State auditor general’s campaign committee violated election law, court finds

State auditor general’s campaign committee violated election law, court finds

By SARAH MANSUR
Capitol News Illinois
smansur@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD — The campaign committee of former state Rep. Frank Mautino, who is now the Illinois auditor general, violated state law when it spent campaign funds on gas and car repairs for personal vehicles, the Illinois Supreme Court decided Thursday.

But the court did not find Mautino’s committee violated a separate section of state election law that prohibits spending more than fair market value for goods and services.

However, since Mautino’s committee was dissolved in 2015, any fines levied against it would likely not be collected, a spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Elections said Thursday.

The case against Mautino’s campaign committee dates back to early 2016 when Mautino resigned from his position as a state representative, after 25 years in the General Assembly, and was appointed auditor general.

Illinois resident David Cooke filed a complaint against Mautino’s campaign committee with the State Board of Elections in February 2016. Specifically, Cooke argued the committee’s expenditure of more than $225,000 on gas and repairs at Happy’s Super Service for personal vehicles violated section 9-8.10(a)(9) of the Act to Regulate Campaign Financing. He also claimed the committee’s spending at Spring Valley City Bank for travel expenses violated section 9-8.10(a)(2).

Section 9-8.10(a)(2) of the Act bans political committees from spending campaign funds on items or services that are more than “fair market value.” Section 9-8.10(a)(9) provides that if a committee does not own or lease the vehicle, it can spend campaign funds only on reimbursements for mileage expenses.

Cooke also alleged the committee’s documentation regarding the Spring Valley City Bank was improper, and the committee’s inadequate disclosure reports willfully violated the law.

In May 2016, ISBE ordered the committee to file amended disclosure reports, but the committee failed to do so, leading ISBE to determine it willfully violated the law. While the committee had destroyed its pre-2014 records according to statute when it dissolved, it did possess records for 2014 and 2015, the board found.

The board imposed a $5,000 fee on the committee but did not address the merits of Cooke’s complaint. Cooke appealed to the state appellate court, which sent the case back to ISBE for a decision on the merits.

In July 2018, ISBE decided the committee did not violate any sections of the act and Cooke again appealed. In its second hearing of the case, the appellate court reversed ISBE’s decision and ruled that the committee violated the law when it came to travel and vehicle expenses.

The committee appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, and the justices agreed that the committee’s spending on gas and repairs for vehicles that were not owned or leased by the committee was in violation of the law.

“(W)ith regard to a vehicle neither owned nor leased by a committee, the committee may only make expenditures for actual mileage reimbursement when that vehicle is used for campaign or governmental purposes,” Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman wrote in the 28-page opinion.

But the justices disagreed with the appellate court on its decision that the committee’s expenditures for travel and vehicle expenses violated the law in regard to their relation to fair market value.

“Cooke did not present evidence demonstrating that, for example, the price per gallon paid by the Committee clearly exceeded the market price on the relevant date,” Garman wrote.

On the spending at the bank, the justices found that Cooke could not “compare the amount of money withdrawn from the bank with the travel costs Mautino purportedly incurred,” because the committee refused to amend its disclosure reports to identify the specific purpose of the bank spending.

“Instead, Cooke could only demonstrate the peculiarity of the (c)ommittee and Mautino’s method of reporting expenditures for certain travel expenses. Therefore, the Board was without the requisite information to determine whether it was more probably true than not that the Committee violated section 9- 8.10(a)(2),” Garman wrote.

The justices ordered that the case return to ISBE, which will decide whether the committee “knowingly” violated the law with its spending on gas and car repairs.

Matt Dietrich, spokesperson for ISBE, said the board could add another fine for the committee, although it no longer exists.

“Because our Board is empowered only to impose and collect fines against/from committees, not individuals, there is no mechanism for obtaining payment from a committee that no longer exists,” Dietrich said in email. “The only leverage we have for getting payment in such cases is when a candidate later decides to run for office and still has old fines on the books. A candidate can’t get on the ballot in Illinois if they have unpaid fines. We can refer those unpaid fines to the Attorney General’s Office for collection. However, they’d also be faced with attempting to collect from an entity that has not existed for more than five years.”

In an emailed statement, Mautino said he is pleased with the decision today by the Illinois Supreme Court and looks forward to finalizing the matter.

