WASHINGTON – The National Republican Congressional Committee
(NRCC) wants District 12 congressional candidate C.J. Baricevic to give back
more than $37,000 in campaign contributions that were allegedly made as part of
an illegal “straw man” scheme.
A complaint was filed in June with the Federal Election
Commission (FEC) by campaign watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and
Civic Trust, alleging that employees from the Belleville law office of Tom Keefe
Jr., including several employees from the clerical staff at the firm, made
$37,600 in contributions to Baricevic’s campaign in one day.
“When clerical staff from the same law firm are giving
thousands of dollars on the same day, voters are right to wonder exactly what
is going on,” NRCC spokesman Zach Hunter told the Record.
The complaint said the firm’s partners allegedly reimbursed
six of the employees for their contributions.
Previous reports also alleged that Baricevic’s campaign
received significant donations from lawyers who practice in the jurisdiction of
St. Clair County Circuit Judge John Baricevic, who is C.J. Baricevic’s father.
“The facts as we know them raise significant questions about
the legality of many donations to Baricevic’s campaign,” Hunter said.
In perhaps the most famous such scheme uncovered in recent
years, political figure D’nesh D’souza was indicted and pleaded guilty in 2014 to
making “straw man” donations. D'Souza was known for releasing a documentary
entitled “2016: Obama’s America,” which was based on his 2010 book “The Roots
of Obama’s Rage.”
In January 2014, D'souza was indicted on charges of making
illegal political contributions to a 2012 Senate campaign, which is a felony. He
pleaded guilty on May 20, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York to using “straw donors” to make illegal political campaign
donations. D’Souza was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house, five years'
probation and a $30,000 fine.
“Baricevic needs to be transparent with voters about who is
giving to his campaign and return the tens of thousands of dollars of questionable
donations,” Hunter said.
As part of the complaint filed against Baricevic, foundation
Executive Director Matthew Whitaker said contributions cannot be legally made
in the name of someone who is not actually funding the contribution.
The foundation’s complaint asks the FEC to penalize Keefe,
Thomas Keefe III and Samantha Unsell for their roles in the allegedly questionable
contributions, and to penalize Baricevic and campaign treasurer Ann Barnum.
The Keefe employees that were reimbursed for their
contributions were identified in the complaint as secretaries Debra Eastridge,
Ashley Meuren and Madonna Schutzenhofer, legal assistants Jill Harres and Lisa
Wierciak, and receptionist Jan Harding. Whitaker said similar administrative
positions in Illinois pay an average of $31,000 per year. Each of the six
employees allegedly contributed the maximum $2,700 allowable to Baricevic’s
In all, Whitaker said Baricevic’s congressional campaign has
collected more than $246,000 in contributions from members of the legal
community, most of which had cases heard by Judge Baricevic.
C.J. Baricevic, a Democrat from Belleville, is challenging freshman Republican Mike Bost of Carbondale in the November election.