Cooke v. Illinois State Board of Elections

BREAKING: Appellate Court orders Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino back to Elections Board for hearing on alleged illegal campaign payments

Media contact: Diana Rickert 773-809-4403

SPRINGFIELD (May 22, 2018) – Today a state appellate court ruled that the Illinois Board of Elections must revisit allegations that Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino’s campaign committee made hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal payments while he was a state representative.

In a ruling issued this afternoon, the 4th District Appellate Court in Springfield sent the matter back to the Board of Elections. The court ordered the Board to rule on whether payments made by Mautino’s campaign committee exceeding $225,000 to Happy’s Super Service Station in Spring Valley, Ill. were legitimate payments for fuel and vehicle repairs. The court also ordered the Board to rule on whether nearly $200,000 in “expenditures” Mautino’s campaign committee reported making to Spring Valley City Bank were illegal.

The Appellate Court’s ruling is available here.

“Our client alleges that Mautino’s campaign committee spent campaign money illegally over a period of 16 years while he was a state representative, and it’s crucial that we reach a resolution on this matter. The job of the Illinois auditor general is to ensure the state spends taxpayer money properly, and taxpayers need to know whether Auditor General Mautino broke the law before taking statewide office,” said Jeffrey Schwab, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “Illinois has a long history of public corruption, and that’s why this case matters so much. No elected official is above the law – and if there was wrongdoing, Auditor General Mautino must be held accountable.”

BACKGROUND: This case is Cooke v. Illinois State Board of Elections. It began in February 2016 after David Cooke, a Streator resident, filed a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections alleging that the Committee for Frank J. Mautino violated the Illinois Election Code. Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center have provided free legal representation to Cooke in this case since September 2016.

In his complaint to the state elections board, Cooke alleged that Mautino violated state elections code in two ways:

1) Mautino’s campaign committee made more than $225,000 in payments to Happy’s Super Service Station in Spring Valley, Ill. between 1999 and 2015. These payments were for gas and repairs of vehicles privately owned by Mautino’s family and friends. Direct payments for gas and repairs of privately owned vehicles by campaign committees are illegal under Illinois law. Individuals who use privately owned vehicles for campaign purposes may only be reimbursed based on actual mileage.

2) Mautino’s campaign committee reported that it also made nearly $200,000 in “expenditures” to Spring Valley City Bank, but the committee’s former treasurer has admitted these actually were cash withdrawals from the committee’s checking account that were spent elsewhere. The campaign committee never reported which vendors or individuals actually received the money.

Frank Mautino was appointed Auditor General of Illinois by the Illinois legislature in January 2016. Prior to taking statewide office, Mautino served as a state representative from Spring Valley, Ill. for 24 years.

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The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest litigation center that fights to protect economic liberty, private property rights, free speech, and other fundamental rights in Illinois and beyond. First and foremost, the Liberty Justice Center seeks to ensure that the rights to earn a living and to start a business, which are essential to a free and prosperous society, are available not just to a politically privileged few, but to all. The Liberty Justice Center pursues its goals through strategic, precedent-setting litigation to revitalize constitutional restraints on government power and protections for individual rights.