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updated: 11/22/2011 9:08 AM

Illinois treasurer defends 'coincidence' of taxpayer-funded brochure going to donors

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  • In mid-September, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford's office said that sending a glossy, taxpayer-funded summary of "successes" to a select number of Illinois residents -- who also were major campaign donors -- was "merely a coincidence." But a Daily Herald investigation has connected 181 more brochure recipients to Rutherford donations, bringing the total to 723 donors among the 850 recipients of the mailing.

      In mid-September, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford's office said that sending a glossy, taxpayer-funded summary of "successes" to a select number of Illinois residents -- who also were major campaign donors -- was "merely a coincidence." But a Daily Herald investigation has connected 181 more brochure recipients to Rutherford donations, bringing the total to 723 donors among the 850 recipients of the mailing.
    Associated Press

 
 

In mid-September, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford's office said that sending a glossy, taxpayer-funded summary of "successes" to a select number of Illinois residents -- who also were major campaign donors -- was "merely a coincidence."


But a Daily Herald investigation has connected 181 more brochure recipients to Rutherford donations, bringing the total to 723 donors among the 850 recipients of the mailing.

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While 566 people who received the mailer individually contributed a total of $1.6 million to the Pontiac Republican's war chest over the last two decades, another 181 people who got the brochure were high-ranking officers in companies that contributed $891,825 to his campaigns.

A Daily Herald check of campaign forms shows, in the weeks following the mailing, Rutherford collected $15,966 in donations from mailer recipients in both groups.

Rutherford, at a "Cash Dash" event in Carpentersville on Thursday, said he stands by earlier statements that the mailer was sent to business people throughout the state.

"If it were a donor list," he said, the number of mailer recipients "wouldn't be that small. Our donor list is 26,000."

Yet, at the very least, watchdogs say, the situation blurs lines between state work and campaigning, which can't be done with taxpayers' dollars.

"One of the details of the (corruption) trial of former Gov. George Ryan was having state employees work on the campaign while billing the state for the work," Illinois Campaign for Political Reform Associate Director David Morrison said. "What Rutherford did isn't comparable to Ryan. It's just the idea that public work and campaign work are separate. You don't cross that line and combine the two."

The multi-page full-color booklet titled "No More Debt" was mailed June 1.

"Paid for by the state of Illinois," it reads on the back, and "850 copies."

According to the treasurer's office, the mailing cost 21.4 cents to print per piece. Envelopes and postage cost another $1.48 per piece.

"It wasn't costing the state a whole lot of money, but it is the principle of the thing," Morrison said. "It's not something that's available to all candidates."

Costs of state mailings are often lower than publications made by outside printing agencies, because state employees' payroll costs and overhead are already built in.

An outside estimate for the printing costs for the same size and style of publication came in at $1.24 per piece, nearly six times higher, from Addison-based Solid Impressions.

The mailing did not solicit donations, but highlighted what it said were successes of the treasurer's first six months in office, citing newspaper editorials warning other constitutional officers to heed the Pontiac Republican's calls to freeze state spending and end borrowing.

"As the state treasurer, I am here to sound the alarm," the brochure says, calling for responsible budgeting and for spending only as much as the state brings in.

The Daily Herald obtained the list of recipients via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The brochure went to Greg Baise, president of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, whose political action committee has contributed $25,000 to Rutherford over the course of his political career. It also went to Don Edwards, senior vice president for Federal Governmental Affairs at the Illinois Credit Union, whose PAC has contributed $36,000 to Rutherford. And to Joyce Nardulli, vice president of government relations for the Illinois Bankers Association, whose PAC has contributed $42,800 to Rutherford.

Other names on the list include delegates for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- Rutherford serves as the state GOP chairman for the presidential hopeful's campaign -- and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman.

"This list of business leaders has been compiled over more than 18 years of Dan's service in the legislature and it continues to be updated," spokesman Matt Butterfield said when the Daily Herald originally reported about the brochure earlier this fall. "Any percentage that leans Republican or happen to be donors to any government official is merely a coincidence."

Rutherford said Thursday the publication, which is posted online, has "printed a lot more books since" the original mailing.

"If it were a self-promotion piece it'd be a lot different," he said.

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