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updated: 11/25/2010 7:41 PM

State Board of Elections says COD group violated campaign rules

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State officials say a group that lobbied for a $168 million referendum at College of DuPage violated election rules by failing to identify itself as the source of campaign signs.

The Illinois State Board of Elections ruled this week against Supporters of College of DuPage, a political committee headed by former college trustees and funded in part by companies that sought contracts with the college.

Mark Stern, a referendum critic who filed the complaint against the group, said he hopes the board's decision will awaken voters to "pay-to-play politics" on the local level.

"One of the reasons we have our current corruption problem in Illinois is lack of disclosure and people not paying attention," he said. "This committee got their money from contractors of the college, and I think that's very important for people to think about. One reason the referendum succeeded was because more than half a million dollars was spent."

An attorney for Supporters of College of DuPage declined to comment.

Voters granted the $168 million tax extension for campus improvements after an election season that saw the referendum group generating tens of thousands of dollars from companies with ties to the college. According to campaign finance disclosures, the committee approved spending $250,000 on voter education and advertising.

Among the notable donations was $10,000 from the J. Legat Family Partnership following the college's hiring of Legat Architects to design its Homeland Security Education Center. Another $5,000 came from Gilbane Building Co., which oversaw completion of the college's Health and Science Center.

The state board's decision Tuesday has no bearing on official election results. But each committee member could be fined up to $5,000 for any future violations, officials said.