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Thursday, July 29, 2010 04:01 pm

Who pays for Quinn’s campaign-by-governing?


I was looking through Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign finance reports the other day and saw that he went way out of his way to list even the tiniest in-kind contributions.

“In-kind” donations means that instead of giving cash, somebody contributed goods or services to a campaign.

Reading through the report I saw the $8.28 spent by a retired Chicago woman for food at Treasure Island. The $17.67 that a Springfield homemaker paid for Mel-O-Cream doughnuts. The $5.56 shelled out by a DuQuoin High School teacher for food at Kroger’s.

So, it’s quite remarkable that the governor will not admit that he ought to reimburse taxpayers for at least part of the state plane flight he took to southern Illinois the other day. Quinn flew down from Chicago to tour a facility with Southern Illinois University honchos. He also took a group of parents who had lost sons or daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan to a minor league baseball game.

But during the same trip, Quinn sat down with Williamson County Democratic officials to talk about his fundraising efforts, according to the Bloomington Pantagraph. He also dropped by the local Democratic Party headquarters to give a short speech.

Now, this won’t get him busted or anything. The FBI won’t be visiting Quinn’s home tomorrow to arrest him for something like that. Those southern Illinois campaign activities were a minor part of the governor’s trip.

The problem is that Quinn has labeled “ridiculous” a suggestion that he reimburse the state for part of that jaunt.

The truth of the matter is that if Quinn had taken a commercial flight and paid for it out of his own pocket, he probably would have to declare part of that flight as an in-kind contribution to his own campaign. The amount may have only been a few dollars, like those in-kind contributions listed above, but disclosed nonetheless.

And here’s the broader point. The governor has decided that governing will be his campaigning.

“After Labor Day you can talk about campaigns,” Quinn told reporters while he was on that southern Illinois trip. “I think what I want to do as governor is sign bills that will make Illinois a better state and also work on projects that build things for not only today but tomorrow and create jobs.”

And that’s exactly what he’s been doing. Last week, Quinn appeared on Fox News Chicago to sign a public safety bill live on the air.

He signed a bill last week in Chicago with Mayor Richard M. Daley at his side to increase penalties for anyone busted with a gun who didn’t have a state firearm owners ID card. That bill-signing was scheduled right after a uniformed, off-duty Chicago officer was murdered by robbers in broad daylight. The bill, HB 5832, passed on April 28 and has been sitting on his desk since May 27. Quinn was running out of time to sign the bill, and apparently had been looking for the best opportunity to do so.

Shortly after that bill-signing ceremony, Quinn’s campaign issued a press release blasting Bill Brady for his “extremist” positions on gun owner rights. “At such an important time, Bill Brady didn’t think that increasing penalties for illegal gun possession mattered. He failed to appear to vote on this bill,” the press release noted.

Quinn announced a big grant to renovate Galesburg’s Amtrak depot and build a new transit facility last week. The next day, his running mate, Sheila Simon, was in Galesburg to tout the campaign.

It’s legal to do this stuff. Good government is good politics, after all. But if he continues to insist, like he did the other day to my intern Barton Lorimor, that politics can wait while he governs, then he will have to accept the fact that the media will examine all of his alleged state actions to see if there’s a campaign angle. And he will also have to own up to his mistakes when that mixture becomes too overt not to notice.

The governor could’ve avoided all of this by just cutting a check from his campaign fund when he was first approached. He has more than $2 million in his account, so he can clearly afford it. The fact that he is so stubbornly resistant to admitting even a little mistake is quite troubling. It’s a small matter, but it’s very telling.

Reimburse the taxpayers and move on, governor.  

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.

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