Contributors Drive $500,000 Through Loophole in Illinois Campaign Finance Law

CHICAGO, May 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A newly created loophole in state regulations allowed more than 500 large campaign contributors to escape public disclosure before the recent municipal elections, according to a research report issued Thursday by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR).

Because of the loophole, nearly $500,000 in contributions to 190 candidate and party committees was hidden from public view until after the February and April elections according to the report, "Piece by Piece, Check by Check."

"Before the General Assembly weakened this portion of the disclosure law last year, candidates would have been required to tell the public about all of those contributors and many others before voters went to polling places," said Cynthia Canary, Director of ICPR.  "The General Assembly should close this loophole and stop candidates and contributors from making a mockery of the state's campaign finance disclosure system."

"The problem simply is the absence of aggregation in counting contributions," Canary said.  "By requiring early disclosure of large contributions in the days leading up to an election, the law recognizes it is important for voters to know the big money donors to candidates.  But the loophole requires early reporting only of single donations of $1,000 or more, and hides smaller amounts that – aggregated – hit or exceed that $1,000 level."

In the most egregious examples, donors gave multiple checks on the same day that were individually below the $1,000 threshold but would have been disclosed if the money came in a single check.  At least one candidate has acknowledged advising his contributors on ways to avoid immediate disclosure.

In previous municipal elections, committees were required to disclose the identities of donors who had given $500 or more in contributions in the 30-day period prior to an election. The $500 amount included the aggregation of smaller amounts from the same contributor.  Once the $500 level was reached through one or multiple contributions, the recipient had two business days to disclose the contribution to the public in reports to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The loophole was created by regulators interpreting revisions in the 2009 legislation that included contribution limits, which took effect Jan. 1, 2011.

To read the complete report click here: http://ilcampaign.org/contributors-drive-through-loophold, or visit ICPR's website (www.ILcampaign.org).

Contact:  David Morrison
312-335-1767

SOURCE Illinois Campaign for Political Reform



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