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Former Gaming Board chairman blasts OEIG report as “unsubstantiated conspiracy theory”

Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

* Bernie

The state’s executive inspector general has found Springfield lawyer Don Tracy, when acting as chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board, engaged in prohibited political activity by making campaign contributions. But Tracy is protesting the finding, calling it “an inflammatory political report based primarily on speculation and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.”

And because the report alleges contributions made by Tracy’s wife, Wanda, during his tenure on the gaming board were done under his direction — and because she was never interviewed by investigators — Tracy calls that allegation “unprofessional, unnecessary, unsubstantiated, baseless and insulting.”

Tracy takes issue with the idea that any political contribution is prohibited by the Riverboat Gambling Act — he said he made a $200 donation before his first board meeting in 2015, about the time he heard contributions should not be made. He said he made none after that — and said some listed in campaign records as coming from him while he was on the board were in error because they also came from his wife.

Part of Tracy’s response to the finding, released with the report, is a letter from Wanda Tracy, who says she wrote campaign checks “of my own free will,” and described her own political activity over the years, including circulating nominating petitions, hosting fundraisers and organizing political parade walkers.

The full report, including a long response from Tracy, is here.

* Dan Petrella at the Tribune

The 12-page report focuses on 30 contributions from Tracy and his wife, Wanda, from the time he became Gaming Board chairman until Oct. 29, including eight contributions totaling $7,600 from Wanda Tracy to Rauner’s campaign fund. Most of the checks were written from the couple’s joint account, though Don Tracy’s name was crossed off on many of them, the report says.

The report says that from 1998 until his appointment to the Gaming Board, Don Tracy made 210 contributions to 67 political committees. Over the same period, Wanda Tracy made only one, a $5,300 contribution to their sister-in-law Jil Tracy’s failed 2014 bid for lieutenant governor.

Given that history, “it is not credible” that Wanda Tracy began writing so many campaign checks “without any direction from her husband, or even discussion with him about it,” the report says.

Tracy dismissed the inspector general’s conclusion as “a bit sexist.” He said the inspector general’s office never spoke with his wife during its investigation.

* Mitchell Armentrout at the Sun-Times

Tracy — a Springfield attorney who previously made failed bids as a Democrat for the state Senate and as a Republican for lieutenant governor — said he doesn’t think Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office was out to get him. But he hinted it could be tied to his vocal — and financial — support for Rauner over the years.

“A lot of people around here hate Rauner,” Tracy said by phone from his Downstate office.

But the report comes from the office of Susan Haling, who was appointed executive inspector general by Rauner in March 2018.

State law defines political activity as “any activity in support of or in connection with any campaign for federal, State, or local elective office or any political organization.” Members can be removed by the governor “for engaging in any political activity,” the law states.

* AP

The inspector general’s office recommended Governor J.B. Pritzker take action he deemed appropriate. Tracy says Pritzker didn’t ask him to resign. The governor’s office had no comment.

* Tracy sent me this response…

The Facts

1. Don Tracy was appointed Chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board on February 2, 2015 by then Gov. Bruce Rauner. Don’s first official meeting and actions as Chairman occurred on March 25, 2015, when the Gaming Board held its first 2015 meeting.

2. Without holding a hearing or other due process, the OEIG accuses Don Tracy of engaging in “political activity” while serving as Chairman of the Gaming Board. The Illinois Riverboat Gambling Act prohibits Gaming Board members from engaging in “political activity”, but does not expressly or specifically define “political activity” to include the mere making of a campaign contribution.

3 Without citing any legal authority, the OEIG has interpreted this ill-defined ban on political activity to preclude Illinois Gaming Board members from making any campaign contributions (even to local and federal candidates) while off duty, off state premises, without using any state resources, while not acting in any state capacity, and without any appearance of quid pro quo or impropriety; and, notwithstanding US Supreme Court rulings that political contributions are a form of free speech and therefore vaguely defined bans on political contributions, like this OEIG interpretation, are unconstitutional.

4 Don was not made aware of this “interpretation” until shortly before or after his first day on the job, March 25, 2015. From and after that time, and until on June 14, 2019, when Governor Pritzker accepted Don’s resignation from the Gaming Board, which Don offered on November 30, 2018, Don did not engage in any “political activity” except for: (a) voting and (b) loaning or contributing $400 to his inactive independent expenditure political committee, Central Illinois for Responsible Government, to pay maintenance expenses including bank account fees and a Board of Elections fine for a late 2014 report.

5 Based only on speculative assumptions, including the false and speculative assumption that Don’s wife Wanda is his political puppet such that she could not have possibly made political contributions to Republicans from their joint account without Don’s consent or direction, and without even interviewing Wanda as Don suggested they do, the OEIG has falsely accused Wanda Tracy of making political contributions under Don’s direction. This is not only sexist and insulting; it also implies that women/spouses are incapable of making campaign contributions without being directed by a man.

