When former state Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, left office in January, he depleted his campaign fund before closing it in April.
Clayborne spent more than $5,000 on a retirement party, donated $10,000 to charity, and then paid himself $42,000 in the last quarter that his campaign committee was active, state records show.
And it’s all legal.
Clayborne, who could not be reached for comment, opted not to run for re-election in 2018.
When candidates and elected officials leave office they may or may not keep their candidate campaign bank accounts open. Former state Sens. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, and Kyle McCarter’s, R-Lebanon, have campaign accounts that are still active, according to the state Board of Elections. Former Democratic state Sen. Bill Haine, of Alton, transformed his account into a political action committee.
Between January and April of this year, when Clayborne closed down his campaign committee, the campaign committee paid out more than $60,000 in expenses, including $5,000 on a retirement party in January which included paying more than $1,100 to Megalux Photo Booth.
Included in the $60,000 in expenses was a $42,204 payment Clayborne made to himself for “personal monies due (to) Sen. Clayborne,” state records show.
Clayborne, who had been in office since 1995, was able to take that money, raised to help with campaign, for himself because it was how much money Clayborne had in his campaign fund as of June 30, 1998, state records show.
The next day, a law went into effect that said any money left in a campaign account when it was closed could not be taken by the candidate for personal use, said Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Now, money that is left over when a campaign account is closed must be donated to charities, returned to donors, transferred to other political campaigns, or used to pay off debt related to campaign spending or part of their government duties.
Campaign donors also wouldn’t be able to receive more money than they contributed to the campaign committee, according to state law.
Clayborne also donated $5,000 to the Krimson Achievement Youth Foundation and $5,000 to the Kerengende Foundation.
A phone call to Clayborne at his law firm was not returned.
‘I will give it all away’
Luechtefeld left office in January 2017 after deciding not to run for re-election after he was gerrymandered out of the district he represented. His campaign account at the end of March 2017 had nearly $53,000 in available money.
Since his term ended, he has contributed $15,000 to political campaigns and the Southern Illinois Employers Association, state records show. He also has made more than $2,500 in charitable contributions. His committee is still active, but hasn’t raised any money this year.
“I’m not doing any fundraising at all,” Luechtefeld said in a phone interview.
State records show, in June of 1998, he had $103,000 in his campaign account, the maximum he could have cash out for himself, if he wanted to.
He said even though he had the option to cash out the money in his campaign fund because his account was grandfathered in, he chose not to, saying he doesn’t believe it’s ethically OK.
“I will give it all away before I’m done,” the 78-year-old Luechtefeld said.
“The people who gave it to me didn’t give to me to spend on myself,” Luechtefeld said. “They gave it to me for my campaign, and I appreciate that. The reason for them giving to me was not for me to go on vacation or buy something.”
He said because it is legally OK for others to make that decision to cash out the money for themselves he does not mean to disparage those who make that choice.
“I’m not belittling those people who use it for their own purposes because it’s legal,” Luechtefeld said. ”Everyone has to make their own decision on that.”
Transforming to a PAC
Haine, who now serves on the state Board of Elections, has kept his committee active, despite leaving office when his term ended in January. He decided not to run for re-election in the 2018 election. He transformed his campaign committee to a political action committee, which can raise and spend money to give to candidates. PACs usually represent business, labor or ideological interests, according to OpenSecrets.org.
As of Sept. 30, Haine’s committee also has $225,000 in investments and certificates of deposit through the Bank of Edwardsville, according to the state board of elections.
Bill Haine said he wouldn’t fundraise for his political action committee, but last month his PAC cashed in $60,000 from investments he had with the Bank of Edwardsville, state records show.
Since January, Haine has spent more than $7,700 of campaign dollars to pay for a car lease, and $8,000 for consulting, state board of elections records show.
Haine’s campaign committee, previously known as the Friends of Bill Haine Committee, has been through a couple of name changes since his final term ended.
Its name became the Illinois Metro-East Improvement Committee in June with control transferred to his wife, Anna. In July, the committee became a political action committee called the William Haine Fund to Promote Progress of Citizens of the Metro-East, with control transferred back to Bill Haine.
“I still control the fund, but I just don’t want it to be seen as a candidate fund that I am running for office,” Haine told television station WCIA in Champaign.
He also said having control of the fund would allow him to donate to other causes as well.
“I want to parcel it out to local charities and things,” Haine said.
Haine told WCIA he would not rule out contributing money to his son Tom Haine’s campaign for Madison County State’s Attorney, a job Bill Haine once held.
However, Tom Haine said that would not happen.
“There has been some speculation regarding my dad’s political action committee, William Haine Fund to Promote Progress of Citizens of the Metro-East. Now that he’s on the Illinois State Board of Elections, he has made it clear that he is in the process of liquidating this account. Some have pointed out that, by law, some of this fund could be donated to my own campaign for Madison County State’s Attorney. But that won’t happen,” Tom Haine said.
“I agree with my dad’s plan - these funds will go to local charities, not politics.”
Bill Haine’s wife already has donated $2,500 to Tom Haine’s campaign, state records show.
Meanwhile McCarter, who is now the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, decided not to run for another term. His campaign committee is still considered active. However, it reported no cash on hand, according to its latest quarterly report.
The campaign committee still lists a $13,000 debt owed to McCarter, state records show.
Current state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, who announced in August he wouldn’t run for a second term, had more than $151,000 in his campaign fund, according to state board of Elections records.
Schimpf’s office would not comment on the senator’s plans for the money after he leaves office.