Vanderbilt is Mayor-Elect by a Nose. How Did He Finance His Campaign?

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Cook and Will Counties certified the April 2, 2019, Consolidated Election Tuesday and Trustee Jonathan Vanderbilt edged Trustee Mae Brandon to become Park Forest’s mayor-elect. How did the Mayor-elect finance his campaign?

According to his first quarterly report filed electronically with the state of Illinois on April 15, 2019, Mayor-elect Vanderbilt relied on three sources: the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters PAC, a local Park Forest business, and a full third of his campaign funds came from MORePAC-Main Street PAC of RPAC IL which represents Illinois Realtors. The Village of Park Forest is currently engaged in a dispute with the Illinois Realtors over change-of-occupancy inspections. The Realtors do not want the Village to be involved at all in these inspections, according to Village Manager Tom Mick.

According to records filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections, Mayor-elect Vanderbilt, received no donation at all from individual citizens of Park Forest after he filed his Statement of Organization form D-1, declaring his election committee with the state of Illinois, on March 18, 2019. His D-2 report, the first quarterly report of Citizens to Elect Jonathan Vanderbilt, the report that shows such donations for the period of 3-15-2019 to 3-31-2019 was filed electronically with the state on April 15, 2019, and shows only three sources of income for his mayoral campaign during this period.

Candidates are not required to itemize contributions they receive before raising or spending $5,000, or before they file their Statement of Organization form D-1. Once they raise or spend $5,000, they must file their Statement of Organization form D-1. Candidates may choose to file their Statement of Organization form D-1 before raising or spending $5,000. This seems to be the case with both the Mayor-elect and Trustee Mae Brandon.

This, however, is key: once candidates file their Statement of Organization form D-1 before raising or spending $5,000, they must report every penny fundraised or spent.

According to Mr. Matt Dietrich, Public Information Officer for the Illinois State Board of Elections, candidates must declare their election committees once they have received or spent $5,000 on their campaigns. “It has to be either your spending or your fundraising, one of those has to be more than $5000. So, it’s not in the aggregate. If you raise $3200 and then spend $2000 you’re still not required to form a committee until one of those reaches $5000.”

Mr. Vanderbilt reported receiving $0.00 in “Not-Itemized” contributions. This would be where a total of individual contributions of any amount made by individual citizens should have been reported in sum. By leaving this blank, Mr. Vanderbilt states that he received not one penny in individual contributions after he declared his committee except for the one itemized contribution of $500 from Protext Car Care, Inc.

Currently, in an informal, voluntary poll on eNews Park Forest’s Facebook page, five people said they donated to Mr. Vanderbilt’s campaign; two said they donated to Trustee Brandon’s campaign. In Mr. Vanderbilt’s case, if these individual contributors donated before he declared his committee, he was not required to disclose the amount they donated. If, however, anyone contributed after he filed his Statement of Organization form D-1 on March 18, no matter the amount, he was required to report the amount donated.

Like Illinois finances or not, the campaign disclosure laws are very clear and very transparent, “A political committee does not have any filing obligations until it exceeds $5,000 unless it voluntarily files a D-1 prior to reaching the $5,000 threshold. The requirements to disclose contributors and committee expenses take effect once the committee has accepted contributions or made expenditures in excess of $5,000. The contribution or expenditure that places the committee over the threshold is the first item reported.”

However, if a candidate has not reached the $5,000 threshold but still declares her or his committee, from that point forward, once the committee has been declared, she or he must report to the state every penny received. Only contributions of $1,000 or more must be itemized.

“The most important of those is the required quarterly reports,” Mr. Dietrich told eNews Park Forest. “If you get any contribution of more than $1000 those have to be reported immediately, within five business days or within two business days if you are within 30 days of an election. If you form a committee, you don’t start reporting until you either form a committee, from that day forward you’re reporting but if you wait until you reach the $5000 threshold and then you form your committee you only have to report from the point that you went over $5000.”

Mayor-elect Vanderbilt filed his D-1 with the Illinois State Board of Elections on March 18, 2019. According to his D-1 filing, his committee was created on March 15, 2019, he had $2,500 in funds available as of the creation date.

