Republican Chris Lauzen made ethics reform one of the cornerstones of his campaign in defeating Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns during the Republican primary for Kane County Board chairman. But recently, Democrat Sue Klinkhamer has been making a public push to have voters identify her as the most ethical choice.
Lauzen and Klinkhamer squared off in their first debate last week. Audience members asked the pair about their own ethical standards.
Lauzen revived claims he made during the primary that a questionable amount of campaign contributions by people who have done business with the county has flowed into Chairman Karen McConnaughay's campaign coffers during her tenure.
"Too much money ($1.5 million) has been raised in that position in the last seven years," Lauzen said. "When you put the connection between the source that the money comes from, that has to be controlled. Corruption is any public official who works for their own interests ahead of the people who they serve. That can come in the form of ambition or money. It has been a problem in Kane County."
McConnaughay has repeatedly denied any pay-to-play scheme or ethical breech. Indeed, she has pointed to Lauzen's own fundraising as proof of a double standard.
Klinkhamer piggybacked on that sentiment in stating her ethical views during the recent debate. She said she is not taking campaign contributions in the race because she is tired of the influence of money in politics.
"The problem at the county is no one could actually define what ethics is," Klinkhamer said. "There's a big difference between illegal and unethical. Campaign contributions are ... a big ethical problem. You can say that it doesn't put in you a bad position. It does."
Klinkhamer said the county board should not be writing its own rules for ethical conduct. She said it's easy to claim pay-to-play has been going on in Kane County, but no one, including Lauzen, has ever put actions behind their claims.
"When it comes time to do something about it, no one ever went to (Kane County State's Attorney) Joe McMahon and said, 'I have this issue.'"
Lauzen is taking campaign contributions on his end of the race. He's self-imposed a policy of not taking any money from people doing business with the county. Most recent financial disclosures show a balance of about $200 in Klinkhamer's registered campaign fund. Lauzen has pulled in several big-dollar contributions including $5,000 from American International Radio Inc., $3,500 from Peter Orum of Midwest Groundcovers, and $2,500 from the Eby Brown Co. in Naperville. New campaign disclosure reports are due Oct. 15.