ETHICS QUESTIONS NAG ILLINOIS AUDITOR GENERAL MAUTINO

Editorial by the Daily Herald

For days, newly appointed Auditor General Frank J. Mautino of north-central Spring Valley has been getting hammered by government watchdog groups and some downstate newspapers for his spending habits while he was a Democratic member of the Illinois General Assembly.

Some pretty significant questions. For instance:

How could his campaign have racked up $55 a day in gas and auto repairs over the past decade? Could he explain why so much campaign money was spent for meals at his wife’s family’s restaurant in Spring Valley? Why did another family business, Mautino Distributing Company, once owned by his father and now owned by his cousin, receive a large bump in state business after he became assistant majority leader to House Speaker Michael Madigan in 2009?

You don’t have to be an ideologue to ask these questions.

There are two versions of the letter. One says the effort to end partisan gerrymandering would “put Illinois one step closer to enacting extreme policies that hurt minorities.” The other goes further, calling the amendment a ploy to elect Republicans and destroy middle-class families, “taking away their job protections and driving down their wages.”

It’s bad information, with a whiff of warning thrown in: Both letters promise that “we will take note of who assists in the destruction” of minority and middle-class communities.

The letters were sent by a group calling itself People’s Map. Its chairman is John Hooker, a former ComEd lobbyist recently named by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to head the Chicago Housing Authority. Others who signed include Chicago businessman Elzie Higginbottom, former ComEd CEO Frank Clark and the Rev. Leon Finney Jr., CEO of The Woodlawn Organization.

The targets of the mailing are people who supported a similar amendment that was knocked off the 2014 ballot by minions of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Defeating the measure on a legal technicality spared Madigan the need to debate it on its merits, but he floated his arguments anyway: In a mailer meant to drum up support for the lawsuit, Madigan said the amendment would “diminish the number of minority districts.”

Later, he called it “Republican politics.”

“Put the Republicans in charge of something, and there’s going to be an adverse effect on minorities,” he said. Sound familiar?

The Independent Map Amendment is not a Republican initiative; it’s a good-government initiative.

The group’s board includes Democrats, Republicans and lifelong independents. There are five African-American and three Latino board members.