When banks faced trouble during the most recent recession, the federal government came to the rescue and bailed them out.
When a local government official needs a bailout, where can he turn?
The answer in Harvey: A frozen food company, gas station owners and a group affiliated with a strip club, among others.
Allow us to explain.
Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg / Facebook
Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg’s political future was in jeopardy until recently.
Kellogg owed the Illinois State Board of Elections civil penalties totaling $72,750 for failing to file mandatory campaign disclosure reports in recent years. Those reports are supposed to detail how much campaign money is being raised and from who, and how that money is being spent.
Kellogg had to pay the $72,750 by Jan. 29 or his name wouldn’t have been allowed to appear on the ballot in April’s election, ending his 12-year reign as mayor of the gritty south suburb.
Two days before the deadline, on Jan. 27, Kellogg cut the elections board a cashier’s check for $72,750. At the time it was unclear where the money came from.
But we now have an idea, courtesy of campaign disclosure reports just filed by Kellogg’s campaign committee.
The biggest contribution came from American Kitchen Delight, a Harvey-based frozen food maker, which gave Kellogg $10,000, followed by O’Halloran Kosoff Geitner & Cook LLC, a Northbrook law firm that gifted $9,300, records show.
American Kitchen doesn’t work with Harvey’s municipal government but O’Halloran Kosoff does. The firm has represented Harvey when it’s been sued.
In an email, partner Cliff Kosoff says no one from his law firm attended a fundraiser or was solicited by Kellogg or his representatives. His firm donated $9,300 on or about Jan. 26 after reading a previous Better Government Association story about the money Kellogg owed the elections board.
“My decision to make an unsolicited contribution was not based on any quid pro quo,” Kosoff says. “Rather, it was based on my experiences and my belief that Mayor Kellogg has served Harvey well and deserved to be on the ballot.”
Other donations include $4,000 from a venture led by the owners of Club O Gentlemen’s Club in Harvey, a fully nude bar and strip club that Kellogg regulates as not only the town’s mayor, but its liquor commissioner.
Interviews and records show Kellogg also received $5,000 from the suburb’s health insurance broker, and $1,000 from a consulting firm led by former Dixmoor Mayor Donald Luster.
Some of the cash was apparently raised at a party at Firoz Vohra’s home in Harvey. Vohra owns a gas station supply company in Harvey.
Another local businessman (a gas station owner) told the BGA he donated $2,000 at the event, and that Kellogg was there. But Vohra tells us he wasn’t aware that any money traded hands at the get-together.
In all, 24 donors contributed a total of $86,140 to Kellogg’s political committee, Citizens to Elect Eric J. Kellogg, from Jan. 23 to Jan. 27, campaign records show.
As of Dec. 31, Kellogg reported having only about $4,000 in his campaign fund.
Under Kellogg’s leadership, the suburb of about 25,000 people has come under intense scrutiny because of alleged financial mismanagement, misconduct allegations against its police officers and more. The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Harvey last June for allegedly defrauding investors in a failed hotel development deal.
Kellogg wouldn’t talk to us, but his spokesman, Sean Howard, released a written statement saying:
“The [Kellogg campaign] Committee acted appropriately in their fundraising initiatives. At no point was the integrity of the electoral process compromised. There was no violation or rules broken with the State Board of Elections. There is no local ordinance that prohibits such initiatives taken by the Committee. The financial supporters of the Mayor believe in his vision and have enjoyed their working relationship with the administration.”
Meanwhile, a total of seven people, including Kellogg, filed petitions to run for mayor.
One has been removed and petition-related challenges against other candidates are still pending before the Harvey Electoral Board, so it’s possible the field could shrink further before the April 7 election, says a spokesman for Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.
No matter what happens Kellogg isn’t done with the elections board. It’s possible he could face additional fines for filing delinquent disclosure reports last December, says Andy Nauman, deputy director of the elections board’s division of campaign disclosure.
Disclosure reports are posted online for the public to review. The aim is transparency – so the public knows who’s donating money and whether it’s used for legitimate purposes. In Illinois, campaign funds are to be used only for political purposes, not for enhancing personal incomes.
This column – a regular feature called The Public Eye, appearing on the Chicago Sun-Times’ web site – was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter and Patrick Rehkamp, who can be reached at email@example.com or (312) 821-9035.