Carol Moseley Braun failed to file documentation on how campaign spent $315K
BY CAROL MARIN AND DON MOSELEY The Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 September 29, 2011 10:02PM
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Updated: May 9, 2012 9:51AM
The unsuccessful 2011 mayoral campaign of Carol Moseley Braun has failed to file documentation on how $315,000 in campaign funds was spent, something that is required by state law.
Illinois Board of Elections officials told the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 News they have been unsuccessful in getting either Braun or her now-defunct campaign to explain how the money was spent.
Candidates are required by law to file quarterly campaign disclosure statements. In an April 15 filing, Braun reported raising $323,000 and spending $315,000.
In the report, the Braun campaign listed “Vendors Multiple” instead of itemizing expenditures over $150.
“I have not seen an example worse than this of a committee with this kind of money,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “The basic idea here is that the public has a right to know where the money is coming from and where it is going.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, by comparison, listed 776 itemized expenditures, including salary, travel and Starbucks, for his $9 million campaign. The other major candidates — Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins — all filed proper paperwork.
“And there’s no vendors anywhere in this report,” Morrison said of the Braun filing. “There are laws against personal use of campaign funds, all of that should have applied here. There’s simply no way of knowing if she broke any of those laws.”
The penalties for running afoul of campaign laws include fines up to $5,000 — and being blocked from running for public office.
Braun, the former U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, said any fault lies with her former treasurer, Billie Paige.
“If Billie Paige neglected to do so, it doesn’t surprise; she is elderly and overwhelmed,” Braun said in a brief telephone interview.
Paige, who has been a friend for 34 years, introduced Braun when she announced she was running for mayor in November 2010. “I introduce to you the serene, courageous, wise person, the next mayor of the city of Chicago, my friend, Carol Moseley Braun,” she said before the two embraced.
Paige, a Springfield lobbyist at Shea, Paige and Rogal, whose clients include General Motors, METRA and AT&T, said in a written statement she resigned from the campaign the day the disclosure form was filed, April 15.
“I also notified the appropriate people, including Ambassador Braun, that the April 15th report would need to be amended to reflect all expenditures and debts,” she wrote in an e-mail response to the Sun-Times and NBC5 News, adding, “I only wish the Ambassador well.”
The report, according to the state’s campaign disclosure website, was never amended to reflect how the money was spent.
Braun secured her place in history in 1992 by becoming the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
Even as she won that year, Braun was plagued with questions about finances. There was a Medicaid issue involving the sale of her mother’s property. That was followed by her 1998 re-election campaign in which questions were raised regarding how $280,000 in campaign funds was spent. The IRS questioned the spending of, among other things: $70,000 on clothes, $18,000 on jewelry and $64,000 on trips, including to Hawaii, Africa and Europe.
Braun staunchly denied any improprieties at the time. “I’ve been absolutely forthcoming all along from the beginning,” Braun said in 1998. No charges were ever filed.
Braun launched an unsuccessful bid for president in 2004, which left her with a campaign debt of $262,000 according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.
Her run for mayor this year left her with debts totaling $74,817 to, among others, Chase Bank and East Lake Management, headed by political insider Elzie Higginbottom.
In the current matter, Braun says the State Board of Elections has not raised any concerns.
A state election official said that’s not true, noting two letters were sent this summer to Braun and her most recent campaign treasurer asking them to provide details on how the money was spent. To date, no details have been provided.
“There is no there, there,” Braun said by phone, defending her campaign and adding, “I am out of politics and not in your world anymore.”
Still, said David Morrison, there is more work that should be done. “She should have known better,” he said.
Carol Marin is a Sun-Times columnist. Don Moseley is an NBC5 producer.