Thaddeus Jones wears two hats: State lawmaker and Calumet City alderman.
He also has two political campaign funds.
What do those funds have in common besides ties to Jones?
Both have reported dozens of expenditures – a total of 90 to be exact – at a south suburban Hooter’s, part of a national restaurant chain known for outfitting busty waitresses in tight-fitting tank tops and bright orange short shorts.
In all, Jones’ political committees have spent nearly $8,800 since 2009 at the Hooter’s in Lansing, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, the state agency that collects data from campaign funds.
Other elected officials and political committees over the years have reported spending money at the chain, which describes itself online as “delightfully tacky” but declined comment for this story.
Recently, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s political committee spent a total of $158 last March on two separate occasions at a Hooter’s in Downers Grove.
“I can guarantee you it wasn’t me,” Durkin says. “It’s embarrassing, but I let some staffers who volunteered use my [credit] card. . . . I would hope they would go somewhere a little more wholesome.”
However, no one apparently has spent as much as Jones, a Democratic state representative from the 29th District, which juts south from Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood to the northern tip of Will County.
Jones’ aldermanic campaign committee even reported spending money at Hooter’s on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in 2013, dropping $105.37 and $88.63 respectively, records show.
There’s nothing illegal about spending campaign funds at Hooter’s or any other restaurant, for that matter, so long as the expenditure has a political purpose, according to state campaign finance laws.
Generally, Jones’ committees listed “meals” or “fundraising” as the reasons for the Hooter’s expenditures.
In an email, Jones says, “For six years, local police and fire unions have hosted a football night fundraiser with me. They choose to host the event at Hooters, which allows guests to enjoy food and a drink while watching the game. It is also one of several local restaurants where I have placed carryout orders for my campaign volunteers.”
Calumet City municipal attorney Burt Odelson adds, “Thaddeus likes to support local businesses and this restaurant is located in his [state representative] district.”
This isn’t the first time Jones’ campaign expenditures caught our attention.
Last year we reported that he used campaign money in 2012 to pay for a hotel in Miami where he attended a film festival.
Jones then appeared to receive taxpayer reimbursement for that stay from Calumet City, even though records indicated his campaign fund covered the bill.
Jones has denied he double dipped, but was unwilling or unable to provide records to support his claim.
Disgraced Melrose Figure Out Of Joint
For a time, Vito Scavo double dipped, serving as Melrose Park’s police chief, and running a private security firm – until he was sent to prison in 2010 for forcing local businesses (including the amusement park Kiddieland) to hire his company and staffing it with on-duty cops.
We discovered Scavo, 66, was released from the Duluth federal prison in April, spent about a month in a halfway house and has been on home confinement (apparently in Melrose Park) since late May.
In late October he’s expected to be home free – done with his sentence, though he’ll be on probation for two years beyond that, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, or BOP.
Reached on the telephone, Scavo said he was doing “alright” but didn’t want to comment any further because he’s “still under BOP.”
He then hung up.
Despite the extortion and racketeering conviction, Scavo is certainly no pariah in his hometown.
We reached out to Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico, who relayed, “I guess my thought is he got punished and paid his debt to society and he’s entitled to be left alone.”
Serpico said, “I talked to him on the phone, I haven’t seen him. . . . He sounded normal.”
This column – a new regular feature called The Public Eye, appearing on the Chicago Sun-Times’ political portal Early & Often – was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter, Robert Herguth and Patrick Rehkamp. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 821-9035.