Illinois: John Boehner Evens Score, Donates to Don Manzullo Too

Speaker John Boehner's political action committee donated last week to Rep. Don Manzullo after giving to his opponent late last year. A super PAC affiliated with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (left) is funding ads for Manzullo's opponent. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John Boehner's (Ohio) political organization cut a $5,000 check last week to veteran Rep. Don Manzullo, almost three months after it gave the same amount to his opponent, freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

The late donation from Boehner's Freedom Project settles the Speaker's support in the highly competitive Tuesday primary between the two Illinois GOP Members that has divided the House Republican Conference.

But the timing of Boehner's donations are notable.

Boehner never intended to take sides in the Member-vs.-Member race, according to one of the Speaker's aides, who said the PAC gave to Kinzinger before it was clear he'd challenge another GOP Member. But online fundraising records show the Freedom Project donated to Kinzinger on Dec. 20 — the day after Kinzinger announced he'd challenge Manzullo.

What's more, the Manzullo donation came in around the same time Boehner's deputy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), caught flak for boosting Kinzinger. Late last week, a super PAC aligned with Cantor launched a $50,000 radio ad buy in the 16th district on the freshman's behalf.

In an interview last week with Roll Call, Manzullo said Cantor's support for Kinzinger enraged the Conference, and several Members expressed their dissatisfaction with the No. 2 House Republican. Manzullo declined to name his irked colleagues, but Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.) endorsed the longtime Member on Saturday.

Many other GOP Members picked sides in the fight, with several freshmen backing Kinzinger.