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Question of the day

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) still can’t explain to the satisfaction of state elections authorities what happened with $165,000 he got in campaign contributions.

And state officials say they don’t have the authority to make him show what happened with the unaccounted-for money — or to require him or anyone else who runs for office in Illinois to verify what they say in their required campaign-finance reports.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in November that Burnett had told state elections officials he’d put $375,000 from campaign contributions over the past two decades in investment accounts with various banks. But, over time and despite candidates being required to file updates with state elections officials on what they do with campaign contributions, he stopped including any mention of $300,000 of that money in his required campaign-finance reports.

Now, Burnett has told the Illinois State Board of Elections that the amount he put into investment accounts with banks actually was $400,000 — including a previously unreported $25,000 certificate of deposit.

But, even after filing amended campaign-finance reports covering six years, his filings still haven’t accounted for $165,000. […]

“It’s all self-reporting,” [Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the state elections board] says. “We can’t go back and look at their bank records. We can’t subpoena the bank records.”

* The Question: Should the Illinois State Board of Elections be given the authority to subpoena bank records in certain cases? Explain your answer, please.

       

25 Comments
  1. - Frumpy White Guy - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:06 am:

    They should hand it over to the FBI.


  2. - Chicago Republican - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:22 am:

    No.


  3. - Donnie Elgin - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:25 am:

    No, the last thing we need is more power in the hands of politically appointed bureaucrats. The Board is not helpless in responding to Burnett’s lack of candor about the missing money. From their FAQ…

    “The Board is not a police agency but has the power to investigate and refer apparent violations to law enforcement agencies”


  4. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:27 am:

    162% “Yes”

    Why?

    What is there to hide?

    I want full and complete transparency, from disclosure, so of course I’d be in favor of this. Show where these monies go.


  5. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:31 am:

    === No, the last thing we need is more power in the hands of politically appointed bureaucrats.===

    Then why have the board at all?


  6. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:37 am:

    How about giving the Auditor General the ability to subpoena the bank records to see how campaign funds were spent?


  7. - regular democrat - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:43 am:

    There should be at the minimum a mechanism in place to refer these cases to another investigative body. If these funds were taken and proper taxes not paid then there are penalties for that correct?


  8. - vern - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:46 am:

    Somebody should, whether it’s ISBE or a state law enforcement agency. FBI resources aren’t infinite, their investigations take a long time if they happen at all. There are state laws about campaign finance, they should be enforced by the appropriate state agencies.


  9. - thisjustinagain - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:46 am:

    YES; give the Board the power to follow the money. Why have the reports if the Board can’t follow up on its own authority?? This is yet another example of the wimpiness of Illinois campaign laws.


  10. - Unionman - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:47 am:

    Someone should have civil/administrative authority to investigate campaign finance violations and issue substantial repercussions.


  11. - Perrid - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:53 am:

    My gut reaction is yes. It seems to me that the Board should be able to investigate financials with a lower burden than the FBI, as in without needing probably cause of a crime. We need a higher standard for public officials, if you want to be a public official you should be open to transparency.

    That said, I’m open to learning more about what happens when the Board makes referrals to law enforcement, what the potential overlap would be. The devil is in the details, and I know I don’t know enough about campaign finance laws or procedures to unilaterally make decrees.


  12. - Lurker - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:53 am:

    In multiple places and many times in the articles above, it uses the word “required”. I’m sorry Matt, you are one of the smartest guys I know when it comes to language and “required” is not an ambiguous word. Some entity should have the authority to look into this “require”-ment.


  13. - Suburbanon - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 11:59 am:

    Compliance may be the basic mission of Campaign disclosure, but I support giving investigative power for substantial violations like this to State Police or State’s Attorneys.


  14. - Summertime - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 12:16 pm:

    Subpoenaing bank records would be one remedy. Another consideration may be to amend the Election Code language regarding the auditing of political committees. Currently, the Board can order a committee to conduct an audit of its financial records (10 ILCS 5/9-13) to ensure compliance with contribution limits, to examine the amount of funds and investments maintained by the committee, and to ensure the financial records accurately account for any contributions and expenditures made by the committee. Currently, the committee is only required to have the audit include their financial records for a period of 2 years from the close of the most recent reporting period or the period since the committee was previously ordered to conduct an audit, whichever is shorter. Amending the language to allow for older records to be audited under certain circumstances would be another remedy.


  15. - Just a Citizen - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 12:28 pm:

    Yes, give it to the Board to investigate.


  16. - Tinman - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 12:40 pm:

    If he is sending it as income he could have a big tax problem. But it should be investigated.


  17. - PublicServant - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 12:41 pm:

    I’m surprised they don’t already have the power to subpoena records. Get on it lawmakers.


  18. - Phineas - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 12:50 pm:

    Just require campaigns to file them. It’s the bank account of a regulated committee. No subpoena needed


  19. - Rudy’s teeth - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 12:58 pm:

    Could some of Alderman Walter Burnett’s $165K in campaign funds be in a shoebox somewhere on the premises?

    Paul Powell former Secretary of State had a penchant for storing cash in shoeboxes. Hmmm.


  20. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 1:28 pm:

    I doubt the FBI has jurisdiction in a lot of potential cases. The IRS maybe, but I don’t see the FBI rushing in to enforce a state campaign finance law.


  21. - Downstate Dem - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 2:31 pm:

    Why is this even a question? Definately should be accounted for.


  22. - New Day - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 2:38 pm:

    Absolutely. They are largely toothless now. This would help.


  23. - Just Another Anon - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 3:23 pm:

    Proposal:

    “Paul’s Law” - State’s Attorneys and the Attorney General shall have jurisdiction to investigate an prosecute violations of the Campaign Finance and Campaign Disclosure provisions of the Illinois Election Code. Provides that intentional or willful violations of these provisions constitutes official misconduct.


  24. - RNUG - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 5:18 pm:

    No. Why reinvent the wheel?

    Just refer it to the State Department of Revenue. Let the auditors loose on it and let IDOR request the proof on whether or not State taxes should have been paid in those funds.


  25. - Candy Dogood - Tuesday, May 30, 23 @ 10:10 pm:

    Yes.

    But — it sounds like someone is committing some income tax fraud if they’re not reporting their income — even if it is illegal.

    ===Just refer it to the State Department of Revenue===

    I’m not aware of anything in recent history that would suggest that the Department of Revenue is really capable of handling this kind of investigation or that state statutes would be the best criminal violations to pursue.

    The IRS and FBI are much better suited to investigate this, not to mention what other unreported income might be out there.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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