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Monday, March 14, 2016 04:28 pm

McCann to face public hearing on mileage allegation

State senator faces primary challenger backed by governor

mccann
Sen. Sam McCann
Sen. Sam McCann will face a public hearing on at least one campaign disclosure allegation, a state board voted today.

The board's vote comes one day before McCann faces a primary challenger backed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Illinois State Board of Elections earlier this year received a complaint from Kirk Million of Jacksonville regarding the Republican McCann’s campaign records. Million alleged McCann reimbursed himself from his campaign fund for too many miles traveled and failed to provide proper documentation for other reimbursements, called “grouped expenditures.”

McCann, first elected to the Illinois Statehouse in 2010, represents a large district covering part of Springfield and much of western Illinois.

At a hearing in Springfield today, the State Officers Electoral Board, an arm of the State Board of Elections which handles such complaints, voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the mileage issue. The board also voted to allow McCann’s campaign to submit more specific documentation on the grouped expenditures in question by 5 p.m. today. If McCann doesn’t comply, that issue, too, will go to a public hearing.

McCann could not be immediately reached for comment.

Deliberations on both issues were done in executive session, meaning the press and the public were not allowed to be present until the board was ready to vote on the record. Three of the electoral board members were present in Chicago, and the remaining five attended via videoconferencing.

Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said it’s unclear when the public hearing on the complaint against McCann will be held.

The vote comes as McCann prepares to face challenger Bryce Benton of Springfield in the primary election on March 15. The race is widely seen as a confrontation between McCann and Gov. Bruce Rauner. McCann was the only Republican who voted for a union contract arbitration bill that the governor opposes, and Rauner promised to back a primary opponent for any Republican legislator who didn’t fall in line on several such bills. If Rauner succeeds in unseating McCann, it will signal the governor’s power to keep other Republican legislators in line. A McCann win in the primary would be seen as a message from voters rebuffing the governor’s Turnaround Agenda.

McCann has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from labor groups which supported him after he voted for the arbitration bill and picked up a primary challenger.

Rauner has endorsed Benton, and on March 8, Rauner's campaign fund gave $50,000 to Benton’s campaign. Rauner's Turnaround Illinois political action committee also gave more than $2.3 million to the Liberty Principles political action committee run by conservative radio host and past gubernatorial candidate Dan Proft. Liberty Principles PAC is actually a “super PAC” because its nonprofit status allows it to accept and spend unlimited money overtly supporting or opposing candidates. Proft’s PAC has spent more than $3 million to promote Benton and slam McCann through multiple television advertisements.

Any such ads run by super PACs must be done without any coordination between the PAC and a candidate’s campaign. In a pair of cases unrelated to the complaint against McCann, the electoral board voted today that an allegation against Liberty Principles PAC of coordinating with a candidate was filed on justified grounds, but the complaint will not go to a public hearing. During the closed session, Liberty Principles PAC conceded that it had not properly attributed information the PAC ran in one of its ads.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

Correction: This article previously stated that Rauner had not contributed directly to Benton's campaign. The article has been amended to reflect a $50,000 donation from Rauner's campaign fund to Benton's campaign fund on March 8.

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