SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Elections imposed a $5,000 fine Monday on a defunct campaign fundraising account linked to Auditor General Frank Mautino, the stiffest fine allowed by law, although it likely will never be collected because the committee has dissolved.
The board voted, 6-2, that the committee, which financed campaigns during the Spring Valley Democrat's 24 years as a state representative, failed to cooperate with the board by supplying documents to provide detailed explanations for more than $400,000 in campaign spending.
Some board members said they wished they could take harsher action but were hamstrung, and others urged a halt to proceedings until a possible federal investigation plays out.
Streator resident David Cooke, who said he's not active in either political party, pursued the matter after several watchdog and news media groups reported that Mautino's campaign paid about $225,000 to a Spring Valley service station for gas and vehicle repairs and more than $200,000 to a local bank. He was exasperated because board members said they could only act on Mautino's lack of cooperation, nothing more.
"The Board of Elections is not doing their job," Cooke said. "All they were interested in doing was getting the record corrected, not looking at the motive."
A motion by board member Andrew Carruthers to forward the case record to the state attorney general and LaSalle County state's attorney failed. But he and member William Cadigan encouraged Cooke to follow up with prosecutors.
"For our part, we have suspicions," Cadigan said.
Mautino did not attend the hearing. He declined comment through a spokesman Monday. Board member William McGuffage argued the board should take no action because of evidence federal prosecutors are investigating.
A hearing officer recommended the fine and suggested the board review underlying expenditure details. A deposition paid for by Cooke disclosed Mautino's campaign paid a service station account for gas and repairs without itemizing whose car was getting the service or where it was driven. Checks were made out to a local bank and reported as payments to the bank when the campaign spent the cash for unspecified reasons.
Board members said they could only act on the information at hand. Mautino invoked his right against self-incrimination in declining to turn over explanatory documents from 2014 and 2015. Documents before that were destroyed – election law allows destruction after three years. Mautino attorney Anthony Jacob of Chicago argued Mautino didn't "willfully" violate the board's order because the committee doesn't exist. There is no longer a chairman or treasurer who could turn over documents and attest to their veracity.
"It's not willful if the committee cannot take the action," Jacob told the board. "It's not capable of taking action."
Board member John Keith responded, "You say the committee can't do this, it can't do that. How can it hire an attorney?"