* We’ve talked about this loophole before, but Tom Kasich wrote about it not long ago…
What campaign committees do is collect dozens of fat checks, let them sit for weeks or months, then deposit them in a bank on one day and report them within five business days.
That, in fact, is what Citizens for Lisa Madigan did in the first quarter of the year. It disclosed 198 separate contributions of $1,000 or more all at once, on April 5. The checks had been deposited on March 29.
Ditto Taxpayers for Quinn. The governor’s campaign fund reported 112 contributions of $1,000 or more, including $20,000 from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, on April 2. But the trial lawyers reported that the donation was made on March 20.
Madigan’s campaign, for its part, said it reports contributions in one big batch so that it can thoroughly vet all donations and return any checks that create potential ethical problems.
And lawmakers, at the time a new campaign disclosure law was being discussed in 2009, said they wanted to avoid problems with checks that were sent to post office boxes but may have go uncollected for days or weeks.
“Legislators were upset about it — they felt there was the potential for ‘gotcha moments’ — a check in a post office box, and they would get fined for not checking a post office box,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “I don’t know how often that actually happened. I think they might have been inflating the problem a bit.”
So the law was written to allow campaign committees to sit on contributions for long periods, although they also could disclose them quickly. A law that supposedly was written to foster public disclosure and benefit voters ends up favoring the pols.
“That means that the committee gets to determine when the public finds out about when they received money,” Morrison said. “In the context of an election, it means that a committee can have the check and know the money is in hand, but not tell voters about it until the polls are closed. That’s a very dangerous precedent.
“At the time, the folks in the Legislature said, ‘No, no, no. People won’t actually play that game. Trust us on this.’ I don’t know that that’s true. I think we are seeing some gamesmanship.”
Pretty much everybody is doing this except Bruce Rauner, who is spending money and therefore needs to deposit the checks right away, and Bill Daley, who wants to show he’s viable.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel just reported $470K on a signle A-1, for example.
* The Question: Should Illinois law be changed to require reporting campaign contribution checks within a few days of their actual receipt, rather than after their deposit in a bank account? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.