With less than three weeks to go before the election, Republican Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon sharpened his attack on Democratic incumbent State Rep. Jay Hoffman of Collinsville by accusing him of engaging in unethical fundraising.
Kay said Hoffman should give back $440,000 in campaign donations he's received from contractors who do more than $50,000 in annual business with the state.
According to Kay, what's "even worse" is that 125 state contractors identified as Hoffman contributors "are major IDOT and state tollway contractors." He called that a "major conflict of interest" because Hoffman chairs the House Transportation Committee.
"I don't care if you call it pay-to-play or pay-to-pave politics, it's just wrong," Kay said in a press release.
Hoffman, who has been flooding the airwaves with commercials touting his accomplishments, was contacted at his campaign office for comment. He had not returned a phone call by press time.
Kay said Hoffman has taken money from 174 large state contractors who have earned $7.2 billion in state contracts in the past five fiscal years.
Cindi Canary, executive director for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, is a frequent critic of unrestricted campaign spending.
She said the contractor donations in Hoffman's case are not an "anomaly" in Illinois politics where spending is "wide open."
"This is what happens...in a completely unregulated system," she said. "I don't think it's a good thing."
But, Canary said, Hoffman can legitimately say there's nothing wrong with the contributions by asserting, "I am playing by the rules."
Kay said that "in an ironic twist," Hoffman would not be able to take the contractor donations under an ethics proposal he recently introduced in the House.
He said that a study of Hoffman's campaign finance records shows that his campaign has received donations from the same contractors Hoffman has proposed to ban from giving to state legislative campaigns.
The largest contributor/contractor to Hoffman's campaign, according to Kay, is road contractor Keeley & Sons Inc. of East St. Louis, having contributed $11,050 to Citizens to Elect Jay Hoffman in five years.
Keeley & Sons has received $97,140,388 in state contracts in that period, according to Kay's analysis.
The list of contributors/contractors developed by Kay also itemizes donations to Friends of Blagojevich, the campaign committee for the governor.