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Thomas Roeser

Dems' targeting of Oberweis shows they're worried

July 26, 2003



Jim Oberweis is the only GOP candidate for the Illinois senatorial nomination to be targeted for attack by the potent Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It is exceedingly rare for the national Democratic committee to intrude in a Republican primary, but it evidently thinks it has much to fear: for Oberweis' campaign, backed by some key Peter Fitzgerald supporters, has propelled him to first rank of his party's contenders.

What the Democratic strategists complain about is that Obereweis, 57, has the temerity to serve as TV spokesman for his dairy company at the same time he is running for office. Their charge, by Campaign Committee staffer Stacey Zolt (whose boss, multimillionaire Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, gave Rainbow/PUSH Coalition $50,000 before Jesse Jackson endorsed Corzine on primary election eve 1999), not only blasts Oberweis but appears to urge the Federal Election Commission to slap a governmental gag on a business owner who is advertising his wares with no political overtone. The commercials don't deal with Oberweis' candidacy, just the subjects of milk, cream and ice cream. And he has been advertising his company products on the radio Downstate for two years.

Thus does the issue of free speech overshadow even the campaign. Can a business owner be silenced by the feds in the name of campaign finance ''reform''? Can Oberweis be fined by the U.S. government for talking about ice cream? Attempted abrogation of free speech characterizes the Democrats' campaign against Oberweis' civil liberties; if it wins, civil liberty loses.

That the Democrats are making a big fuss over Oberweis' touting his company shows their worry about him as a candidate. His background is the stuff of the American dream. Born and reared in Aurora, he taught school (math and science) at a junior high, studied law at Northwestern (but never finished), became a stockbroker, got an MBA from the University of Chicago, started an investment letter, and in 1978, launched an investment firm, Oberweis Securities, that grew from one employee--himself--to 400 in 10 years. He made a fortune as a young man. Then in 1988, he made what he called ''a terrible acquisition'' and lost the entire business. He rebuilt it within 15 years and says he's a wiser and better man because of it. Now a multimillionaire once again, Oberweis runs both brokerage firm and dairy.

Nor is media a stranger to Oberweis. He hosted his own investment advice show on national cable TV's Financial News Network before it was assimilated into CNBC. His stand on the issues is uniformly conservative, with a Jack Kemp-like enthusiasm. But more than a good salesman on economic growth, Oberweis has a superb record as a doer. Oberweis securities' Emerging Growth mutual fund is up 40.5 percent this year; Micro Cap at a plus-60.03, and Midcap showing 32.65 percent growth.

Oberweis' native reluctance to proscribe moral strictures led him to make a mistake on the abortion issue when he ran for the Senate last year, saying that while he was pro-life, to impose his view would be reminiscent of the Taliban. A Catholic, Oberweis never changed his position but now regards pro-life as part of his legislative plan, and is supporting an amendment to change Roe vs. Wade. In fact, Oberweis has a far better record on the life issue than others, including Ronald Reagan, the Southern Baptist Convention and a host of prominent Democrats. As California governor, Reagan signed an early abortion bill in 1967, recanted and went on to become pro-life's premier presidential booster; the Southern Baptists hailed the Roe vs. Wade decision as a victory for ''religious freedom'' over Catholic efforts to ''impose'' their views on others; now the Convention is pro-life. In the early 1970s, the list of anti-abortion Democrats included Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie, Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Jesse Jackson and Sen. Edward Kennedy, who cited ''his personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life.''

Oberweis has pledged $1 million for his campaign. But Corzine's frenetic Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee may well spin a backlash that will help the dairyman-economics guru far more than what he spends. Oberweis' optimistic air about himself echoes the title of his three-year stint as cable TV's network investment expert: ''Catching Winners Early.''


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