State Fines Rich Township Democratic Organization $20,000

Rich Township Democratic Organization endorsement mailer
The endorsement piece from the Rich Township Democratic Organization. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The Rich Township Democratic Organization has been fined $20,000 by the Illinois State Board of Elections because the organization has not filed a quarterly report with the State Board of Elections since October 16, 2017. The organization has ignored all attempts to contact them regarding the missed reports, according to Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

eNews Park Forest reached out to Mr. Dietrich because of the mailer sent to Park Forest residents during the last week of the 2019 campaign by the Rich Township Democratic Organization. The mailer endorsed Trustee Jonathan Vanderbilt for Mayor of Park Forest, and also endorsed the three Village Trustee candidates and two Library Trustee candidates in Park Forest who were running unopposed. Someone, either the Rich Township Democratic Organization [RTDO] or Mayor-elect Jonathan Vanderbilt must report this mailer.

According to Mr. Dietrich, the onus for reporting the mailer appears to be on the Rich Township Democratic Organization.

“It sounds like this was an independent expenditure done by the Rich Township Dem Committee and it sounds like it should have been reported by that committee as an independent expenditure,” Mr. Dietrich told eNews Park Forest. “Now, the problem is, the Rich Township Democratic Committee has not filed any reports with us since October 16th of 2017.”

So, they have skipped their quarterly report ever since then, so, they right now have $20,000 in fines that are pending and it will go up because they just missed another one, so, they will get another assessment which– given what has gone on– the way that a missed quarterly report or late quarterly reports, it’s a fine day by day but a maximum of $5,000, so, that is how they have accumulated $20,000 so far,” Mr. Dietrich said.

The normal procedure would be for the Illinois State Board of Elections to contact the committee and remind the committee of the rules for reporting independent expenditures.

“In this case, it does not look like there is much chance that we would get any response because they have ignored all of our attempts to contact them about all of these other missed reports,” Mr. Dietrich said. “So, probably what we would end up doing, in this case, might be to go to Jonathon Vanderbilt and ask that either he report it as an in-kind contribution or to give us a statement saying this was an independent expenditure. Then we would post that letter on his committee’s reporting page. This is one of those things where, really, the notice should go to the committee because this does sound like it was an independent expenditure.

“In that case, it should be reported by the committee doing the expenditure as such. Now, I do not know how much this was if it was over $1,000 it would have had to have been reported either within five days or within two days if the spending took place within 30 days of an election,” Mr. Dietrich said.

This mailer from the Rich Township Democratic Organization likely exceeded $1,000, as an in-kind contribution mailing for candidate Mae Brandon was reported to the state as having cost $1,250.00. This mailer, from “Robin for Leadership,” was reported in Ms. Brandon’s D-2 quarterly report for Friends of Mae Brandon, filed April 15, 2019. “Robin for Leadership” is a political action committee which supports the “Candidacy of Robin Kelly for 2nd State Central Committee Woman,” according to IllinoisSunshine.org and its reports with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Back to the mailer from the Rich Township Democratic Organization, “It sounds like this should have been reported as an independent expenditure, so, normally what we would do is we would go to the committee that made the independent expenditure and inform them that this needs to be reported,” Mr. Dietrich said. “In this case, it looks to us like that would be futile because they have never responded to any of our attempts to get in touch with them about all of their late reports. So, in this case, probably what we would do is go to the candidate and request that either he report it as an in-kind contribution or if it was something that was done without coordinating with him, then have him explain it was an independent expenditure that this committee did on its own and without any planning help from me.”

If it cost over $1,000, which it likely did, according to the cost of a similar mailer sent on behalf of Trustee Mae Brandon, then the mailer from the RTDO should have been reported somewhere, either the candidate reports it as an in-kind contribution from the Rich Township Organization or Rich Township reports it as an expenditure that they did on behalf of Jonathon Vanderbilt and these other candidates.

“Somewhere, this should have been reported, so, the most likely result of our conversation here is that someone from our staff will contact the Vanderbilt committee, probably the treasurer, and request that either you report this as in-kind or you explain that this was something that was done as an independent expenditure by the Rich Township Organization,” Mr. Dietrich said.

Any message to the Rich Township Democratic Organization? “The board of elections would sort of like to hear from you and they have been unsuccessful in trying to reach you about these $20,000 in fines that you owe,” Mr. Dietrich said.

Mr. Dietrich said it is imperative that the RTDO respond to the state, “They need to do that because at some point if they do not respond, which is what is happening now, we can shut down the committee. But it sounds like clearly, they are active.”

The Rich Township Democratic Organization is scheduled to meet next on May 8, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. at the Red Star Cocktail Lounge, 5093 Sauk Trail, Richton Park, according to an email invitation eNews Park Forest received on April 23, 2019.

The organization appears to have an active Facebook page. An attempt on Thursday, April 25, 2019, to reach the RTDO through that Facebook page for comment on the mailer and the $20,000 fine received no reply.

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