Illinois Board of Elections dismisses campaign finance complaint against auditor general – Bloomington Pantagraph

The Illinois State Board of Elections voted 7-0 on Tuesday to dismiss the final portion of long-litigated complaints against the state’s auditor general, deciding Frank Mautino and his former legislative committee did not knowingly violate Illinois’ campaign finance disclosure law.

The board’s action during a special meeting was the result of a May ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, which found Mautino’s campaign committee violated campaign finance law by spending more than $227,000 over 15 years on gas and repairs at a local service station for vehicles that were not owned or leased by the committee.

Mautino was a Democratic lawmaker from Spring Valley for more than 24 years before he was appointed auditor general — the state’s top financial watchdog — for a 10-year term on Jan. 1, 2016. After his appointment, he dissolved his campaign committee.

The state’s highest court told the state elections’ board to decide if Mautino’s campaign committee knowingly violated the law — a point rejected by board members following a nearly hourlong hearing.

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The legislation makes electric vehicle producers and suppliers eligible for what’s essentially an enhanced version of the state’s EDGE tax credit based on the amount of investment and jobs created.

Attorney Jeffrey Schwab of the right-leaning Liberty Justice Center, representing David Cooke of Streator, who brought the original complaints, said the fact that Mautino’s committee broke the law was clear.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not anybody on the committee knew what the law was,” Schwab told the elections board. “The question is whether they knew their actions, what they were doing when they did their actions, and those actions are the actions that violated the law.”

But attorney Anthony Jacob, representing Mautino’s defunct committee, said the committee’s reporting of gas and repair expenses in finance reports was transparent to the public.

“There has to be connection between the conscious act and in the fact that there’s a violation,” Jacob said. “There was no knowing violation. We shouldn’t be conflating what the Supreme Court had decided with respect to reimbursements with respect to this narrow issue of a knowing violation.”

Cooke, appearing on the virtual Zoom hearing had his mic open and said, “Oh, what a joke,” as board members voted to reject his complaint.

The board previously fined Mautino’s committee $5,000 for failing to file amended campaign disclosure reports, but the dissolved committee has no assets. A finding Mautino and his committee knowingly violated election law also could have led to fines, but again there would be no way to collect them.

In June, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law an election measure that responds to the state Supreme Court’s ruling by allowing the use of political funds for “vehicles not purchased or leased by a political committee” as long as the primary purpose of the expenditure is for campaign or governmental duties.

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