Former Alderman and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti is flaunting Illinois’ campaign finance rules, blatantly breaking some while skirting others. Fioretti is currently challenging State Senator Patricia Van Pelt in the democratic primary in the 5th District.
Fioretti has three different campaign committees: Friends of Bob Fioretti, (Friends), Bob Fioretti for State Senate (Senate), and 2nd Ward Democratic Org (Ward). The first problem is that both the Friends and Senate committees are Candidate Political Committees. Under Illinois law, candidates may not have more than one such committee:
(10 ILCS 5/9-2)
(b) Beginning January 1, 2011, no public official or candidate for public office may maintain or establish more than one candidate political committee for each office that public official or candidate holds or is seeking.
Yet Fioretti has two, and is actively fundraising through both of them, which is in direct violation of the law. He can maintain the Ward committee because that is a political party committee, and the law allows politicians to have different types of committees.
Why, you may ask, is it so important that candidates have only one committee? The reason is that there are limits on how much can be contributed by a single individual ($5,400), business ($10,800), or other committee (varies). Two committees would effectively allow the limits to be doubled. Therefore, for purposes of considering limits, donations made to both the Friends and Senate committees need to be treated as though given to a single committee.
Fioretti’s campaign finance problems don’t end there. On multiple occasions he has accepted donations that exceed the allowable limits.
J.R. and Dawn Davis are two of Bob Fioretti’s most prolific donors. They live in Barrington, and J.R. operates Davis Bancorp, a security company. When Fioretti ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year, finishing fourth, they donated a combined total of $58,000 to Fioretti’s campaign. There were no limits in that race.
Since then, J.R. Davis has contributed a total of $7,500 to Friends, while Dawn Davis contributed $8,000 to Friends plus $1,000 to Senate, for a total of $9,000. Both of their contributions were well over the $5,400 limit for an individual.
Another big donor to Fioretti is Chicago Imports. In the past year Chicago Imports has donated $10,000 to Friends and $3,750 to Senate, for a grand total of $13,750, exceeding the $10,800 limit for a business.
On top of these violations, Fioretti has managed to raise even more from these donors, utilizing loopholes in the law. Davis Bancorp donated $10,800 to the Senate committee, maxing out the limit for a business. Because the business is a separate entity, the donation is permissible and does not count against the Davis’ individual limits.
Another loophole is the ability to donate to different types of committees. Chicago Imports also gave $1,691 to the Ward committee. While legal, these donations infringe on the spirit of the law.
Then there are the inter-fund transfers. On 10/15/2015, Friends transferred $2,250 to the Ward committee, and on 12/31/2015, the Ward committee transferred $2,500 to the Senate committee. I can’t decide what to think about that one. Is it confusing but legal, or just a way to launder campaign donations to get around the limits?
This is not the first time Fioretti has been in trouble over his campaign finances. His original campaign fund, Fioretti for Alderman, was shut down in 2008 after the committee treasurer informed the Board of Elections that the records were incomplete and disorganized. He also told the Board that Fioretti had failed to disclose about $500,000 in donations, and that he couldn’t account for how hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent.
Disclosure: Jonathan Goldman is president of Advocacy Incorporated, which provides consulting services to Friends of Patricia Van Pelt.