Attorney: Yednock campaign received "laundered" Madigan money
Described as "the one that got away," Democrats are trying to retake the 76th House District that had been in their hands for at least 40 years until Republican state Rep. Jerry Lee Long (R-Streator) snatched it away two years ago.
And a key to Democrat challenger Lance Yednock's success in the right-leaning district that includes Ottawa, Streator and LaSalle Peru, is maintaining distance from House Speaker Michael Madigan.
That may be why Peru attorney as well as Long supporter, Julie Ajster, filed a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections - to shed light on what she claims is a connection between Yednock and Madigan - a name that can be toxic to base voters.
In her complaint filed Wednesday, Ajster alleges that the Friends of Michael J. Madigan Committee has secretly "laundered" $55,400 from a Chicago area politician's campaign committee into Yednock's campaign committee.
Campaign finance records show that Madigan's committee contributed that amount on Feb. 22 to Friends of Marty Durkan. Durkan is campaigning for a seat at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Then on Aug. 29, Durkan's committee transferred $55,400 to Friends of Lance Yednock.
Ajster contends that Durkan's committee has made contributions to other politicians in amounts between $250 and $500, but the $55,400 contribution ("the exact same amount Friends of Marty Durkan received from Friends of Michael J. Madigan") is 110 times more than Durkan contributed to any other candidate.
That's fine if you want to take Madigan's money," Ajster said. "Just be honest about it."
Whether the race is winnable for Long, who in 2016 defeated Madigan-supported Andy Skoog by 798 votes, remains to be seen as he goes it alone without support from the House Republican Organization and the Illinois Republican Party amid harassment allegations raised by an HRO staffer.
Long has denied allegations, saying "Because of the nature of this high pace/high pressure nature of this campaign, I can be demanding. This is not a sexual harassment of any kind, but merely a difference of opinion on the lack of support by the Republican Party that goes back several months."
Ajster represents Long.
"Madigan would do just about anything to get (the seat) back," Ajster said. Skoog's defeat, and four other seats that turned Republican in 2016, cost Madigan his veto-proof majority, and that really "sticks in Madigan's craw," she said.
Signs that the Democrat-held district was vulnerable to turnover emerged in 2014 when Long, a third generation union worker and a 30-year member of the Teamsters, narrowly lost to Frank Mautino.
After escaping defeat by 337 votes that year, Mautino found refuge in an appointed seat. Instead of having to face re-election to a 13th term, Mautino was picked to serve a 10-year term as Illinois Auditor General in October 2017. , But just about ever since he was seated in January 2016, Mautino has faced questions over suspicious expenses while he was state rep - questions which later materialized into state and federal investigations,
Authorities are looking at expenditures of $225,000 between 1999 to 2015 at a single service station in the 76th district: Happy’s Super Service in his hometown of Spring Valley. The bills are for gas and repairs of vehicles owned by him, his family members and various associates. His campaign committee also allegedly wrote checks in the name of Spring Valley City Bank, which would be cashed from his committee’s checking account at the bank, and purportedly spent on campaign expenditures.
Ajster's complaint with the State Board of Elections claims the alleged transfer of funds from Madigan to Durkan to Yednock violates state law that stipulates "No person shall make an anonymous contribution or a contribution in the name of another person, and no person shall knowingly accept any anonymous contribution or contribution made by one person in the name of another person."