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*** UPDATED x1 *** Frerichs accuses Cross of violating campaign finance law

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* From a press release…

Tom Cross announced one year ago that he would not seeking re-election to the Illinois House and instead was running for State Treasurer. But over the last year, Tom Cross spent $192,692 from his legislative PAC, Citizens to Elect Tom Cross State Representative, to support his race for Treasurer. Those expenditures include: more than $40,000 in payments to Cross’ campaign manager Kevin Artl and five other employees; nearly $40,000 in payments to campaign consultants; and over $10,000 in meal charges. During the same period, Tom Cross continued to funnel money into both his legislative campaign account and Cross for Treasurer, which was created on September 11, 2013.

The Frerichs campaign says that is a clear violation of Illinois campaign finance laws. Under the law, PACs are required to report when they spend money on behalf of another candidate or cause, even when it is the same individual running for another office, which Cross failed to do. Illinois law also limits Cross to spending $52,600 from his legislative PAC on behalf of his Treasurer’s race in an election cycle, a cap that the Frerichs campaign says Cross clearly violated. The Frerichs campaign notes that Cross did report transferring $15,000 from his legislative campaign account to his treasurer’s race, a move that is perfectly legal. That move, they say, is proof that Tom Cross knew the law yet chose to ignore it

“Tom Cross wants to be our state treasurer, but he can’t even account for his own fundraising,” says Frerichs campaign manager Zach Koutsky. “Tom Cross violated basic election laws in a major way, and he clearly knew he was doing it.”

The contribution caps were enacted in 2009 on the anniversary of the arrest of Tom Cross political ally Rod Blagojevich. Frerichs voted for SB 1466 while Tom Cross voted against the measure.

Documentation is here.

* From the Cross campaign…

Another day, another false attack by Senator Mike Frerichs. Over the course of the last few weeks, the Frerichs campaign has launched a litany of untrue attacks, ranging from statements about Tom attending conferences he never did to mistruths about his voting record.

“As it relates to today’s fictitious attack by Senator Frerichs, our campaign has fully complied with the requirements of the Campaign Finance Act by fully disclosing all contributions and expenditures. The purpose of the Campaign Finance Act is to compel the disclosure of political spending and Tom has fully disclosed for each committee, period.

“The desperation of the Frerichs campaign, which is losing in every noteworthy general election survey, is exemplified in the dirty tactics they are undertaking. The conduct of Senator Frerichs calls into serious question whether he has the character or judgment to serve the state of Illinois as its next Treasurer.”

I’m expecting more back and forth on this one, so stay tuned. Notice that Cross’ campaign didn’t specifically address the caps issue.

*** UPDATE *** As expected, the Frerichs campaign has responded. The relevant portion…

Tom Cross continues to dodge questions, just as he dodged complying with our state’s campaign finance laws.

One of the main purposes of the law is to ensure that campaign spending is transparent. Tom Cross violated both the spirit and the letter of the law by spending money from his legislative PAC on his Treasurer’s campaign and failing to disclose that fact. Period. Cross also clearly violated caps that limit how much his legislative PAC can spend on his Treasurer’s race to $52,600 per cycle.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* In other news, Greg Hinz followed up with the Illinois Department of Revenue about its changed stance over Sen. Frerichs’ legislative office property tax bill

Initially, the department ruled that Mr. Frerichs’ case was similar to that of state Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago, who some years ago was ordered to pay property taxes on space she leased from Chicago Public Schools for her district constituent office. But now it says otherwise. Why the shift?

According to the department, state law treats school property differently from a building owned by a mass transit district.

Even though both are public bodies, “Once the (school) property is no longer used for exempt purposes, it is again subject to property tax, even if leased to the state government,” a department spokeswoman said. But the law covering transit districts allows the break if the leasing entity also is a public body, in this case a member of the state Senate using the space for public purposes.

* Meanwhile, this looked like a pretty big hit when I read the Tribune headline and lede

Simon hits Topinka on aides’ lucrative 2nd jobs

Democratic challenger Sheila Simon on Thursday criticized Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka for her role as president of a federally funded nonprofit that paid two key comptroller staffers more than $50,000 a year for part-time work on top of their six-figure taxpayer-funded salaries.

But, as it turns out, the organization in question didn’t update its disclosure forms after Topinka was elected. It’s actually much less time per week for much less money. At least, that’s what they’re saying.

* The Topinka campaign fired back…

Lt. Governor Simon reports income from “consulting” in 2014 but does not indicate what the consulting involved, who it was for or how much time she spent on the work outside of her Constitutional Office.

Hypocrisy has a name and its name is Sheila.

Simon’s disclosure report is here. Disclosure is required for any annual income earned over $5,000 and Simon lists “Consulting” in that category.

…Adding… From the Simon campaign…

Rich -
Attached is the transcript of the full exchange between Comptroller Topinka and the editorial board on the Smart Money Smart Women issue. As you can see, Judy Baar Topinka believes she left the company several years ago, but the tax filings for the company list her as the president as recently as 2012.

Here are links to the Form 990s for the company in question. As you can see on PDF page 7, Nancy Kimme was earning $117,300 in 2010, Markus Veile was making $84,310, and Ken Kamps was making $66,000, for what they list as 35 hours per week worked.

Fast forward to 2012, and you see that on PDF page 7 again, Nancy Kimme and Markus Veile are still there in the same position, listed at 35 hours per week, and now earning $53,350 each (while also drawing six figure salaries at the Comptroller’s office, full time). Judy Baar Topinka is still listed as the president of the company.

