A political action committee registered with a Post Office Box based in Wisconsin, just outside St. Paul, Minnesota, has been set up to help “educate the voters in McHenry County,” records filed online with the Illinois State Board of Elections show.
Dubbed McHenry County Citizens for Lower Taxes, the PAC was created by Thomas Datwyler on Jan. 21 and filed with the state elections board on Jan. 23, records show. Its address is listed as a P.O. Box in Hudson, Wisconsin, which sits along the Badger State’s border with Minnesota.
Datwyler, who is recorded as the PACs chairman and treasurer, lists his address as the same P.O. Box registered to the PAC. So far, the PAC has not reported raising or spending any money since its creation, filings with the state elections board shows.
It was unclear if the committee was helping candidates ahead of Illinois’ upcoming April 4 election, which has several municipal, school board and local races on the ballot, or if it’s helping in a larger effort.
Datwyler has been involved in several major national campaign committees and state-level political action committees, including two others in Illinois.
Late last month, just days after Datwyler formed the McHenry County PAC, the campaign of embattled Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos, who has fabricated details about his life, told federal regulators it had hired him as its treasurer, The Associated Press reported. Datwyler had declined the job working for the New York congressman he said through a lawyer, The AP reported.
“On Monday we informed the Santos campaign that Mr. Datwyler would not be serving as treasurer,” Datwyler’s lawyer, Derek Ross, told The AP. “It appears there’s a disconnect between that conversation and the filings (Wednesday) which we did not authorize.”
A national campaign person setting up a committee on the local level is not a common practice, University of Illinois at Springfield professor Kent Redfield said. Redfield, who has focused on money in politics, said it was unclear, but the new McHenry County PAC doesn’t seem necessarily aimed at the April 4 elections as no expenses have been filed yet.
Under Illinois law, political contributions totaling more than $1,000 are required to be reported soon after they are made. Smaller donations, however, do not have to be reported until quarterly reports are filed, which in this election cycle is not until April.
“Normally when you have someone involved at the national level, they’re not going to get involved at the local level,” Redfield said. “I’m at a loss to what the intention is.”
Datwyler was unable to be reached for this story, despite multiple attempts to contact him.
While the scope of the new PAC in McHenry County was unclear, Datwyler’s other efforts in Illinois have helped GOP candidates, records show.
Datwyler last year was involved with The Firewall Project, which helped unsuccessful Republican Illinois Supreme Court candidates Michael J. Burke and Mark Curran, as well as failed GOP DuPage County Board candidate Greg Hart in last year’s election, records show.
The Firewall Project, for which Datwyler also was listed as chair and treasurer, was listed with a Washington D.C. address, records show. It made more than $1 million in contributions to Illinois candidates including nearly $399,000 to Burke, more than $408,000 to Curran and about $423,000 to Hart, online records show.
Families for a Safer Illinois, another committee of which Datwyler was the treasurer, received $745,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee between July and October of last year, records show. That amount marked all the money the committee received, records show.
The Republican State Leadership Committee’s board includes former President Donald Trump’s onetime chief of staff and ex-Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, as well as Karl Rove, who was a senior advisor to President George W. Bush.
Datwyler also has been the treasurer and accountant for multiple U.S. Senate campaigns, congressional campaigns, state parties, social welfare organizations and other political action committees, according to his LinkedIn account.
Datwyler was the treasurer of political campaign committees for Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and U.S. Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, according to OpenSecrets.org. He’s also been treasurer of committees that have donated to GOP U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
As of Tuesday, the McHenry County committee was Datwyler’s lone committee currently active in Illinois, records show.
Redfield speculated the possibility that it could be the start of something larger. He said the national Republican Party being in “dire straits” when it comes to money. Starting a committee in McHenry County, which is considered a Republican stronghold in northern Illinois, could be the start of a grassroots effort, he said.
Though, what it could be for won’t be known until financial filings start coming in, Redfield said.
“This certainly could be something with an intention to build out,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed.