Executive Director Reports

The Big Lie theory

The Illinois Policy Institute plays a critical role in Rauner’s web of deception.

 Roberta Lynch

Roberta Lynch

Recently public employees all across Illinois opened their mailboxes to find a letter from a group few had ever heard of—the Illinois Policy Institute—urging them to drop their AFSCME membership and become a Fair Share feepayer. The IPI claimed they just wanted to help employees save the cost of paying full dues.

Huh? What group is so concerned with the well-being of public employees that it would spend tens of thousands of dollars in mailing costs just to help them out?

Definitely not the Illinois Policy Institute.

Founded in 2002, the IPI kicked into a higher gear when Bruce Rauner became governor. Now they serve as an echo chamber for Rauner’s goals like driving down public employee wages, ending pensions, outsourcing public services, and shielding rich people from taxes. And they know the only way to achieve that agenda is by eradicating unions in our state.

The IPI’s role in Rauner’s web is to demonize government in general and public employees in particular by wielding phony statistics and distorted facts in an endless stream of fake “research” reports, newspaper columns, web videos and media commentaries.

Like Rauner they are firm believers in the Big Lie theory of mass communication: Take any fake fact—for example, that Illinois state workers are the nation’s highest paid, or that AFSCME is asking for a $3 billion raise in state contract negotiations—and repeat it nonstop in the hope that it will eventually appear to be true.

What motivates their fierce animosity to public services and the employees who provide them? The IPI is a secretive group, refusing to reveal its sources of income, but media reports have unmasked backers including Bruce Rauner and the Koch Brothers.

Nowhere on the IPI website does one find any recognition of the array of difficult, demanding and severely under-resourced jobs public employees perform.

No appreciation for teachers who spend their own money for supplies in underfunded schools. No recognition of the dangers faced by firefighters, police officers, correctional officers, or other public safety personnel who put themselves at risk to protect us. No acknowledgement of the responsibility borne by child protective investigators, disability caregivers, public health monitors, or others on whom human lives depend. And certainly, not even a shred of appreciation for the countless public servants who perform the essential functions that make our communities happen every day—the garbage collectors, snow plow drivers, highway maintainers, water technicians, and so many more.

Instead you will find there—and in countless reports, op-eds and media messages—an effort to portray public employees as lazy, useless human beings who are doing nothing more than trying to rip off and game the system. They’ve got a mocking little video that portrays a state employee as someone who seems to have no actual job assignment while looking for every possible way to avoid doing any work.

And that’s not all. The Illinois Policy Institute has created its own media outlets—the Illinois News Network, which provides stories free of charge to newspapers, and the Illinois Radio Network, which does the same for broadcast stations—to inject its biased views into the mainstream. And next month they’re scheduled to release an hour-long “documentary” film smearing House Speaker Mike Madigan.

They even control a law firm, the Liberty Justice Center, that has provided legal representation in lawsuits aimed at instituting anti-union “right-to-work” schemes at the local government level and aiding Rauner’s efforts to end fair share.

Now, amidst its nonstop insults and attacks directed at public employees, IPI actually had the gall to turn around and send many of those same employees that slick mailer, dripping with concern for their well-being and urging them to drop out of the union.

What they fail to mention is that if enough workers quit the union, there will no longer be a union—exactly what Bruce Rauner and IPI want to see happen.

Fighting back against the IPI attack is up to all of us. You can start by tossing their deceptive mailers in the trash. As always, read your union bulletins and attend your local union meetings. And visit AFSCME31.org/TheRealIPI to get the facts and watch a new video that exposes their true agenda. Then spread the word by talking to your co-workers, telling your family members, and sharing these resources with your Facebook friends, so they know the truth, too.

But being aware and staying informed are only half the battle. We have to take action. And the fall election is right in front of us. You can bet the IPI is engaged, trying to elect more Rauner puppets and defeat legislators who stand with working people.

Rauner’s providing the big money—more than $20 million for Republican legislators who will back up his anti-worker agenda in the General Assembly. We can’t match his millions. But we can take our message directly to our fellow voters by reaching out in our communities.

If the prospect of the IPI and Bruce Rauner hand-picking the members of the General Assembly makes you shudder—and it should—then visit AFSCME31.org/ReadySetVote today to volunteer to help stop the Rauner/IPI takeover of our democracy.