Just days before the election, voters in Peoria received pieces of mail that spoke negatively of a few Peoria City Council candidates.
The flyers read, “Exposed… Don’t Be Fooled,” with pictures of city council candidates Peter Kobak, Beth Jensen, and Rita Ali on the front page. The candidates were displeased with statements made and responded to them.
WMBD has learned the name of the person whose PO box is connected to the mailer.
Current at-large council member Jensen said her campaign committee hired a private investigator to find the mailer of the flyers, who ultimately determined the PO box belongs to Ruby Arms of Peoria. Jensen shared the result of the investigation to WMBD on Tuesday.
“The citizens of Peoria have a right to know,” Jensen said. “I think elections should be determined on the merits of candidates rather than on negative, false mailers.”
Jensen said Arms is a long-time Republican volunteer, and she does not believe Arms directly sent the flyers.
“I don’t think it’s her, I think people are hiding behind this woman,” she said. “We need to find out who paid for it and who did it, but we do know who the owner of the PO box is.”
WMBD verified the stamp on the document provided by the investigator is an official USPS stamp.
WMBD reached out to Arms for a comment, but when asked about the flyer, she said “I don’t know anything about that.”
Kobak said Monday that his story was questioned and made a Facebook post to send a message to voters.
“Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when you cast your ballot tomorrow, but I hope my perspective and the hard work that’s come with it, is what convinces you I’m qualified for City Council,” Kobak said.
Ali also weighed in about the mailer.
“It was created by cowards using dark money to spread lies and slime. Peoria voters are smarter than they think,” Ali said.
The mailers were printed by a group identified as the Sunlight on Progressives PAC.
Matt Dietrich with the Illinois State Board of Elections says the anonymity of the group isn’t against any laws.
“Well negative campaign material, campaign materials that say negative things about any candidate are extremely common in elections at any level, so there’s nothing illegal about sending negative messages on campaign literature,” Dietrich said.
He said that an Illinois election law says that if you raise or expend more than 5,000 in a year for political purposes you’re supposed to register as a committee.
The mailer states, “A copy of our report is not filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections because Sunlight on Progressives PAC has not raised or spent more than $5,000.”
Dietrich says the influence the mailer may have on Tuesday’s results depend on how the recipient of the mailer reviews it.
Olivia Isom, a Peoria resident said it’s not fair to the candidates.
“It affects them because it affects residents like myself who chooses not to vote because I don’t know who to trust,” Isom said.
Jensen said it was disgraceful that voters received the mail targeting herself and two other candidates.
“I am confident that Peoria voters rely on facts, and not sleazy comments from a coward who hides behind a fictitious name and won’t reveal his or her name while they try to influence our election,” Jensen said.
Candidates say they hope voters focus on the issues that are important to them and cast their ballots accordingly.