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.
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…
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.