers as well as allowing per student funding to follow a student to a public or a private school -- both choices defined as "options that drain resources for public schools."
The questionnaire then turns to higher education:
And then to "pensions," with a subtitle "Support Pension Proposals that are Constitutional, Fair to our Members, and Maintain the Stability of the Retirement Systems":
Then the survey asks the types of retirement system funding solutions the candidate would support:
Then a list of contract benefits and working condition improvement proposals are offered:
With the concluding question about the candidate's "electability":
Please describe any past election results, analyses of party voter strength, professional or informal polls, or any other important electoral information that you think will help us to decide if you are a potential winner:
The questions are discussed at the scheduled interview, and the IEA-IPACE committee decides whether their members' union dues should be used to contribute to the candidates' election campaigns, and how much.
Anti-tax groups like Americans for Prosperity-Illinois are preparing to inform district voters about the positions candidates take and which PACs endorse them. AFP-IL has been actively gathering opposition to the proposed graduated income tax change and is planning town halls to inform voters about the issues candidates are addressing in surveys like the IEA-IPACE survey.
"We're definitely planning to let GOP primary voters know if candidates in their districts are making promises that would be detrimental to students or taxpayers," AFP-IL Executive Director David From told Illinois Review Monday.
"We're not supportive of the teachers union's positions on school choice or the progressive tax system," From said,"and we'll use our resources for advocacy or voter information."