WBEZ | Illinois Campaign for Political Reform http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-campaign-political-reform Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en With old campaign cash, Daley picks charity over politics http://www.wbez.org/news/old-campaign-cash-daley-picks-charity-over-politics-106829 <p><p>Longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is emptying his old campaign war chest to do something that doesn&rsquo;t happen too often in the notorious world of Illinois political money: He&rsquo;s giving more than $500,000 to charity.</p><p>A spokeswoman for Daley, who served as mayor for 22 years before retiring in 2011, said he&rsquo;s already started donating $540,000 to several Chicago area charities.</p><p>The donations range from $150,000 to After School Matters, a charity started by Chicago&rsquo;s late first lady, Maggie Daley, to $20,000 to Sweet Beginnings LLC, a non-profit that teaches ex-cons about beekeeping, said Daley spokeswoman Jacquelyn Heard.</p><p>Just before Daley left office in May of 2011, he had $556,070 left in his campaign account, according to state records. The money he isn&rsquo;t giving to charity went to employees who ran the fund, Heard said.</p><p>Politicians routinely give to charity from campaign accounts, but it&rsquo;s usually for more modest ends, such as softball uniforms or pancake breakfasts, or when they want to retire and draw down their war chests, said Kent Redfield, a University of Illinois political scientist who studies Illinois campaign finance.</p><p>But Daley&rsquo;s donations are different.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a huge amount,&rdquo; Redfield said. &ldquo;And there are not a lot of people that have funds that are that large, and then to give it, uh, all to charity is - is unusual.&rdquo;</p><p>Legally, Daley had several less charitable ways he could have blown his donations.</p><p>Even in retirement, he could have used the cash for its original purpose: to win elections. Daley has a nephew who sits on a Chicago-area wastewater treatment board, and his brother, William Daley, is publicly flirting with a run for governor. But Daley likely doesn&rsquo;t want to play kingmaker from retirement, said David Morrison, with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.</p><p>&ldquo;In some ways he was perhaps gun shy over his father&rsquo;s reputation of being &lsquo;The Boss,&rsquo;&rdquo; referring to former Mayor Richard J. Daley&rsquo;s decades-long rule over Chicago&rsquo;s Democratic political machine.</p><p>According to state campaign finance law, Daley could have returned the money to donors or pocketed it for himself, provided he pay income taxes.<br />So why give it to charity?</p><p>&ldquo;Why not?&rdquo; Heard said. &ldquo;He obviously has done well since leaving office. And the mayor&rsquo;s a charitable guy.&rdquo;</p><p>Since leaving City Hall, Daley has joined the Chicago law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman, LLP where he is of counsel. He also sits on the board of Coca-Cola and has his hands in other civic and business ventures.</p></p> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 16:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/old-campaign-cash-daley-picks-charity-over-politics-106829 Praise and frustration after Illinois Dems release legislative maps http://www.wbez.org/story/praise-and-frustration-after-illinois-dems-release-legislative-maps-86881 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-22/photo 1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democrats are defending the new boundaries they've proposed for state legislative districts.&nbsp;Two hearings on the maps were held over the weekend in Chicago.</p><p>Democrats hold the governor's office and both chambers of the legislature, putting them in control of the mapmaking. The lines are redrawn every ten years using new Census data.</p><p>House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, acknowledges the boundaries were drawn in ways that could help her party.</p><p>"While we believe this plan is politically fair, we don't deny that partisan concerns from time to time played a role," Currrie said at a Sunday hearing of the House Redistricting Committee, which she chairs.</p><p>State Rep. Mike Fortner of West Chicago, the top Republican on the committee, asked Currie for evidence that the map is, as she described it, "competitive" and "fair."</p><p>"Is there a general principal that you used or a particular standard in the data that you used?" Fortner asked.</p><p>"I don't have a standard to enable me to answer that question specifically," Currie replied. "But just looking at the map and looking at how the populations have shifted, and how the districts have shifted, my own sense is that it is a politically competitive map."</p><p>Meanwhile, some minority groups are split over whether to support the proposed boundaries. Martin Torres with the Latino Policy Forum told the committee that the Democratic map does not do enough to reflect his community's population growth.</p><p>"Our analysis indicates that Latino residents have been short-changed by the current proposal," Torres said.