Liberty Justice Center to represent man who lodged campaign finance complaint against Mautino
The Liberty Justice Center has agreed to represent David Cooke, the Streator resident who initiated the state's investigation of Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino.
Cooke, a former Streator High School board member, filed the original complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) regarding Mautino's questionable use of campaign funds.
Among the allegations of questionable expenditures against Mautino and his campaign committee are payments of more than $200,000 to Happy's Super Service in Spring Valley during his tenure as a state representative. While the payments were spread over a 10-year period, an average of $1,667 per month for fuel and vehicle repairs seemed excessive. In addition to the service station payments, the campaign committee also made payments of $250,000 to Spring Valley City Bank since 1999. Cooke's complaint alleges that the campaign committee violated the Illinois Campaign Disclosure Act.
In addition, several former campaign staffers have reportedly been subpoenaed for a grand jury and Mautino himself has admitted to an investigation into his campaign by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Mautino represented District 76 in the Illinois House from 1991 to 2015, before he was tapped for the Illinois Auditor General post. Mautino was approved by votes of 55-0 in the Senate and 102-10 in the House.
Media reports regarding irregularities in Mautino's campaign expenditures led Cooke to question state officials about the payments to the service station and bank. Cooke filed the ISBE complaint after he was told that the state would not investigate the issue until a formal complaint was made.
Mautino's lawyers tried to have the state's case dismissed. The ISBE denied the request. Mautino was ordered to produce detailed records regarding the payments made to the service station and bank by July 1. Mautino and his attorneys did not produce the records, even after the board gave them a three-week extension to July 25. The elections board also denied a motion requesting a stay on its investigation until the federal investigation is completed.
Republican legislators sought to question Mautino regarding the state and federal probes, and requested that he take a leave of absence while the investigations were ongoing. Mautino did not respond to their requests.
State Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) and 14 co-sponsors introduced a resolution in the House to remove Mautino from office on July 13. Lawmakers continue to press House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) to bring a house joint resolution that would remove Mautino — HJR0158 — to the floor when the Assembly reconvenes in November.
After Mautino's failure to present the amended records to the board in July, the next step would normally be a public hearing. The board held a status hearing in August, but did not schedule a public hearing at that time. Mautino's attorney filed a motion to stay and another motion to dismiss the proceedings, which were denied.
Attorneys from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Liberty Justice Center stepped up for Cooke when he was told that he had to act as a prosecutor for the case to proceed. They volunteered to represent Cooke on a pro bono, or "for the public good," basis.
“It is disturbing that the auditor general – the state official charged with ensuring that the state spends tax dollars legally – appears to have spent his own campaign funds illegally,” Liberty Justice Center senior attorney Jacob Huebert said. “We will conduct a thorough investigation to make sure that Frank Mautino is held accountable.”
Cooke and his attorneys recently appeared before an ISBE hearing officer. They filed requests for documents from the now-defunct campaign committee. They also filed subpoenas for Mautino, the campaign committee's treasurers, Happy's Super Service and Spring Valley City Bank.
The case could be delayed for months, however, as Mautino's attorney plans to appeal the board's denial of a stay to a higher court.