CHICAGO – An Illinois citizen who is taking action against the state’s auditor general in what he alleges is a violation of campaign disclosure laws has gained support from the Liberty Justice Center.
The group is providing representation for David Cooke of Streator in a fight against Auditor General Frank Mautino for his time as a state representative over alleged misappropriation of funds.
Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at Liberty Justice Center, told the Record that it is helping Cooke because someone "had to."
"The Illinois State Board of Elections told Cooke that, if he wants to pursue his charges against Frank Mautino, he has to prosecute the case himself," Huebert said. "Cooke isn't a lawyer, so we are stepping in to help him.”
More specifically, the Liberty Justice Center is supporting Cooke to expose Illinois residents to truths about campaign spending.
“It's important that somebody pursues this case because Illinoisans should know if their auditor general -- the state official charged with making sure the state's money is spent legally -- has been spending his own campaign funds illegally,” Huebert said.
According to Cooke, Mautino violated the Illinois Campaign Disclosure Act by making alleged payments that totaled more than $200,000 to Happy’s Super Service over a 10-year period through his campaign committee. Cooke alleges these payments could in no way be for fuel and vehicle repairs. Cooke also alleges that thousands of dollars were misspent by Mautino to Spring Valley City Bank for inexplicable expenditures that the committee made directly.
“Illinois law restricts how candidates spend their campaign funds,” Huebert said. “So far, Frank Mautino hasn't been able to show that the hundreds of thousands of dollars he spent at Happy's Super Service Station and Spring Valley City Bank were for legitimate campaign expenses -- and it's hard to see how they could have been. The State Board of Elections has ordered Mautino to provide records explaining what this money paid for, and he has refused to comply. We plan to conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether and how Frank Mautino has violated the law.”
Cooke has filed a complaint, which Mautino asked to be dismissed. His request was denied by state election officials, who then ordered Mautino to produce a detailed breakdown of his spending at both businesses in question.
The order was to be followed by July 1. An extension was given to July 25 and, to date, the records allegedly have not been offered by Mautino.
The Liberty Justice Center has requested documents and information from Mautino’s campaign committee and subpoenaed Mautino, his former campaign treasurers, and both Happy’s Super Service and Spring Valley City Bank.
Cooke’s involvement in the case is that of a citizen activist. He alleges he saw suspicious activities by Mautino and acted upon it.
“Cooke is a concerned citizen who saw reports of this suspicious campaign spending by Frank Mautino and thought somebody ought to do something about it,” Huebert said. “We're grateful for people like him who are willing to speak out and take action to hold government officials accountable.”
Further, Mautino has requested a stay with the state election investigation while he is under federal investigation. His attorney intends to appeal the board’s denial of a stay to the Illinois Appellate Court.