3 GOP congressional candidates to attend debate hosted by conspiracy-touting conservative group

3 candidates say they'll attend event; PAC claims Democrats, big business are trying to 'destroy the republic'

  • Upper from left, Scott Gryder, Mike Koolidge and Jack Lombardi, and lower from left, James Marter and Jaime Milton are candidates in the 14th Congressional District Republican primary. Lombardi, Koolidge and Marter say they'll attend a debate hosted by the Stamp Act PAC, which alleges that Democrats are in a "corrupt bargain" with "Big Tech, Big Media, Big Pharma (and) Big Banks."

    Upper from left, Scott Gryder, Mike Koolidge and Jack Lombardi, and lower from left, James Marter and Jaime Milton are candidates in the 14th Congressional District Republican primary. Lombardi, Koolidge and Marter say they'll attend a debate hosted by the Stamp Act PAC, which alleges that Democrats are in a "corrupt bargain" with "Big Tech, Big Media, Big Pharma (and) Big Banks."

 
 
Updated 4/16/2022 1:15 PM
Editor's note: The story has been updated to reflect that candidate Jaime Milton asked to participate in the debate.

Three Republicans running for Illinois' 14th Congressional District seat are set to appear Wednesday at a debate organized by a conservative group promoting a conspiracy theory involving banks, media companies, Democrats and other groups.

Candidates Jack Lombardi of Manhattan, Michael Koolidge of Rochelle and James Marter of Oswego are on the bill for the Stamp Act PAC event at Whitetail Ridge Golf Club, 7671 Clubhouse Drive, Yorkville.

 

Two other candidates seeking the GOP nomination in the 14th District -- Scott Gryder of Oswego and Jaime Milton of Fox River Grove -- aren't scheduled to attend, although Milton said she had asked to participate.

The Stamp Act PAC website alleges a "corrupt bargain" exists involving "Big Tech, Big Media, Big Pharma, Big Banks and Democrat politicians." Those groups aim to "destroy the republic," the site says.

The Stamp Act PAC's mission, the website says, is to "defend the Constitution and the natural rights of every person" by educating the public and assisting conservative candidates.

The site further says attempts to infringe on the Second Amendment "must be resisted," that "Cancel Culture and the infringement on free speech must stop" and that "vaccine passports must never be allowed," among other political statements.

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The Daily Herald asked the GOP candidates if they believe in the conspiracy theory put forth by the group and in its other stances, and if those statements give them any pause about the debate.

Marter said he'll debate the other candidates "anywhere in the district (and) any time."

As for the Stamp Act PAC's views, Marter criticized pharmaceutical and technology companies for reaping profits after donating millions to politicians, among other actions.

Lombardi said appearing before a group "does not mean I have to agree with everything they say."

Still, Lombardi said he believes extremists within the Democratic Party have captured the organization and "want to fundamentally change the fabric of the United States." He cited U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont as examples.

Lombardi also said debates are important to the election process and democracy.

Gryder said he can't attend the debate because of another engagement. He added that he recently met with the group and enjoyed discussing issues important to its members.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"While I may not fully endorse every statement by every organization, I strongly ... support their promotion of constitutional principles," he said.

Milton said she believes some Democrats are pushing legislation that "is a direct threat to our constitutional rights and to our republic." She didn't cite examples.

Milton also expressed concern about a threat to free speech in the U.S. and the need to protect Second Amendment rights and "medical autonomy."

The Koolidge campaign didn't reply to interview requests.

The Stamp Act PAC is a state-registered political action committee based in Yorkville and created in May 2021, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records.

Doors will open for the debate at 6:15 p.m. Topics to be covered will include the politicization of "lettered" federal agencies, "big tech's" involvement in government and border control policies, a news release indicated.

Admission is $10, but Stamp Act PAC members who've paid their dues can get in for $5. To register online, go to: bit.ly/3KIpcX7.

The 14th District encompasses parts of Kane, Will, DeKalb, Kendall, LaSalle, Bureau and Putnam counties.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood of Naperville represents the district and is the only Democrat running.

Elena Kuhn, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said she wasn't surprised GOP candidates are attending the debate. She accused them of "giving a platform to a shady PAC peddling disinformation to undermine our democracy."

A Stamp Act PAC representative declined to comment citing observance of the holiday weekend.

The primary election is June 28. The general election is Nov. 8.

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