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updated: 6/28/2012 1:22 PM

Tea Party questions audit of VA under Duckworth

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  • Tammy Duckworth, left, opposes Joe Walsh in the 8th Congressional District race.

      Tammy Duckworth, left, opposes Joe Walsh in the 8th Congressional District race.

 
By Kerry Lester
Politics and Projects Writer
klester@dailyherald.com

A suburban Tea Party group is pointing to a 2008 report citing compliance issues in the state Department of Veterans' Affairs under the leadership of Democrat Tammy Duckworth, now a candidate for Congress in the 8th District.

Her opponent, Republican Congressman Joe Walsh of McHenry, said the report circulated by the Arlington Heights Tea Party shows "repeated lack of regard for taxpayer dollars."

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Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran and former Obama administration member from Hoffman Estates, "is proud of the work that she did at the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs," her campaign said, "including the first state tax credit for hiring veterans in Illinois, creating a 24-hour crisis hotline for veterans, and establishing the GI Loan for Heroes program the distributed over $30 million in home loans in Illinois."

The compliance evaluation covered June 2006 through June 2008. Duckworth served as executive director for a year and a half of that time. The report cited $976 in travel vouchers paid to a vendor in excess of state travel allowances. Several other travel vouchers totaling $2,216 did not specifically state the purpose of travel. Plane tickets in the amount of $956 were reimbursed without proper documentation. The auditor general's office also questioned, in the report, weekend gas purchases for which it "could not determine if vehicles were used for personal purposes, other than commuting."

In addition, the report said a fiscal year 2007 report was not completed on time, and the agency failed to conduct annual reviews of benefits received by Illinois veterans.

It noted the department failed to establish a task force to study the possible health effects of exposure of hazardous materials or to submit a report to the General Assembly.

Jim Dahlquist, spokesman for the auditor general's office, said such findings are typical in audits. He would not characterize them further, saying "we do not compare one agency's findings to another's since the nature and implications of each finding may be unique."

Just as Duckworth has branded Walsh as an extremist who is better known for sparring with television hosts than offering concrete solutions, Walsh's campaign has described Duckworth as a bureaucrat unconcerned with government waste.

"Whether it's official misuse of her own vehicle for campaign events to expanding her own travel budget to mismanagement of several veterans programs, Tammy Duckworth has shown a repeated lack of regard for taxpayer dollars during her tenure at the VA," said Justin Roth, spokesman for the McHenry Tea Partyer.

This is not the first time Duckworth's Veterans' Affairs post has been the subject of political controversy. In fall 2008, Duckworth drove to a Wheeling event for 10th District Congressional hopeful Democrat Dan Seals in a state-owned car, violating a law banning use of state property for political purposes. She later apologized for the mistake and reimbursed the state for use of the vehicle.

The 8th Congressional District, roughly centered in Schaumburg and stretching from Addison to Elgin, includes portions of Cook, DuPage and Kane counties.

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