Today, State Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) announced her intention to file legislation forbidding lawmakers from dipping into their campaign donations to pay legal fees they accumulate due to unethical behavior.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the latest filing with the State Board of Elections shows that House Speaker Michael Madigan spent more than $445,000 in legal fees. This figure includes a $275,000 settlement with Alaina Hampton, a former campaign worker who sued over sexual harassment.
In addition, WTTW examined campaign disclosures and found that a number of public officials in the midst of a federal probe spent significant campaign funds on legal fees during the last fiscal quarter; including $90,000 from disgraced former State Senator Martin Sandoval, $25,000 from State Senator Tom Cullerton, $200,000 from McCook Mayor and Democratic Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski, $40,000 from Chicago Alderman Carrie Austin, and $400,000 from Chicago Alderman Ed Burke.
“People donate to candidates’ campaigns to defend we the people’s rights, not to help politicians save their own necks when they abuse power,” Rep. Mazzochi said. “Letting this continue sends the wrong message: that literally, corrupt and unethical public officials don’t have to pay for their misdeeds. Spending campaign donations to bail yourself out of your personal mess is abuse, if not outright fraud.”
Rep. Mazzochi’s legislation will prohibit a political committee from making certain expenditures to provide a defense in any criminal case or a defense in a civil case pertaining to misconduct by a person in his or her capacity as a public official, sexual harassment claims, or discrimination claims. Anyone found in violation of the law will be required to return the contributions or pay them to the state if a contributor cannot be identified or reimbursed.
Rep. Mazzochi continued, “after I was elected, and having seen how some of these people operate, I’ve spent months getting this draft in place. These recent news reports confirm we need this legislation now.”
Rep. Mazzochi intends to file the legislation next week and gather support from other legislators when spring session begins later this month.