6 Illinois has had a long and well-known history of public corruption. Instead of doing the hard and detailed work it takes to root out corruption, the OEIG has in this case wasted limited taxpayer money on an unconstitutional wild goose chase and falsely accused a part-time dedicated public servant of engaging in significant “political activity”” while serving on the Gaming Board. No wonder many good and honest citizens are reluctant to engage in public service.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

34 Comments
  1. - Jackie Chiles - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 9:39 am:

    It’s unnecessary, unsubstantiated, baseless and insulting.


  2. - Annonin' - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 9:49 am:

    He forgot to mention he was the guiding spirit behind Tracy Park —- downtown’s first all grass parking lot — and helping steamroll city officials to get Realtors strolling mall OK’d.


  3. - Chicagonk - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 9:51 am:

    I don’t mind opening up this can of worms, but it is a big can of worms and they better have hard evidence if they are making this accusation. If Illinois started looking at the political and commercial activity of politician’s immediate family members, it could get real ugly real fast.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 9:53 am:

    I just have one question;

    Did Mrs. Tracy write checks?

    Thanks.


  5. - Pick a Name - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:01 am:

    So what if she did Willy?


  6. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:05 am:

    So we’re clear, the checks were political, and written.

    I’m told often that money is free speech, political free speech.

    I guess, if we’re fair, all the angst towards spouses and such and political things, we should treat each person individually.

    So… a spouse shouldn’t be held accountable for what the other chooses?


  7. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:06 am:

    “some listed in campaign records as coming from him while he was on the board were in error because they also came from his wife.”

    I didn’t do it — we *both* done it.

    – MrJM


  8. - Pick a Name - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:12 am:

    If my wife chooses to write a check to a R, a D or an independent, that is her choice and decision. I may not care for it but she can and does make decisions.


  9. - So_Ill - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:15 am:

    I would really hope JB lets this go.


  10. - benniefly2 - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:18 am:

    I personally find it disheartening that a licensed attorney doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of ‘unconstitutional’.


  11. - Birdseed - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:22 am:

    === - So_Ill - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:15 am:

    I would really hope JB lets this go. ===

    If he doesn’t, then he should be equally culpable for any directives made by his wife to remove the toilets.


  12. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    ===I may not care===

    It’s not a question of if you *care*, it is a question of are we going to hold accountable what a family is choosing to do with monies and donations.


  13. - {Sigh} - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 10:49 am:

    This is appears to a sloppy investigation by the OEIG {sigh}. They subpoenaed the bank records, but didn’t bother to interview the wife - the lady that supposedly made the contributions. So, we will go on a fishing expedition to prove our point, but fail to interview a key witness…. this is what taxpayer money is being used for. This report didn’t save the taxpayer money, it actually cost them money.

    OEIG cannot confirm or deny a pending allegation, but I don’t think anything prevents them from talking about a case once it’s been published. Can a reporter ask the OEIG why they felt it wasn’t important to interview the person that supposedly made the contributions? Also, it’s 2019 - why would the OEIG assume that a wife is not capable of making decisions on her own regarding campaign contributions? Why did OEIG include Wanda’s name in this report, but in other published OEIG cases redact the names subjects and witnesses? Specifically, where are the administrative rules or written policies regarding the redaction of names and rules regarding who will be interviewed? Who reviewed this case prior to the publication of the report? Who determined it was ok to INCLUDE Wanda’s name in the report? Why is it important to include in the report that Wanda only made a contribution to her sister-in-law? Did the OEIG believe Wanda was on capable of making decisions regarding her sister-in-law? For OEIG to make the assumption that the contributions were made on the same day max the amount that couple be contributed- that’s a clearly opinion without interviewing Wanda or the sister-in-law. And if that contribution was made during the end of the quarter- EVERYONE involved in campaigns know you send out a massive contribution request to show that your candidacy is strong.

    I didn’t read the entire report, but did it ever occur to OEIG to interview the campaigns that received the contributions to SEE why they entered into the State Board of Elections system that the contribution was from Don? Could it be that there was a reporting error on the campaign’s behalf? How many report modifications does SBE receive bc the campaign made a reporting error?

    OEIG cases should remain confidential during the investigative process, but it sounds to me like there needs to be some form of oversight/transparency for those that are doing the actual policing.

    {sigh}


  14. - Shytown - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 11:06 am:

    I’m all for rooting out unethical behavior, but this is a stretch. Is the OEIG a mindreader now?


