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The lowdown on the Quinn and Hynes Senate debts

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Last night the Tribune posted to its website a story headlined “Years after Senate race loss, Quinn keeps interest alive -- by collecting interest on his loans." It pointed out that since his failed run for the U.S. Senate in 1996 (he lost in the primary to then-Congressman Dick Durbin), Quinn has loaned money to his federal campaign account, raised money for that account and then had the account pay him back -- with interest. Quinn told the Trib he believed he was following Federal Election Commission rules by adding the interest, and that he couldn’t just forgive the debts because of family obligations. The article makes no direct allegation that Quinn broke any FEC rules. It does point out, though, that he could have forgiven the debt, or at least not collected interest on it. In a late-night email, Comptroller Dan Hynes’ campaign spokesman Matt McGrath wrote to me, “You see this? Wow -- this looks like a scandal. The guy’s been lining his pockets for 14 years off a defunct Senate account? Bizarre. And not ethical." Governors Race Debate The story and the Hynes campaign’s response got us thinking about the comptroller’s own failed Senate run, in 2004. So we looked up his federal campaign account. Hynes terminated his account in early 2008. At that point, the campaign fund “Hynes for Senate" owed close to a quarter million dollars to creditors. It didn’t have that much. So campaign treasurer Jeffrey Wagner drafted a “Debt Settlement Plan." After exchanging a few letters with the FEC, the plan was approved, with the creditors getting a portion of what they were owed. Here are the final numbers:

Creditor Details Debt owed Amount to be paid
The Global Strategy Group polling services $42,390.85 $17,000.00
Winning Connections automated phone services $25,728.48 $10,000.00
Full House Signs printing services $1,450.00 $600.00
Daniel Hynes candidate loan $165,000.00 $0.00
Christina Hynes candidate’s wife loan $12,000.00 $0.00
TOTAL $246,569.33 $27,600.00

Note that neither Hynes nor his wife got back the money they were still owed by the campaign account. But the other creditors also lost money, getting only about 40-percent what they were owed (the forms show the creditors signed off on this plan). Here’s the answer given by the Hynes campaign when asked to detail “efforts made by the committee to pay the debt": “The committee made continuous attempts after the primary to retire this and other debts through common fundraising practices, such as fundraisers and mail solicitations. Committee is certain that it has exhausted any future ability to raise additional funds." That’s in reference to Hynes’ federal campaign account. We should note here that Hynes’ state campaign fund has obviously continued to prosper. Since January of 2008, when this debt settlement was approved, the state account has raised roughly $5-million in cash. Check out all our political coverage at The Election File.

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