Illinois elections board gives state leader’s campaign a pass for $225K spent on cars

Illinois elections board gives state leader’s campaign a pass for $225K spent on cars

A former state lawmaker’s campaign committee was not aware it couldn’t spend $225,109 on personal vehicles, according to Illinois State Board of Elections members. That lawmaker now oversees public spending for the state.

In a 7-0 vote Nov. 16, the Illinois State Board of Elections dismissed a campaign spending complaint against Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino’s old Illinois House campaign committee.

Back in May, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Mautino’s campaign committee did violate Illinois campaign finance law by spending $225,109 from 1999 until 2015 on gas and repairs to vehicles the committee didn’t own or lease. The expenses were at a service station near Mautino’s home. Mautino was a state representative for 24 years before becoming auditor general in 2016.

The campaign also cashed nearly $160,000 in checks with few receipts and previously faced a $5,000 fine related to campaign spending. His committee was dissolved after Mautino left the House.

With Tuesday’s vote, ISBE decided Mautino’s committee didn’t knowingly violate campaign finance law. The case was initiated by Streator resident David Cooke. His attorney, Jeff Schwab of the Liberty Justice Center, contended the violation was clear.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not anybody on the committee knew what the law was,” Schwab told ISBE. “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.”

Election code at the time permitted the use of campaign funds for reimbursement based on mileage, not for repairs and filling up personal vehicles as Mautino’s campaign did.

The case prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign a new election measure into law. Since June, Illinois has allowed political funds to be spent for “vehicles not purchased or leased by a political committee” but only for campaign or governmental duties.

Illinois Auditor General Mautino’s function is overseeing how public funds are used. His term ends in 2026.

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