Under state law, governmental agencies in Illinois aren’t allowed to use public funds to support a particular political candidate or party.
But Jersey Community Hospital – located Downstate and owned by Jersey County government – donated a combined $4,400 last year and the year before to committees supporting state Sen. Sam McCann (R-Plainview) and state Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) for tickets to campaign golf events, according to interviews and Illinois State Board of Elections data.
The golf outings allowed the hospital’s board members to “attend and speak with our representatives about healthcare concerns for our constituents,” said hospital CEO Jon Wade, adding that his medical center will refrain from similar events if it determines it shouldn’t be participating.
McCann, whose campaign received $3,200 of the hospital’s contributions, couldn’t be reached. Davidsmeyer, whose committee received $1,200 of the contributions, said he didn’t realize the hospital was publicly owned.
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“If I have to refund the money [I will],” he said. “Illinois has enough trouble doing things correctly. . . . I was not trying to take public money by any means.”
Under state election law, taxpayer-run agencies are not “allowed to donate to campaigns, to spend public funds that way, [unless it’s factual] information about a referendum,” said Andy Nauman, deputy director of the board of elections’ division of campaign disclosure.
Jersey County State’s Attorney Ben Goetten said he would typically allow a government body that accidentally made contributions to correct the error instead of pushing for a criminal charge. “While ignorance of the law is never a defense, it’s certainly a factor when analyzing whether a public body knew what they were doing was a violation,” he said.