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County commissioners rebuke Stroger on tardy campaign filings

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

In a rebuke of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, commissioners are calling for harsher penalties to be imposed on politicians who don’t meet state deadlines for disclosing their campaigns’ donors and expenses.

The resolution, which called on the General Assembly to change campaign finance laws, was approved 9-2 on Wednesday, with three usual Stroger allies supporting the measure. Three other Stroger supporters voted present.

Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley, both Chicago Democrats, proposed the measure in response to a Tribune story about how Stroger’s campaign last month finally gave a detailed account of what he raised and spent since he first sought his current post in early 2006. The records showed he failed to report $733,000 in political donations by the deadlines set in state law.

So far, Stroger has paid $27,000 in campaign fines, and it’s possible he could pay more. Meanwhile, critics say that voters were denied timely information and suggest the fines under the current system might be an insufficient deterrent.

“The fact that there’s people who abuse the system who only get a slap on the wrist, minor fines, tells me that the system is ripe for reform,” Claypool said.

“The voters need to know before they go into the ballot booth who’s giving money to the politicians who they are voting for,” he added. “If they find that out after the fact, then it’s too late.”

But Commissioner Jerry “Iceman” Butler (D-Chicago), a Stroger ally who joined Commissioner William Beavers (D-Chicago) in opposing the measure, accused Claypool and Quigley, who is running for Congress, of using the issue for political purposes.

“I think the intent is good,” Butler said. “I just think the way they are using it is ridiculous.”

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