Before the TEA Party Movement Made Conservative Protest Cool

William J. Kelly, GOP Candidate for Illinois Comptroller

Being a conservative reformer in Illinois teaches you to be an optimist. I’ve found that old axiom to be true: that which does not kill you only makes you stronger. That is even truer if you are from Chicago. When it comes to reform, Chicago may not be the first word you think of. Corruption, yes; but reform, no. However, it is in Chicago and Illinois that conservative protest tests you.

As a taxpayer advocate and protester, I know that first hand. Very few political candidates in 2010 – maybe none – can say they’ve been arrested for protesting taxes. In fact, it would be something that most would try to hide. But, for me, it is a badge of conscience and honor. Moreover, it is why I am so proud to see and be a part of the TEA Party movement.

In my first job as Executive Director of the National Taxpayers United of Illinois, I worked for anti-tax causes and candidates. In this capacity, I quickly learned how the media – local and national – ignores our issues. But with the election of Bill Clinton in 1993, like the election of Barack Obama in 2008, I had felt that the tides were turning against average middle class taxpayers once again. During the campaign, Clinton had promised a middle class tax cut. As soon as he was elected, he quickly reversed his promise and proposed the largest tax increase, at that time, in American history. Finding out Clinton would be speaking at the Sheraton Hotel, I decided that I would confront him in front of the national media and did. “How can you claim gridlock when the House and Senate are controlled by members of your own party?” I asked, interrupting his speech. “You promised a middle-class tax cut. Now you are proposing the largest tax increase in American history. What you need to do is abide by your original campaign promise of a middle-class tax cut.”

The President scolded me for my rudeness and I left without incident, happy that I had put his feet to the fire and that the media couldn’t ignore it. But it was not without consequence. I was arrested and brought to the Metropolitan Correctional Center where I was interrogated, strip-searched, and spent the next 27 hours moving from solitary cell to the federal lock-up with drug dealers and bank robbers in handcuffs and leg irons.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but like many blessings, it changed my life.  It set me on a course of activism that gave my life real meaning and purpose.

After being frustrated with the media, I decided to beat them at their own game. My years of being a conservative activist made me realize we had to bring conservatives into the media and entertainment industries. We cannot shy away from them any longer. That was the lesson of Ronald Reagan. So I started a business from nothing and turned it into an Emmy award-winning production company to do precisely that. My activism has never stopped. Not one day.

 Why am I telling you this?  Because most candidates that pop up every two years (or in some cases three months) and tell you that they are a conservative or that they are a reformer or that they are anti-tax or that they are TEA party. Yet, they have never really stood up for anything or anyone. They have no history of activism so don’t be fooled. I’m a conservative reformer running as a Republican, not a Republican trying to be a conservative reformer.  There is a big difference and we cannot let the establishment party people tell voters anything different. I’m running for Illinois Comptroller because I believe that the Comptroller’s office will put true activists for real people in a position to really reform state government and rebuild Illinois.

 Originally, I fell in love with the Republican party because it was the party of business, of entrepreneurs, and of opportunity. I don’t know what happened to that party. Where did it go?? We need to FIGHT to bring back that party and that is why the TEA Party movement is so important – so that we do have a choice.  That real people Republican Party is the party that can win and allow us to lead with a mandate. 

 The democrats have only one answer to every problem – raise taxes.  As a businessman I understand that taxes are not real revenue.  Real revenue only comes from business. In the real world, real businesses have to have ethics every day, understand and thrive on competition, be efficient, accountable and transparent if they want to survive. These are the values that I will take to the Comptroller’s office. With your help and in true TEA Party spirit, I will be able to open up Illinois’ books to true government watchdogs and shine the light in all the places the government elite least want it.

 For information on William J. Kelly’s campaign, visit



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