How campaign donations to Casten and Pekau reflect their stances on gun control

Gun Rights

If there was any question about where Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten and Republican challenger Keith Pekau stand on gun control, their most recent campaign finance reports should clarify the matter.

Casten, a Downers Grove resident seeking a third term representing the 6th District, received cash from two political action committees pushing for stronger gun laws, records show. Their donations, totaling $3,000, were part of the nearly $1.3 million Casten’s campaign raked in during the year’s third quarter.

In contrast, Orland Park’s Pekau got $1,000 from the National Rifle Association, the most prominent gun rights lobbying group in the U.S. That cash was part of Pekau’s estimated $657,117 haul for the period, records show.

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Casten’s quarter

Congressional campaigns must file financial reports with the Federal Election Commission once they collect or spend at least $5,000. The latest reports, detailing fundraising and spending from July 1 to Sept. 30, were due Saturday and are viewable at fec.gov.

Casten is seeking a third term in the House. He defeated fellow U.S. Rep. Marie Newman of La Grange for the Democratic nomination in June.

The Casten for Congress committee started July with $574,339 saved. Of the money it collected in the quarter, $933,666 came from individuals and $356,501 from political action committees representing special interests.

That included $2,000 from Brady PAC and $1,000 from Giffords PAC, groups that support reducing gun violence by enacting stronger firearm laws.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Brady PAC is named after former White House press secretary James Brady, who was severely wounded and later died as a result of the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt in 1981. Giffords PAC is named after former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who was wounded during a 2011 assassination attempt that left six people dead.

Both groups have endorsed Casten.

Casten is an outspoken advocate of more gun restrictions, including universal background checks for would-be gun purchasers and a ban on military-style weapons.

“We’ve got to figure out how to get those off the street,” Casten recently told the Daily Herald.

Other Casten backers last quarter included:

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

• Amazon, which gave $2,000.

• Home Depot, which gave $5,000.

• Walmart, which gave $2,500.

• The National Education Association, which gave $5,000.

The campaign also got about $426 in in-kind donations from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Last quarter’s fundraising “exemplifies the massive wave of support for Rep. Casten and everything he has accomplished in Congress, like passing critical legislation to lower costs for families and bringing millions of dollars in government funding to the 6th District to create jobs and repair our roads and bridges,” campaign spokesman Trevor Nyland said in a news release.

Team Casten spent more than $1 million during the quarter on advertising, staff payroll, rent and other expenses. That cash included $135,000 donated to the Illinois Democratic Party, records show.

The Casten campaign finished September with $790,174 saved and $75,694 in debts to the candidate.

Pekau’s quarter

Pekau, who’s in his second term as Orland Park’s mayor, defeated five other Republicans to face Casten.

Pekau’s campaign actually has a pair of committees. Pekau for Congress is the primary committee, records indicate, while Pekau for IL-06 had been the Take Back IL-06 Republican Nominee Fund 2022 until it changed names in August. It sent nearly all its cash to the main committee in September.

Pekau for Congress started July with $54,377 saved. Of the donations Pekau got in the quarter, $373,272 came from individuals, $65,489 came as transfers from other committees, and $148,945 came from political action committees, including the $1,000 from the National Rifle Association.

The NRA has endorsed Pekau based on his responses to a candidate questionnaire. It gave Casten an “F” grade, labeling him a “true enemy of gun owners’ rights.”

When asked in a Daily Herald questionnaire about how Congress should address mass shootings in the U.S., Pekau said communities should enforce existing laws and safety procedures. He also suggested people should report behavior “that causes us concern.”

“Chicago and Cook County have some of the strictest gun control laws and yet the city of Chicago remains one of the most violent cities in the country,” Pekau wrote.

The NRA’s backing of Pekau drew a rebuke from the Casten campaign.

“Both Keith Pekau and the NRA care more about protecting guns than they care about keeping children safe in schools and preventing shootings like the tragedy in Highland Park,” Nyland said.

The Pekau campaign didn’t respond to interview requests for this story.

Aside from the NRA, groups backing Pekau last quarter included:

• U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s 25 for 22 Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that supports conservative candidates and gave $42,863.

• The Congressional Leadership Fund, a group dedicated to electing Republicans to the House that gave $10,000 specifically to offset debt.

• Downstate U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood’s campaign committee and his Abraham Lincoln PAC, which together gave $7,000.

• The campaign committee for U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and his Eye of the Tiger PAC, which together gave $7,000.

• Arizona Diamondbacks principal owner Earl G. Kendrick and his wife, who together gave $5,800.

• Former Abbott Laboratories CEO and board chair Miles White, who gave $2,900.

Team Pekau spent $509,278 during the period on ads, consultants, polling, travel and other expenses, records show. Of that sum, $50,000 was donated to the Illinois Republican Party.

The campaign finished September with $194,544 banked and $115,474 in debts to Pekau and several vendors.

Redrawn ahead of this election, the 6th District includes much of the West and Southwest suburbs in Cook and DuPage counties.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting has begun.

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