Two high powered businessmen, without a past record of involvement in local politics, provided approximately half of the campaign treasury for the New Leadership Party (NLP) in the April village elections in Oak Park.
Brian Farrar, 41, is a managing partner of a small investment banking firm that serves middle market technology companies. Farrar loaned the NLP a total $7,250 during the campaign according to campaign disclosure documents filed with the Illinois Board of Elections.
Craig Williams, 49, describes himself as retired, but is listed on campaign disclosure forms as a CEO, loaned the NLP a total of $4,908. His company, New Control Holdings, which Williams says is an advertising firm, provided an additional $997 of in kind support, printing and computer services, to the NLP according to the filings.
Together the two provided a total of $13,156 to the NLP in loans and in kind support.
"For two guys to be into the campaign for 10 grand is unprecedented," said Gene Armstrong, president of the rival Village Manager Association (VMA) whose slate lost all three open village trustee position to the winning NLP slate.
Observers of local politics could not recall similarly sized financial support from individuals in any Oak Park campaign in their memory.
According to the campaign disclosure documents, the NLP raised $25,023 by March 6, 2005. Final figures will not be available until a July filing, but are expected to be around $30,000 according to people involved in the campaign.
Both Farrar and Williams have homes in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district which was a hotbed of opposition to the controversial Whiteco development slated for the corner of Harlem and Ontario. Both Farrar, who has lived in Oak Park since 1993, and Williams who has lived in Oak Park for three years, first became in involved in village affairs when they were among the founding members of the Harlem/Ontario Community Association which was formed to fight the Whiteco proposal.
The loans provided by Farrar and Williams allowed the NLP to mount a sophisticated and well funded campaign.
"They did what they were able to do," said Marsey. "I know them both as personal friends."
The money that Farrar and Williams provided the NLP paid for ordinary campaign expenses such as printing, postage, signs and postage.
Williams' expertise in advertising and direct mail helped the NLP in the campaign as the party sent out multiple targeted mailings. "Craig contributed to the content and the layout of our direct mail," said Marsey. "Brian was very involved in crafting the campaign message."
Farrar and Williams say that they got involved as ordinary citizens and that the reasons for their involvement go beyond the Whiteco issue.
"Whiteco and the election are not related," said Farrar. "The issue for me was never Whiteco. We wanted to see new thinking."
"I got involved with the NLP because I did not agree with the policy of the previous (village) board," said Williams. "I hoped that by helping to elect new trustees that we would see new thinking. There is no personal gain in this for us."
The two's involvement went beyond just paying bills.
"We were stuffing envelopes, I was hammering signs," said Farrar. "We were just there to help. We perceived a need to have sufficient resources to run an effective campaign." Farrar and Williams say that they did not have any more influence on the campaign than other volunteers. People involved in the campaign agree that the two did not force their views on the NLP.
"They made it known early on that they were going to raise money," said Bruce Samuels who now serves as treasurer for the NLP and who has been an unsuccessful trustee candidate as both a VMA and Citizens Alliance candidate. "They did not force their point of view on the group. They both did a lot of work besides campaign financing."
The financial support provided by Farrar and Williams allowed the NLP to not have to rely upon contributions from unions representing village of Oak Park employees as the Citizens Alliance slate did in 2003. At that time opponents attacked the Citizens Alliance slate as facing potential conflicts of interests if elected after having received generous financial support from unions.
But in kind support from the unions was accepted in this campaign by the NLP.
"There was a compromise made," said Samuels. "Money (from unions representing village of Oak Park employees) would not be accepted, but in kind would and people (from the unions) could work on the campaign."
The NLP hopes to be able to pay Farrar and Williams back.
"A good deal of that money will be returned," said Samuels who said that the NLP ended the campaign with a surplus and that he hopes to be able to pay back approximately $6,000 of the loans by June 30.
The NLP has not engaged in any aggressive fundraising since the April election according to Samuels.
Farrar and Williams maintain that they don't expect to receive any special favors or have any special influence with the new village board because of the financial support they provided to the NLP.
There is nothing I could get out of this election that wouldn't be advantageous to every other citizen of Oak Park." said Williams. "There is no personal gain in this for us. I would urge any citizen to get involved as much as they can, even with the opposition party. If they care about the village that's what they should do."