  15. - {Sigh} - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    =I’m told often that money is free speech, political free speech.=

    OW - you are correct. Remember the medical cannabis court case? “By singling out medical cannabis organizations,” Judge Lee wrote, the state appeared to be favoring certain speakers based on their viewpoints – precisely the type of discrimination the Supreme Court has disapproved of in the past.”

    https://www.illinoispolicy.org/court-strikes-down-ban-on-campaign-contributions-from-medical-marijuana-licensees/

    I can understand telling appointees that they cannot contribute to their boss or to members of the G.A. that would be voting on game legislation. But the OEIG’s interpretation that this applies to local candidates and political party contributions- WHAT facts did they use to make that determination? Did they review any case law?


  16. - Bourbon Street - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 11:27 am:

    How refreshing that, in 2019 no less, government officials still assume that wives always ask their husbands for permission before making political contributions. Another fine example of how Illinois is a leader in women’s rights issues. /s

    Perhaps the OEIG should read up on James Carville and Mary Matalin as an example of how married couples can independently decide which candidates to support. Of course, the OEIG may end up clutching her pearls and needing smelling salts at the modern-day thought that women think independently of their husbands.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 11:32 am:

    ===But the OEIG’s interpretation that this applies to local candidates and political party contributions- WHAT facts did they use to make that determination? Did they review any case law?===

    I’m coming at this as if we’re now giving passes for spouses, and spouse’s decisions are now inconsequential to what could be perceived as unethical, then two things I’m going to watch very carefully;

    * That this “spouse is fine” precedent isn’t used in a partisan manner. Good for one, good for all.

    * How often are we going to see this behavior. As long as you’re married, who can “guess” what a spouse does or thinks when giving monies when the other is prohibited from doing so? If anything, it’s a sweet loophole for the married?


  18. - Fav human - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 11:40 am:

    ’sweet loophole for the married?”

    Think of it as government encouragement to the institution of marriage 😆😆😆

    More seriously, does it look fishy and could it be misused? Sure. But let’s face it in the modern world money often IS speech. And I tend to agree, even if he did write the checks, it would still be illegal to stop him from doing so.


  19. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 11:45 am:

    ===And I tend to agree, even if he did write the checks, it would still be illegal to stop him from doing so.===

    So there’s no price to be paid, no pun intended, curbing that free speech so that the perception of ethics exist?

    That’s a depressing thought.

    “We want government to work ethically, but we’re willing to forgo possible perceived ethical impropriety if it suits the case, like a marriage?”

    My two points of concern still haunt this idea of ethics if we all seemingly agree the spouse wrote the checks, and that’s gonna be ok from now on.


  20. - NotAnonymous - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 11:54 am:

    If one spouse maxes out their contributions to a political campaign, doesn’t the law treat the other spouse as separate and allow that person to also contribute to said campaign? The same rule should apply here if in fact it was Mr. Tracy’s wife who made the contributions while he was head of the Gaming Board.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:01 pm:

    === The same rule should apply here if in fact it was Mr. Tracy’s wife who made the contributions while he was head of the Gaming Board.===

    The ethical question then is “it’s cool the Tracys did it, as long as it’s only measured by her own maxing out”?

    Hmm.

    I guess if anyone is single, the first thing to do is get married to keep your “free speech”, even if it’s half of what it was, ethics or not?


  22. - the old man - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:13 pm:

    Much ado about nothing. My wife of 50 plus years and I have a joint bank account dating back to our marriage day. She writes checks to those she favors politically, I write checks to those i favor politically. NEVER do I ask her if i can donate to a candidate or party or cause. She NEVER asks me if she can donate to a candidate or party or cause. Worked well for 50 plus years. Get a life folks this is the 21st century. Every woman in America should be angry with this BS report, implying that a wife has no right to write a check UNLESS SHE DISCUSSES IT WITH HER HUSBAND. Let’s solve the real problems in this state and quit drumming up straw men.


  23. - Bourbon Street - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:21 pm:

    Spouses are, and should be, exempt from government ethics laws that apply to their husbands and wives because ethics laws curtail constitutional rights. This limitation is fine for the government office-holder because he or she freely took the job that has the limitations. The spouse, however, did not, and the fact that the spouse may be financially benefitting from the officer-holder’s job is not sufficient reason to limit his or her free exercise of rights. Rights are a given; the curtailing of rights is the exception.

    Certainly, the various IGs can look at individual circumstances to see if an office-holder is purposefully evading ethical limitations on political activity, but a blanket prohibition on political activity by spouses is not warranted and would result in unfairness. For example, should an elected library board member have to resign her position because her husband is on the Gaming Board?


  24. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:30 pm:

    OEIG has had a “checkered” history … anyone remember when OEIG said cars with political bumper stickers couldn’t park in government owned parking lots, and students in dorms on university property couldn’t put up political signs?