A representative for the right-leaning Liberty Justice Center, which provided legal representation for David Cooke, did not respond to a request for comment.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Leave a Comment





Local News

Two-time national wrestling champion Austin O'Connor, a St. Rita graduate, won his MMA debut on June 9 in Texas. North Carolina photo

Don’t sleep on grappling great | St. Rita grad Austin O’Connor starts MMA career with a win

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The “Irish Nightmare” was not about to be put to sleep. Austin O’Connor, a four-time IHSA state wrestling champion during his years at St. Rita, made his professional MMA debut on June 9; and despite some pre-match taunting from opponent Camden Fontenot — who claimed he would put O’Connor…

Lyons Township Assessor Patrick Hynes at his office in Countryside. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Lyons Township Assessor saves taxpayers big money

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan Property taxes. Just the mention of them can fire up a conversation quicker than you can start a nice one in a fire pit on a cool night. Many understand them, but some have no idea where their money is going. A lot of people think that the town, village…

reporter 2-2-24 oak lawn police logo

Oak Lawn police seize drugs, cash in raid on home

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports Oak Lawn Police Department tactical detectives last week raided a home and recovered drugs and cash. At 8 a.m. on May 29, detectives executed a search warrant at 8825 S. Austin, assisted by the department’s Special Response Team. Detectives recovered more than 17 pounds of cannabis bagged for sale and…

Kathy Headley

Few cicadas to bug us in Chicago Lawn

Spread the love

Spread the love. Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 . Well, it looks like we escaped the big cicada invasion in Chicago Lawn. I know enough folks in other areas that did not, and it was almost unbelievable to see them all on the trees…

GSWNH_BFEDMfinalshow_060724

Celebrating culture with smiles

Spread the love

Spread the love Four young dancers share smiles backstage at Hubbard High School last weekend, just before they performed onstage as part of the season-ending performance of Ballet Folklórico Estrella Del Mar. The West Lawn-based youth group celebrates traditional Mexican culture through song and dance. – Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Kelly White

Mary Stanek

Today is a day to fly Old Glory

Spread the love

Spread the love. By Mary Stanek Your correspondent in Archer Heights and West Elsdon 3808 W. 57th Place •  (773) 517-7796 . Fly the American flag proudly on Flag Day—Friday, June 14. This holiday commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States. Happy Father’s Day to all the men in the community on…

Peggy Zabicki

School’s out, but learning is still in

Spread the love

Spread the love. By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 . School is out for the summer, but this does not mean that our youngsters have been idle. The Los Youth Organization will be unveiling their mural located at the West Lawn Branch Library, 4020 W. 63rd…

Hills Chamber of Commerce members, Art Golden and Phyllis Majka on opening day of the Hills Farmers Market in 2023. (File photo)

Hills Farmers Market to open at 8 a.m. Friday

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam The Hills Farmers Market is bringing more and offering unique experiences this year. The Hills Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hickory Hills have joined forces this year, pooling their resources and ideas to create an annual farmers market at 8653 W. 95th Street. The market will be held…

Owner Rosa Prieto prepares to cut the ribbon and is encouraged by co-owner and husband, Jaime Prieto, to her left, for the Healthy and Delicious Smoothie Spot grand opening in Oak Lawn on May 29. They are joined by Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce members and in back (from left) Steve Loulousis, president of the Oak Lawn Parks Foundation; Mayor Terry Vorderer, and behind Rosa, Natasha Miller Williams, president of the chamber. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Comings & Goings: New business offers fresh and healthy smoothies

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Joe Boyle Rosa Prieto had been considering opening a business that provides refreshing drinks and food but was waiting for the right time. For Rosa and her husband, Jaime Prieto, that time has arrived. The Healthy and Delicious Smoothie Spot, 10408 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Lawn, officially opened on March 10. Since…

Jennifer Doede

Stagg Athletic Director earns advanced certification 

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports Amos Alonzo Stagg High School Athletic Director Jennifer Doede has been recognized by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association as a Certified Master Athletic Administrator. To earn this distinction, Doede has demonstrated exemplary knowledge, contributions, and on-going professional development in the field of interscholastic athletic administration. The voluntary certification process…

Neighbors

Shepard basketball coach Corey Wolf draws up a play during the Astros game against Argo June 14 at the Stagg Shootout. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Corey Wolf ‘living the dream’ as new Shepard hoops coach

