Friday, December 13, 2013

Lake County Election Board Dismisses Complaint Against McDermott

The Lake County Election Board yesterday dismissed a complaint Republican activist Eric Krieg filed against Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, Jr. As I pointed out in a previous post, there is nothing in Indiana's campaign finance law that prohibits candidates from using campaign funds to pay family members for campaign-related work. Krieg's complaint challenged $334,000 in payments McDermott's campaign made to his wife to prepare his campaign finance reports. The payments, by any standard, were quite excessive. He probably could have found a CPA who would have prepared the reports for a fraction of the charge.

The election board also dismissed two other complaints Krieg included in his complaint. Krieg had questioned $6,000 McDermott's campaign had paid to David Woerpel to drive him to political events. A third complaint questioned the rent McDermott's campaign paid for office space. The campaign paid Pyramid Development $1,000 to rent office space in a building valued at between $500,000 and $1,000,000 and upon which annual property taxes of $23,000 are paid. Krieg believed that McDermott's campaign was receiving an unreported, in-kind contribution from the building's owner because the rent was too low. The Republican election board member, attorney William Fine, voted against dismissal of that complaint, which he believed had merit. "Mayor McDermott raises a lot of money,” Fine said. “I’m concerned there’s a lot of smoke there and may be fire. If we dismiss, that smoke will hang over this board for a long time."

McDermott shouldn't get too comfortable that he's in the clear. Krieg's questioning of his former political opponent's use of his county office for political purposes hit pay dirt after the FBI launched an investigation. Although Krieg lost his race to Lake County Surveyor George Van Til in the 2012 election, the FBI investigation culminated in criminal charges against him, which ended when Van Til recently agreed to plead guilty to charges of using government employees in his office to perform political work. Van Til also resigned from his office. He awaits sentencing by a federal judge.

McDermott should also be mindful of the fate of two prominent Illinois politicians just across the state line. Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandra Jackson, pleaded guilty earlier this year to federal charges of using their respective campaign funds for personal use. Both were forced to resign from office. Rep. Jackson was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and ordered to repay $750,000 as restitution. His wife was ordered to serve 200 hours of community service and pay restitution of $22,000.

UPDATE: Somebody's reading:

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How can the Obama administration be at all impressed with Hogsett's lack of prosecution of the Ballard and Barnes bunch?

Are Ballard and Barnes wired in all the way back to D.C.?