  25. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    ===Get a life folks===

    “Ethics, Smethics… “. It’s fascinating to me how easily it’s “everyone else’s problem” to question ethics. Whew.

    Why? This…

    ===The spouse, however, did not, and the fact that the spouse may be financially benefitting…===

    That’s the ball game. Right there.

    Now is the measure “how much of a benefit”?

    So ethics is a measure of dollars and cents?

    This is the kinda thing that is “cafeteria style ethics”?

    You can benefit, but just too much?


  26. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    ===OEIG has had a “checkered” history===

    True or not, she still wrote the checks. We all agree on that. I asked.


  27. - Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:40 pm:

    See this is where Rod missed another golden opportunity. Patti could have called the children’s hospital and the racetrack owner and when the feds asked about it he could have said she is her own person and accuse them of sexism.


  28. - check it - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    What stands out to me is, the checks that were drawn on a shared account. Crossing off his name on the check, drawn from a shared account, is not the same thing as the wife writing a check on an independent account of her own. I think any accountant would agree. I’d still give it the stink-eye if it was a check drawn from only the wife’s separate account, but I’d say that’s within the *letter* of the law… The checks from the shared account are a campaign contribution violation, though.


  29. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    Oswego Willy -
    ==True or not …==
    OEIG has always been presumptuous. The IBHE Executive Director Reid report (06/18/2014), making an executive AND legislative decision, that government agencies should not settle lawsuits to avoid costs like is done in the private sector? And has ANYONE ever seen OEIG’s Administrative Order #3?


  30. - Bourbon Street - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 12:59 pm:

    OW, we may disagree on this but ethics rules that curtail rights (especially First Amendment rights) are not simply tied to the receipt of financial benefits. Instead, generally, they are tied to impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. To use my previous example, there is no impropriety or appearance of impropriety if the wife of a Gaming Board member is an elected library board member.

    The government should not be able to curtail constitutional rights for those who are not office-holders, and, even at that, the government has an obligation to explain why a particular ethical rule is necessary in order to curtail an office-holder’s rights. Rights are not dependent on a cynical view that office-holders routinely violate ethical rules by inappropriately acting through their spouses. Rights are not something the government has the option of withholding absent some strong governmental interest.

    Again, the various IGs can investigate to their hearts’ content whether an office-holder is purposefully evading ethical rules by inappropriately acting through a spouse. Sweeping ethical rules that curtail rights held by a spouse punishes innocent, constitutionally-guaranteed conduct.


  31. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 1:03 pm:

    ===OEIG has always been presumptuous.===

    In this case, she wrote the checks. With respect.

    ===The government should not be able to curtail constitutional rights for those who are not office-holders===

    So the married folks have this loophole, but the single folk better not have free speech?

    Different ethics based on marital status?


  32. - Pacman - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 2:47 pm:

    Mr. Tracy argues he wasn’t an employee of the Gaming Board on March 20, 2015 when he wrote the Señor campaign a check. He said he wasn’t an employee until he stepped foot into his first board meeting on March 25, 2015. He was appointed to the board effective on February 2, 2015. He’s an employee when he started receiving compensation, not when he attended his first meeting.
    Also crossing a spouses name off the check does not negate the fact it is still a joint account with joint funds.
    Also my guess is the OEIG did not interview Mrs. Tracy because they knew she would come in and take all responsibility for the decision making and check writing. In my opinion they should have interviewed her anyway knowing she would come in and lie to protect her husband.
    Full disclosure, I am a former OEIG employee and know both the Investigator and Susan Haling. Having sat through case reviews with IG Haling I know she would not allow this case to get this far if she was not confident the case was made.
    When I started with the OEIG it was made clear to me that I could not get involved in politics and nor could my wife.


  33. - Louis G Atsaves - Thursday, Sep 19, 19 @ 3:47 pm:

    “Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh did not address questions about whether the governor asked Tracy to step down. She said the restrictions on political activity have been added to annual ethics training for Gaming Board members.”

    Have been added? When? After receipt of this report?


  34. - Marko the Destroyer - Friday, Sep 20, 19 @ 12:08 am:

    It is hilarious that Mr. Tracy denies responsibility for the actions of his wife when the Illinois Gaming Board routinely denied applicants due to the actions of their spouses during his tenure.

    It should be unconstitutional for the IGB to even ask if an applicant is married. It is none of their business and totally irrelevant to the applicant’s suitability.

    Seeing this guy getting a tiny dose of his own medicine gives me hope there is justice in this world. He should be thankful all he lost was $400 per month, when his actions at the IGB cost many decent folks their livelihoods.


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