</p><p>Another Latino group is pleased with the plan.&nbsp;Juan Rangel heads UNO, the United Neighborhood Organization. He said the map strikes a balance among minority groups.</p><p>"It may be possible to draw even more Latino districts," Rangel testified. "However, we believe that that would come at the expense of African-American districts."</p><p>The state House committee, and its Senate counterpart, held more than two dozen public hearings around the state in recent weeks. After the draft maps were released late last week, three other hearings were scheduled - two this weekend in Chicago and a third on Tuesday, in Springfield.</p><p>Some people testifying on Sunday asked that a final vote on the maps be delayed. They noted that the proposed boundaries for U.S. House districts had not yet been made public. In a sharply worded statement to the committee, Whitney Woodward from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform called that "inexcusable."</p><p>"In the spirit of transparency that this committee has said it seeks to embrace, ICPR asks...this committee and the General Assembly to release a draft of those districts and summary language, and hold another set of regional public hearings at least a week after the posting of that information," Woodward said.</p><p>A delay that long is unlikely, though, as top Democrats want the maps approved before May 31st. After that, the proposal would need Republican votes in order to pass.</p></p> Sun, 22 May 2011 22:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/praise-and-frustration-after-illinois-dems-release-legislative-maps-86881 Mayor Daley's optional $1.1 million retirement fund http://www.wbez.org/story/mayor-daleys-optional-11-million-retirement-fund-86417 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-12/Daley.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has more than a million dollars in his campaign account. When he retires, he can take all of it with him for personal use. The mayor is not saying if he will, but it would be perfectly legal if he does. Many other Illinois politicians have exercised that right.</p><p>Daley last month reported more than $1.1 million in his campaign account. Under Illinois law, he can close it out whenever he wants, and take all that cash with him into retirement. But when I asked Daley last week if he plans to do that, he had no interest in answering.</p><p>"I don't know yet," Daley said.</p><p>The mayor may not know yet, but it's not like this possibility has crept up on him. In fact, prior to a 1998 state law, all politicians in Illinois could use their political accounts as personal ATMs.</p><p>"It was the Wild West before this ethical change in Illinois campaign spending," said state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican from Hinsdale. "One could convert their campaign fund for personal use if they...income tax [on it]."</p><p>Dillard sponsored the 1998 law along with then-state Sen. Barack Obama.</p><p>"We came along with a major, major piece of legislation. But one of the sticking points was the personal use exemption of campaign funds," Dillard said.</p><p>Dillard said he had hoped to ban all personal use of campaign cash. But some powerful members of the General Assembly, Dillard said, had no interest in giving up what they'd assumed would be a retirement account. So a compromise was needed - a loophole, if you will.</p><p>"When they passed this legislation, they grand-fathered all of the candidates in, so that the money that they had as of June 30th, [19]98, could be converted for personal use," explained Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections.</p><p>And that is why Mayor Daley is allowed to take that million-plus dollars.</p><p>"If he wants to, he can," Borgsmiller said.</p><p>And quite a few politicians have written themselves checks from their campaign accounts. They aren't too interested in talking about it, though, whether they took $10,000 like state representative-turned lobbyist Vince Persico, or close to $600,000, like former Rep. Ralph Capparelli.</p><p>Former state Sen. Walter Dudycz took more than $130,000. He refused to comment for this story because, he said, he's just trying to enjoy his retirement. Many other former politicians just didn't return my calls.</p><p>"I'm shocked. Frankly, I'm shocked," Cindi Canary said sacastically, after laughing.</p><p>Canary heads the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, an activist group that tries to track political spending. Canary noted that it is hard to get a good idea of the total amount withdrawn by politicians for personal use, because there's no uniform way they are required to report such expenses to the state election board.</p><p>A search on the board's website does find more than $2 million in personal draws, but there's no question the real total is much higher than that.</p><p>Some politicians - current and retired - keep their political accounts open, and use them to pay for cell phone bills, airplane tickets and dinner meetings. Canary said the somewhat blurry distinction between political and personal expenses actually came up during the 1998 General Assembly debate over these rules.