So they say they listed the wrong amount of hours, and also Judy Baar Topinka should not have been listed as president. But they DID go in and alter the salary amounts - how could the rest have been overlooked? The signature block on the first page clearly says:

“Under penalty of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return, including accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true, correct, and complete. Declaration of preparer (other than officer) is based on all information of which preparer has any knowledge.” In 2010, Ken Kamps signed the form. In 2012, Nancy Kimme signed it.

Also, for the “consulting” thing with Sheila, if Comptroller Topinka’s campaign referred to page 4 of the filing they will see under “Major sources of income” that Sheila listed $8,516 from textbook royalties. She was the co-author of a law textbook.

Here are cleaner PDF links:

2009
http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2010/770/627/2010-770627531-077abf76-9.pdf

2011
http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2011/770/627/2011-770627531-08a65aec-9.pdf

2012
http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2012/770/627/2012-770627531-09bc9ca8-9.pdf


Dave Mellet
Campaign Manager
Sheila Simon for Illinois

The attachment is here.

* The two went at it at the Sun-Times as well

Topinka boasts that she has implemented a policy of prioritizing payments for not-for-profit and service agencies that serve the state’s most vulnerable residents. She says there are “no favorites” but that she works with state agencies, lawmakers and vendors themselves to understand which situations are most dire.

But Simon says the office should work to disclose exactly who it’s paying when, and why.

“It’s perfectly legal to be silent about that. I just think it’s wrong,” Simon said. She suggested the comptroller’s office should publicly disclose who agencies getting expedited payments employ, the number of people they serve, and whether they’ve exhausted all other lines of credit.

Topinka calls Simon’s idea unfeasible and “overly simplistic,” noting the state writes checks from hundreds of different funds, some of which have large backlogs, and others which have no backlogs at all. The office is obligated by law to pay for some services, such as foster care, immediately.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

14 Comments
  1. - Anon - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    Cross trying to say someone if using dirty tactics against him is hilarious to me, talk about calling the kettle black.


  2. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 2:04 pm:

    I still don’t get the idea that legislators are ever liable for tax on their district offices.

    What kind of government offices pay property taxes?

    And if there is a tax bill, why is it the responsibility of the legislator, not the government?


  3. - Fred s - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 2:23 pm:

    My takeaway is that Frerichs would be a hilarious treasurer. If he is as bad with numbers as he is letters it would be an interesting train wreck of an administration.


  4. - Anon - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 2:25 pm:

    This certainly looks really really bad for Cross. I have a question though. Any experts on this know what the possible penalty would be?

    In other words, would this simply be a fine and return the money you raised illegally Mr. Cross, or is this a far worse, jailtime type problem.

    I honestly have no idea.


  5. - Tom Joad - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 2:57 pm:

    So if Topinka is going to have the hours of her current staff of the two double-dippers on her staff changed, $53,000 for a second job on top of a $135,000 salary is still an outrage. The regular salary of these staffers should be reduced by the amount of the second job.


  6. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:01 pm:

    Rich is right.

    It is telling that they don’t deny violating the caps.

    If they spent money from his legislative account and claimed it was to further his election for state representative, instead of reporting it as an in-kind contribution for Cross for Treasurer, they also broke the law.

    That is campaign finance 101.


  7. - Anon - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    So YDD, what is the penalty for that?

    Thanks!


  8. - Walter Mitty - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    Wait… Sheila is still in the race? That’s my takeaway.


  9. - Crazy Like a Fox - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:24 pm:

    I gotta give it to the down ticket Dems for taking some swings.

    I think the Frerich’s hit is inside baseball but the Simon hit could have some juice. JBT is old school, and whereas that is not inherently bad, this is a different time and no one likes the idea of government workers earning a income on the side (not illegal - just disliked).

    I also do not understand the line about the employees working part time. If they were working 20 hrs. a week, they were putting in a 55 hour work week. That is bound to effect work productivity at the comptrollers office. This would also mean that they were making about $55/hr. ($53,350 / 12months / 4 weeks / 20 hrs.).


  10. - Almost the Weekend - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:28 pm:

    Frerichs’ campaign best line of attack yet comes on a Friday afternoon? Giving Cross the whole weekend to respond. This looks legitimate too. Interesting to see how this plays out.


  11. - walker - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:53 pm:

    Carl Nyberg is right. The tax liability for the office is the State’s, not the Senator’s per se, and in my experience the Rep or Senator can make neither the decision to pay, nor the decision to appeal the tax bill. That is handled administratively elsewhere. Of course some have paid it out of their own “pockets” just to get it off the plate for political appearances, hoping to be reimbursed later. Always felt for Frerichs on that one. He was in a box not of his own making, while not wanting to appear like he was ducking responsibility.

    Other errors are Frerich’s alone.


  12. - Winning with Sheen - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:54 pm:

    Cannot wait for Simon and her crew of uselessness to be gone from politics for good, only one more month….
    Cross is going to win and Frerich can go back to fetching Cullerton’s pipe and slippers like a good boy.
    This campaign season seems like amateur hour, Illinois is better than this or at least we used to be. I miss Rod.


  13. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 3:55 pm:

    Well, Anon: mostly penalties, no jail time.

    Unless they phonied other documents too. That could be bad if you are talking mail fraud, which was a charge in the Blagojevich campaign I believe.

    As far as the penalties, it is hard to say. Honestly, I don’t know that I have ever seen campaign violations this large before.

    I will defer to any folks who follow iSBE on that.

    The irony of course is that the mantra of conservatives is no caps or bans on corporate contributions, what we really need is just full disclosure.

    Well, we got neither here.


  14. - Anon - Friday, Sep 26, 14 @ 4:09 pm:

    Ah cool, thanks YDD


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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