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Lawmakers Gone Wild

Lawmakers in Illinois are living large on campaign money. A joint examination by Chicago magazine and the Better Government Association:

"Because it’s perfectly legal to use campaign funds to rent campaign offices, many Illinois politicians, like Welch, choose to locate the offices inside property that they (or a family member) already own. Consider Alderman Mell, 74, he of the Vegas getaway. Mell bought a single-story brick storefront on the Northwest Side for $210,000 in 1996, according to public records; he has owned it free and clear since 2004. From January 2008 to August 2012, he used campaign money to pay himself $231,000 in rent on the place and is currently collecting around $4,450 per month. Mell says that there is nothing illegal about it: “It’s convenient, and it’s in the ward.”

"Vehicles are another major area of questionable campaign spending. The Chicago/BGA analysis found that more than 100 lawmakers and candidates have used nearly $1.3 million in campaign funds to lease or buy cars, often high-end models, over the past five years. For example, Patrick O’Connor, the 40th Ward alderman and the mayor’s floor leader, paid $7,500 in campaign cash to McGrath Lexus in 2011 for a four-door sedan; he has since billed the campaign $1,100 every month in lease payments."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 17, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4622 words)