Friday, January 08, 2010

Happy Holidays, from your political committee

Fox Chicago ran a story last night about a Cook County Commissioner who mailed 10,000 holiday cards from her campaign fund. Since ICPR was quoted in the story, we want to clarify a few things.

Illinois law does require political committees to include notice on things that the committee paid for. This legal requirement affects committees that issue things like "a pamphlet, circular, handbill, … or other communication directed at voters and mentioning the name of a candidate in the next upcoming election…" There is no exemption for holiday cards, birthday cards, or any other type of communication, and in our view, these holiday cards would be covered. This county commissioner filed petitions of candidacy last fall and is on the February ballot; these holiday cards were mailed right in middle of the window when her candidacy is active, and so we think notice should have been included on the cards. The full text of the law is here (scroll down to Section 9-9.5).

That said, paying for holiday cards with campaign funds and forgetting the disclosure is not the most egregious thing we've ever seen. We're not the State Board of Elections (hear the sigh of relief from candidates everywhere) but it would not surprise us if this did not result in a monetary fine. Nor, necessarily, do we think it should. Our goal is to improve the culture of Illinois politics; if fines are required to do that, so be it, but we hope candidates will recognize their legal and ethical obligations even if falling short of them doesn't hit them in the wallet. Candidates who slip up should acknowledge the opportunity to do better, and should strive to do better next time.

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