</p><p>"One of the legislators said, 'Well, what if I buy a red, white and blue shirt to march in the Fourth of July parade, that would be for a political purpose,'" Canary recalled, paraphrasing an issue brought up by Persico on the House floor. "'But then I get home, and it's hot and I drink a beer but I forget to take off my red, white and blue shirt, then it's personal use.'"</p><p>For her part, Canary does not think politicians should take the money for personal use, whether they're entitled to or not.</p><p>"I believe that people have given candidates campaign contributions to further their political careers, their ideas, their philosophies, and not necessarily to buy a retirement condo," Canary said.</p><p>Mayor Daley probably does not need the $1.1 million from his campaign account to buy a retirement condo. He's earned a healthy salary over the years, and will soon start getting a pension of about $180,000 a year. Add to that the income he may collect for giving speeches, and Daley can likely afford to put his campaign cash to other uses.</p><p>"I could very well see the mayor dedicating money to a bike path," Canary said.</p><p>The mayor could also keep his campaign account open for as long as he wants, and continue to dole it out to candidates he supports: an easy way for a retired politician to make sure current politicians return his calls.</p></p> Thu, 12 May 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/mayor-daleys-optional-11-million-retirement-fund-86417 An election 'thank you,' stamped with an alderman's government letterhead http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-02-25/election-thank-you-stamped-aldermans-government-letterhead-83016 <p><p>Chicago Ald. Willie Cochran finished first in his bid for re-election on Tuesday, but his 46-percent was not enough to avoid a runoff. Nonetheless, the first-term alderman wanted to thank his constituents.<br /><br />&ldquo;I am grateful for this strong show of support,&rdquo; Cochran was quoted as saying in a press release sent out Friday afternoon. &ldquo;After years of neglect in only three short years working in partnership with residents, businesses and institutions in our ward, we have accomplished much.&quot;<br /><br />The message was titled &quot;20th Ward Alderman Cochran&rsquo;s Strong Support Spells Success in April.&quot; It was sent by Bryant Payne, from the public relations firm MK Communications, and read every bit like a campaign press release.<br /><br />But it wasn't. The press release bore the letterhead of Cochran's aldermanic office, and the listed contact was Barbara Holt, a city employee with a city email address. <br /><br />Plus, MK Communications only has a contract with Cochran's taxpayer-funded office, not his campaign. That's according to the firm's founder and president, veteran Chicago publicist Marilyn Katz. Katz said the company is paid about $5,000 a year to do work for Cochran's office. &quot;Very little work,&quot; Katz said. (This sort of contract, it should be noted, is not unusual among council members. Most do not employ full-time press secretaries.)<br /><br />The release touts Cochran's efforts to develop the ward, and closes with this line, attributed to Cochran: &quot;I look forward to the next six weeks to ensure that we can continue the strong alliance we have built to continue the progress and keep moving forward.&quot;<br /><br />The runoff election is in six weeks, against hip hop artist Che &quot;Rhymefest&quot; Smith. Katz, in a phone interview Friday afternoon, denied the press release was meant to be an election piece.</p><p>&quot;I thought it was an appropriate aldermanic thank you,&quot; she said, adding that it was sent not just to the media, but also to members of the community. &quot;I didn&rsquo;t see it as a campaign piece. If I did I&rsquo;d have put it on campaign letterhead.&quot;<br /><br />Though, Katz noted, she is not in possession of campaign letterhead for Cochran, because she is not working for his campaign. (She said she hopes to, though.)</p><p><strong>Where's the line?</strong><br /><br />&quot;My guess is that the argument would be that they were&hellip;straddling a constituent services-type message as opposed to using public resources for electoral purposes,&quot; said Cindi Canary, the head of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.</p><p>&quot;It&rsquo;s tricky with incumbents. [Cochran] is allowed to say 'thank you' to people,' Candary said. But &quot;is it really necessary to do this on city stationary or is that just telescoping: 'I am the incumbent'?&quot;</p><p>&quot;My guess is this steps over the line,&quot; Canary said. &quot;It&rsquo;s not a good practice, but it certainly is common practice in this city.&quot;<br /><br />That last point is key, and brings us to a observation made by both Canary and Katz: A lot of aldermen in Chicago routinely walk that fine line between political and government expenses.</p></p> Sat, 26 Feb 2011 00:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-02-25/election-thank-you-stamped-aldermans-government-letterhead-83016