Grasso returns improper campaign contributions

Republican attorney general candidate Gary Grasso has returned nearly $30,000 in campaign contributions that exceeded state limits for donors or improperly came from foreign entities.

But Grasso said he won't return an $11,000 contribution made by the PAL Group, a company owned by two brothers once convicted of defrauding the state.

Of the contributions Grasso did return, one was $25,000, above the $11,100 limit for corporations, and two others were made by an individual residing in the Cayman Islands and a company headquartered there.

Grasso, a DuPage County Board member and former Burr Ridge mayor and trustee, chalked it up as a mistake caused by his inexperience running a statewide campaign.

"I've never been in a statewide campaign before," he said. "When I found out, I sent the money back."

His opponent in the March 20 primary, Champaign attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold, said Grasso's decision to keep money from the PAL Group "speaks to a lack of judgment."

However, Grasso noted the PAL Group has contributed thousands of dollars over the years to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle. A PAL Group sister company with the same Hillside mailing address - Orange Crush LLC - donated $5,000 to Gov. Bruce Rauner's campaign in 2014. Both companies are run by Joseph and Sam Palumbo, who were imprisoned on a federal fraud conviction in 1999 and released a few years later. The men can no longer work on state or federal contracts.

Grasso attacked Harold's decision to accept maximum campaign contributions of $11,100 from utility giants Peoples Gas, Com Ed and Exelon. The attorney general's office oversees disputes between consumers and utility companies, Grasso noted.

The Illinois Board of Elections is expected to fine Grasso's campaign $6,250 as a penalty for late paperwork related to the returned funds, according to board spokesman Matt Dietrich.

However, Grasso's attorney Anthony Bass said he was under the impression that no fines were going to be levied since the money had been returned, and he said the campaign would appeal any fine.

Grasso has raised about $200,000 since October, including a $50,000 loan he gave himself. Harold's war chest is up to nearly $215,000 and includes several donations from the Illinois Republican Party.

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