SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — When Governor J.B. Pritzker appointed former state Senator Bill Haine to serve on the State Board of Elections in May, the former downstate Democratic Senator had to surrender control of his campaign fund and the $286,786 in it. But now, months later, Haine controls the same money, just under a different name.
“I was told I shouldn’t have a candidate committee,” Haine told WCIA in a phone call on Monday night.
State election law prohibits board members, who are tasked with regulating other political committees, from controlling campaign committees of their own while they adjudicate other potential campaign finance violations.
“He had his Senate committee, which was a campaign committee, which he could not have and be a board member,” State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich explained.
In paperwork submitted to the state board in June, Haine relinquished control of the account, signing it over to his wife, Anna Haine, and effectively removing himself as chairman. The same document also changed the name of his campaign committee to the Illinois Metro East Improvement Committee with a newly defined purpose “to advance the progress of the Metro-East.”
State law allows politicians to maintain control of their campaign funds even after leaving office, but people appointed to the nonpartisan State Board of Elections are held to a higher standard.
Haine was sworn in as a new member at the State Board of Elections on July 1st. Two weeks later, Haine retook control of his old campaign fund, but under a new name and with a new purpose. Now, state records list Haine as the chairman of a newly formed political action committee, the “William Haine Fund to Promote Progress of Citizens of the Metro-East.”
“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 said, adding a pledge that, “I’m not going to raise any money.”
However, House Representative Tom Demmer said Haine’s move to convert his campaign fund into a political action committee could be a legal “gray area.”
“It certainly begs the question of why we would prohibit them from having a personal account, but not prohibit them from having a PAC account,” Demmer said.
The current state law would technically allow a person in his position to control a PAC, raise money and spend money in close races — the same races and campaigns over which he would have to preside in the event of an ethical or legal complaint.
In fact, Haine’s own son, Tom Haine, announced this month that he intends to run as a Republican for Madison County State’s Attorney — a post his father once held.
Haine said he believes the law would allow him to spend money in his son’s race, or any race, if he chooses.
“The board should be impartial,” Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) said. “The ability of board members to spend money on behalf of candidates undermines that impartiality.”
The law also provides options for a candidate leaving public office to donate their remaining funds to another group. Asked why he didn’t give control of his remaining campaign cash to Senate Democrats or to his son’s campaign, Haine said, “Because I want to parcel it out to local charities and things.”
After Haine’s campaign fund maneuver was brought to his attention, McConchie said he is in the process of drafting new legislation to “close this loophole that allows election board members to play in elections over which they have oversight.”
Haine acknowledged there could be room for tightening up the law, and even said he would support a change in the law to prohibit future board members from using PACs to raise money.
In the meantime, “I have to be very circumspect with it,” Haine said. “I just have to be circumspect.”
Governor Pritzker’s office said in a statement that, “the administration is reviewing the matter.”