Trustee Brandon’s D-1 was filed on February 7, 2019, reported a creation date of February 2, 2019, and had $3,080.93 in funds available as of the creation date.

Once these candidates filed their respective D-1 forms, they were then obligated to report any and all contributions, itemized or not, made to their respective campaigns after the D-1 was filed.

According to records filed by the candidate, Mr. Vanderbilt reports receiving $2,500.00 from the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters PAC, 12 E. Erie St., Chicago, IL, 60611-2796, on March 15, 2019, the date he reported on his D-1 filing that his committee was created.

Mr. Vanderbilt reported receiving one “Itemized” contribution of $500.00 from Protext Car Care, Inc., 10 Norwood Blvd., Park Forest, IL 60466, on March 29, 2019. Lifetime Automotive/Muffler & Brake has been in business at that address for a long time.

Finally, Mr. Vanderbilt reported receiving $1,500.00 from MORePAC-Main Street PAC of RPAC IL, 6655 S. Main St., Downers Grove, IL 60516, on March 18. This PAC represents Illinois Realtors, according to IllinoisSunshine.org. Mr. Vanderbilt’s Schedule A-1 disclosure form refers to this organization as “Main Street Organization of Realtors P.A.C.” with no address listed.

Again, Mr. Vanderbilt reported receiving $0.00 in “Not-Itemized” contributions, or contributions made from individual donors during this period.

As eNews Park Forest already reported, the local Realtors are involved in a dispute with the Village of Park Forest over questions of home inspections. Essentially, the Realtors do not want the Village of Park Forest involved in any home inspections. For years, the Village has done change-of-occupancy inspections. The Realtors sent a large postcard in late 2018 to every resident of Park Forest “encouraging them to contact village leaders and demand changes to the mandatory inspection process.”

Not one resident contacted Village leaders, according to Mayor John Ostenburg.

Illinois Realtors "Park Forest Reform" postcard
One side of the “Park Forest Reform” postcard sent to Park Forest residents in the latter half of 2018. No one contacted Village officials after receiving this postcard. (Photo: Illinois Realtors)

In an earlier interview with eNews Park Forest, Mr. Vanderbilt asserted, “There is no financial dispute, the attorneys are not involved in any kind of litigations, so, there is no real dispute.” He argued that retiring Mayor John Ostenburg also received money from the same Realtor P.A.C., “From the same realtors organization that our current mayor, John Ostenberg, has also received funds from, yes.”

It is true that Mayor Ostenburg received money in 2015 from the Realtors, however, there are major differences in the two circumstances.

According to Mayor Ostenburg (via text), “I received 300 from the Realtors AFTER the 2015 election, at a time when we were NOT in dispute with the Realtors, which was only 2 percent of the amount I raised in the campaign; Trustee Vanderbilt received 1,500 from the Realtors, DURING his campaign and while the Village IS in dispute with the Realtors, and that constitutes 33 percent of what he reported as receiving in donations for his campaign.”

Mayor Ostenburg’s account of his donation from the MORePAC is accurate, according to records filed with the state. Mayor Ostenburg reported $300 from More PAC, 6655 Main Street, Downers Grove, IL 60516, received on April 18, 2015. The Consolidated Election in 2015 was held April 7, 2015. Mr. Ostenburg received the donation from the Realtors 11 days after the 2015 election, which he won in a landslide.

Mr. Vanderbilt’s razor-thin margin of victory is a slim 22 votes, 1,163 to 1,141 votes for Trustee Mae Brandon, less than 1% of votes cast.

For her part, Ms. Brandon reports receiving $1,000.00 in itemized individual contributions. She also reports $1,100.00 in “Not-itemized” individual contributions. These would be contributions by individual citizens. Ms. Brandon also reported receiving $1,193.32 in “Itemized” contributions under the category “Transfers In.”

Mr. Vanderbilt reported itemized expenditures of $2,341.71 and “Not-Itemized” expenditures of $902.22, for a total of $3,243.93 in expenditures. At the end of the reporting period listed, Mr. Vanderbilt reported $1,256.07 funds available.

Ms. Brandon reported itemized expenditures of $3,880.00 and $0.00 in “Not-Itemized” expenditures. At the end of the reporting period listed, Ms. Brandon reported $2,494.25 funds available.