Donation to East St. Louis mayoral candidate exceeds amount allowed by campaign finance law

A candidate for East St. Louis mayor has apparently collected more money than is allowed by a single donor, in violation of campaign finance law, the Illinois State Board of Elections said.

Robert Eastern III, who did not immediately comment, has received two $10,000 contributions from the Fairview Heights law firm of Rich, Rich and Cooksey P.C. One contribution was received Feb. 27, with the second contribution reported March 1, according to records posted on the state board of elections website.

State campaign finance rules limit corporations to contributing $11,600 to a candidate’s political committee per election cycle.

“Those contributions appear to be campaign limit violations,” said Matt Dietrich, public information officer for the state election board.

Principles for the law firm did not return several calls seeking comment.

Dietrich said the board plans to contact Eastern’s campaign committee of the apparent violation. The committee then has 30 days to address the issue by either “returning the overage or showing it was a data entry (error).”

“Depending on the outcome of that process, we then could assess the committee a fine,” Dietrich said.

He added the state board of elections typically fines a committee 150 percent of the errant contribution, but the fine could be reduced to 10 percent of the assessment for a first time violation.

Eastern, who is currently an East St. Louis City Council member, also serves as chairman and treasurer of his campaign, state records say.

The race for East St. Louis mayor, in a city of about 26,000, according to the Census Bureau, also features the incumbent mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks, former mayor Carl Officer and Darnell Thompson.

Money draws attention to the campaign

The race has received a lot of monetary attention for Jackson-Hicks and Eastern.

Eastern has brought in more than $41,755 during this quarter, after ending last quarter with $225 in his account.

Among the contributions, Eastern also has received an additional $10,000 contribution from the Belleville law firm of Lloyd Cueto.

During the last quarter of 2018, Jackson-Hicks raised $21,640 for her campaign, and had more than $17,000 in her campaign account at the end of the reporting period.

During the first quarter of 2019, Jackson-Hicks so far has reported $9,500 in contributions, according to state board of elections records.

Jackson-Hicks herself has received a large contribution. In December of last year, state records show Jackson-Hicks received a $10,000 from Progressive Treatment Solutions, a medical marijuana company.

“I haven’t taken the time to review what’s going on with my opponents, just because I’ve been so busy knocking on doors. I don’t know who’s connected to who,” Jackson-Hicks said.

“I’m running a very lean campaign with my finances as well as my team,” Jackson-Hicks added.

Neither Officer nor Thompson have reported any contributions to their campaigns to the state board of elections.

Thompson in an interview said he spent $375 of his own money to pay for fliers to send out to voters. Officer said he is not seeking nor accepting contributions and would not comment on how much money he has spent on his own campaign.

By comparison, Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert’s campaign spent $32,440 between January and March 31, 2017, in his successful April 2017 re-election bid. From September 2016 through December 2016, his campaign spent nearly $8,800. From April 2017 through June 2017, his campaign spent nearly $7,400, state records show. Belleville has about 41,000 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.