A Portland, Ore.,-based comics publisher announced April 8 that it is severing its relationship with Pleasant Prairie, Wisc.,-based Uline Corp. because of the office supply company's CEO's political ties.
In a letter posted online, officials from Oni Press said they quickly decided to no longer purchase supplies from Uline when they heard about CEO Richard Uihlein's contributions to Family-PAC, which actively campaigned against marriage equality in Illinois.
In early 2013, in the leadup to the vote on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, Family-PAC organized robocalls that said state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, had accepted money from "Chicago homosexuals," in order to get constituents to pressure him into a 'no' vote. In November, Smiddy voted in favor of the bill.
The Oni letter's signatories called the PAC "an organization whose core espoused beliefs run counter to the beliefs we hold vital and true. … Everyone is entitled to their opinion and beliefs, but it is also up to us whether or not we choose to support them. We choose instead to support our readers, creators, and employees regardless of their gender identity, race or sexual orientation which is why effective immediately, we are severing all ties with Uline and pursuing a relationship with a local vendor."
Among Oni's publications are Scott Pilgrim, Queen & Country and Black Metal.
John Schork, a spokesman for Oni, said a few comic book creators they work with informed the company of Uline's connections.
"When the editor in chief heard about it, he immediately said, 'Let's find an alternative and get somebody else,'" Schork said. The staff unanimously decided to cut ties with Uline, and chose to write an open letter to announce the decision.
"This is a localized issue, but it is in a sense a national one as well," Schork added, calling the announcement "an opportunity to educate people that it could happen anywherehad our creators not found out about this, we would still be doing business with [ULine]."
He did not immediately know how much business Oni brought to Uline, but said, "The company got everything from shipping supplies to paper towels from them. They provide pretty much anything you need to run an office."
Representatives from Uline did not immediately return a request for comment.
Uihlein, who lives in Lake Forest, is an enthusiastic supporter of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and is one of the top contributors to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. In September, Crain's referred to him as "the Koch of conservative politics in Illinois." ULINE was originally headquartered in Ilinois, but the company relocated its offices to Pleasant Prairie, near Kenosha, in 2010, receiving about $6 million in state and local incentives in the process.
Uihlein also gave $1.5 million to Liberty Principles PAC ( LPPAC ) in January. Illinois Family Action, a political arm of LPPAC and Illinois Family Institute, sent out mailings opposing state Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, who won after heated opposition from Downers Grove teacher Keith Matune in March. Those mailings were widely denounced as homophobic and made unauthorized use of photos belonging to Windy City Times.
Read the letter at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/photospreadthumbs.php .