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent For Corey Wolf, obtaining the ultimate high school basketball prize started in the summer of 2007. Wolf was playing for a Richards team that had showed much promise, having gone 26-3 and winning a regional title the previous season. Then-Bulldogs coach John Chappetto let his players know when summer…

Mallory Swanson of the Chicago Red Stars had a goal and assist in a 2-2 draw with Kansas City. IMAGN photo

Staab header helps Red Stars forge draw with KC

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Heading into the weekend, only Kansas City and Orlando were unbeaten among NWSL teams. The teams were tied atop the league standings, with each sporting 8-0-4 records. They now share another common denominator: Both have forged draws with the Red Stars. Red Stars defender Sam Stabb’s header in the…

NWSL ball

Red Stars unhappy with Riot Fest conflict

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Among the bands that will headline the newly minted Riot Fest music festival are Chicago-area natives Fall Out Boy. The annual concert featuring an eclectic mix of musical acts will be held in Bridgeview Sept. 20-22 — and boy, oh boy, there is a lot of fallout from the…

Sandburg sophomore Daniel Morakinyo is looking forward to the 35-second shot clock, which will be used for the first time in Illinois high school basketball when he is a senior. Photo by Jeff Vorva

It’s about time | Illinois high school hoops gets 35-second shot clock beginning with 2026-27 season

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Count Sandburg sophomore Daniel Morakinyo as someone who can’t wait for the 2026-2027 basketball season. The rising guard/forward will be a senior that year, and he will embrace the IHSA’s implementation of a 35-second shot clock for varsity boys and girls basketball. “It’s a good feature,” Morakinyo said after…

Mayor Terry Vorderer presents a plaque to Michael Reising for earning Eagle Scout recognition. The award was presented during the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting June 11 night. (Photo by Joe Boyle)

Oak Lawn police target drivers who ignore stop signs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Joe Boyle Oak Lawn police are going to crack down on reckless drivers who repeatedly blow stop signs throughout the village. And police will begin enforcing those measures within the next two weeks. The subject was brought up during the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting June 11. Village Manager Tom Phelan said…

Student volunteers from Brother Rice, St. Rita and St. Laurence assist in the
burial of 160 indigents  last week at Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Photos by Nuha Abdessalam)

Volunteers from Brother Rice, St. Rita and St. Laurence help indigent on their final journey

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam Father Larry Sullivan, a director of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago and pastor of Christ the King Parish, joined County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and spoke words of love, respect, and God at the 35th annual committal service at Mount Olivet Cemetery. The service on June 6 at…

dvn 6-14-24 riot fest lineup

Riot Fest abandons Chicago park for SeatGeek Stadium

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Last year, Lyrical Lemonade moved its Summer Smash hip-hop music festival from Chicago’s Douglass Park to Bridgeview’s SeatGeek Stadium. Thousands of fans poured into the stadium at 7100 S. Harlem Ave. over the course of three days and, by most accounts, enjoyed the experience. Summer Smash returned to SeatGeek this…

Alyssa Blomberg of the group Ramzi and the Loafers, sings during a performance last year at Orland Park’s inaugural SummerFest. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Comings & Goings: Orland Park Summerfest returns this weekend

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Back for a second go round this weekend is the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce’s Summerfest. The event combines a carnival, live music, an array of dining options and a car show, at the 153rd Street Metra Station location in Orland Park and will run from Friday, June 14,…

dvn 6-13-24 township repair cafe for 6-15

Repair Cafe this Saturday at Township of Lyons HQ

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch Repair cafes have become quite the thing for the Township of Lyons. So much so that another repair cafe will be offered from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, June 15, at the township office, 6404 Joliet Road in Countryside. A repair café held in May was a smashing…

Father’s Day will be especially hard for Jonathan and Kayla, children of the late Arturo Cantu, one of his sisters said. (Supplied photo)

‘They didn’t have to kill my brother’ – sister of slain Bridgeview man

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch Arturo Cantu should be celebrating two big events this weekend. He would have celebrated his 40th birthday on June 14. And, a sister said, he would have enjoyed Father’s Day on Sunday, spending time with family and his two young children. Instead, 10 family members and friends gathered in a…