EDWARDSVILLE - Thursday, Madison County Board Member Chris Slusser (R-Wood River) also the Republican nominee for Madison County Board Chairman, called on current Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan (D-Troy) to end "pay-to-play politics" in Madison County.
"Today, I’m calling on Mr. Dunstan to put an end to the pay-to-play culture that has dominated Madison County politics for several decades now. This is 2012, and the taxpayers deserve better. It’s not illegal for him to accept contributions from vendors doing business with the county or from employees, some of whom he appointed to six figure jobs, but it’s highly unethical and a clear conflict of interest."
The charge comes after Dunstan recently released his quarterly campaign disclosure to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The report shows that Citizens for Dunstan received $7,650 in campaign contributions during the past quarter from companies who do business with Madison County Government. Dunstan also received $6,900 from employees or appointees to paid positions who are appointed by Dunstan.
In addition, he received $6,000 from two prominent Madison County personal injury firms, both of whom were at the center of controversy last December involving questionable campaign contributions to Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder; just days after Crowder awarded 82% of the slots on the asbestos docket to three local firms, despite there being no current cases to fill the slots. These figures do not include contributions under $150, which do not show up on the disclosure report.
According the Illinois State Board of Elections, Dunstan has raised more than $100,000 over the past five years from companies doing business with Madison County Government, Madison County employees under his control and local asbestos firms. The vendors who have contributed to Dunstan’s campaign fund have been paid out millions of dollars by Madison County Government.
When Slusser announced his candidacy back in November 2011, he pledged to refuse campaign contributions from county employees and vendors doing business with the county. "County employees need to have confidence that their job status does not depend on campaign contributions to the County Board Chairman. Local businesses need to be assured of a level playing field when bidding on county contracts, free of politics and conflicts of interest," said Slusser.
Slusser said that the pay-to-play culture under Dunstan’s leadership has grown stronger and stronger over the course of his 10 years as County Board Chairman. The turning point, he says, was in 2004, when Dunstan put his campaign manager on the county payroll in a newly created position as Director of Purchasing. "So, while he was in charge of bidding the county’s contracts, he was, at the same time, able to solicit campaign contributions from these same vendors while he was acting as Dunstan’s campaign manager," said Slusser. "How anyone would be okay with that, is beyond me. It’s not fair to businesses bidding on the contracts, and it’s certainly not fair to the taxpayers."
"This type of activity happened under Governor Rod Blagojevich, leading to major reform in campaign finance laws at the statewide level. We can’t allow the appearance of impropriety to continue in Madison County Government." Slusser said he will be proposing a new county purchasing ordinance requiring vendors to disclose all campaign contributions made to county officials before they can be included in the bidding process. He noted that DuPage County (population 916,924) has already implemented a similar ordinance.
"I am committed to transparency and accountability in Madison County Government. Alan Dunstan claims to be part of the ‘Madison County Good Government Team.’ If he is truly committed to good government, he should immediately return these contributions, so that we can restore faith to the taxpayers of Madison County. Under my leadership, pay-to-play will be a thing of the past, and patronage jobs will be non-existent. And, I won’t accept campaign contributions from the powerful personal injury firms who have contributed to our reputation as a ‘Judicial Hellhole,’ by flooding our courts with lawsuits from out of state," Slusser said.
"I have no problem with Mr. Dunstan raising as much money as he sees fit to run his campaign. I do have a problem with him raising it such a blatantly unethical manner."
Slusser has been an outspoken critic of wasteful spending in Madison County Government in his term on the County Board. In 2010, as part of his commitment to transparency, he successfully led efforts to place the Madison County Government checkbook online for public viewing.