Kellogg Flakes, Public Should Be Frosted
Lawrence Weiner, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, says he donated $250 to Harvey Mayor Eric J. Kellogg's campaign fund when Kellogg hosted a golf-oriented political fundraiser in September.
But that money ended up somewhere in the rough, so to speak.
Weiner says his check was promptly cashed by "Citizens to Elect Eric J. Kellogg."
But Kellogg's campaign fund failed to disclose the donation – and possibly dozens of others – to state election regulators as required by Illinois law, the Better Government Association has learned.
Kellogg's committee also failed to disclose how such donations are being spent – another legal requirement.
So far similar lapses over the past three years have landed his political committee $5,000 in fines from the state agency that regulates campaign activities: The Illinois State Board of Elections.
But underscoring the agency's lackluster enforcement, that money hasn't been collected, and Kellogg's fund-raising continues unabated.
|Harvey Mayor Eric J. Kellogg / Facebook|
The chairman of the elections board, Jesse Smart, now concedes: "We've probably given him too much leeway. But we will take action."
Smart says he plans to refer the matter to the Cook County state's attorney's office to review whether this situation warrants criminal prosecution.
Kellogg would not talk to a reporter. But through a spokesman, he said he has "never been involved in the reporting or accounting" of the fund's finances – a curious claim given that Kellogg is the sole beneficiary of the campaign fund and is listed on paperwork as the chairman. A Kellogg niece is campaign treasurer.
State law requires political funds to submit quarterly reports to the state elections board. Those reports are supposed to reveal the names of all donors who have given $150 or more over the preceding three months and honestly portray how contributions are being spent – whether for campaign signs, political consultants, cell phones for candidates or something else. Those filings are then posted online, for anyone with Internet access to see.
The aim is transparency – so the public knows who's giving what to whom, and whether political figures are using campaign money for legitimate expenses. In Illinois, campaign money is supposed to be used for political purposes only.
But the recent conviction of now-former Cook County Commissioner Bill Beavers shows that's not always the case. Beavers was sentenced to six months in prison for failing to pay taxes on tens of thousands of dollars that he siphoned from his campaign fund to cover gambling debts and other personal expenses.
While prosecutors have the ability to go after these abuses, the state elections board has more bark than bite.
Hiccups In Harvey (Click here to read more)
South suburb has had its share of problems under mayor's watch.
For Harvey Mayor Eric J. Kellogg, it's been a challenging year – aside from problems with his campaign fund flouting state election law.
His south suburb owes the City of Chicago more than $15 million in unpaid water bills and recently had to borrow money to pay a private waste hauler that picks up residents' trash.
Last April, Harvey settled a lawsuit by agreeing to pay $1.4 million to a man who alleged that Harvey police falsely arrested him because Kellogg and a detective believed he had stolen their cocaine. The city has denied the allegations.
Kellogg, 57, retired this summer as superintendent of Harvey Public School District 152, a job he held in addition to mayor.
Records show he receives an annual pension of $113,000 through the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System. As mayor, he is paid $58,000 a year and stands to collect a second pension through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
The agency fined Kellogg's fund $5,000 last year for not filing mandatory disclosure reports in 2010 and 2011.
Additional fines could follow, but the elections board has until now not used other weapons in its arsenal: Asking a judge to issue an order compelling Kellogg to pay the fine and file the mandatory reports, or asking prosecutors to investigate.
Sharon Steward, director of campaign disclosure for the board of elections, says her agency rarely goes that route, in part because of a lack of manpower. But she notes that if Kellogg doesn't pay fines by 2015, when he's up for re-election, his name can't appear on the ballot.
"The hammer we have is ballet forfeiture," Steward says.
Kellogg hosted two fundraisers at Glenwoodie Golf Club in south suburban Glenwood in recent years. One was held Sept. 6 of this year – which Weiner contributed toward but did not attend – and another was held in July 2010.
Kellogg's campaign fund did not file the required paperwork on either event, records show.
Kellogg relayed through a spokesman that, in regards to the golf fundraisers at Glenwoodie, "there may have been a communication error in the reporting of these two events."
His committee last filed a disclosure statement on Oct. 18, 2010, records show. At the time there was $29,422 in the bank.
Since then, Kellogg's campaign fund has accepted donations – even aside from Weiner. Another lawyer, Clifford Kosoff, told the BGA his Northbrook firm donated an unspecified amount to Kellogg for the September 2013 fundraiser.
And the fund hasn't just been taking money, it's spending.
According to records obtained from the Village of Glenwood, which runs Glenwoodie, Kellogg's campaign committee paid the golf course $3,124 for green fees, golf carts and meals for the 2010 event. Records show 56 people golfed and 60 sat for a dinner of ribs, barbecue chicken and corn on the cob.
At the most recent fundraiser, the committee paid Glenwoodie $3,779, a cost that included green fees and carts for 55 golfers, and a dinner buffet of "applewood smoked chicken" and "Texas style beef brisket," records show.
Those in attendance paid $155 for golf and dinner. At the "platinum" level, $5,000 brought golf for four and dinner for eight, according to a copy of an invitation.
A list of donors isn't available. The BGA was able to identify some contributors by cold calling people listed on Kellogg disclosure reports from 2010 or before and asking them if they were still donating.
Weiner, whose firm has been hired by Harvey for municipal legal work, says he was unaware Kellogg's committee had not been filing mandatory disclosure reports.
Had Weiner known, "I would not have made the contribution," he says.
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association's Andrew Schroedter, who can be reached at (312) 821-9035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.