Bathon campaign expenditures don't portray former treasurer as power broker

By The Madison County Record | May 15, 2014

U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton exaggerated the importance of former Madison County treasurer Fred Bathon as a source of campaign cash at Bathon’s sentencing, state election records show.

Wigginton said Bathon conducted criminal tax sales to raise money and build his power by giving it to other candidates, but Bathon received nearly as much as he gave.

From 1991 to 2008, Citizens for Fred Bathon transferred $93,888 in from other campaign committees and transferred $118,535 out.

That leaves a net transfer to others of $24,647, or $1,369 per year, representing a drop in the bucket of Madison County Democratic fund raising.

In Bathon’s last run for treasurer, in 2006, the county central Democratic committee transferred $30,000 to him.

The records don’t match the picture Wigginton painted for U.S. District Chief Judge David Herndon on Dec. 6.

“People don’t normally contribute to a treasurer’s campaign,” Wigginton said. “He knew he could gather influence and wield power if he transferred the contributions to candidates or to the central committee.”

Herndon asked him if he could infer that Bathon didn’t keep the contributions.

Wigginton said, “He didn’t pocket them but he did in fact use the money to support other candidates, to consolidate his power.”

From 2005 to 2009, Bathon rigged annual auctions of property tax liens so campaign contributors could charge delinquent property owners 18 percent interest.
Wigginton charged him with violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act last year.
Bathon waived indictment and immediately pleaded guilty.

He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Civil litigation over the tax sales continues.

RLI Insurance, holder of Bathon’s bond, moved to dismiss a class action complaint of victims on May 12.

RLI attorney Ralph Kooy of Chicago wrote, “Madison County government is the only named obligee and nothing in the statutes requiring Madison County to procure the bond specifically permits members of the general public to bring a claim against the bond.”

Also on May 12, defendant John Scott of Champaign objected to the county’s claim of immunity from the suit.

His lawyer, Mark McLean of Town and Country, Mo., wrote that the county and its officials are necessary parties.

He wrote that Scott objected to the illegal tax sales, “only to be reprimanded and scolded by those in charge of the auction.”

“Although they objected and voiced their concerns regarding Madison County’s method of conducting the sales, neither Scott nor other tax buyers had the power to change or control the sales,” McLean wrote.

“The officials had all the power to do so, but abrogated their power and their responsibilities.”

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