By Adam Andrzejewski
After Illinois Auditor General William Holland retired last fall, three years into his third ten-year term, the General Assembly appointed state representative Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) as his replacement. Mautino, the former Deputy Leader in the general assembly, was the anointed pick of powerful House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago).
But for one state senator and 10 mostly freshman state representatives, the Mautino appointment vote exposed the bipartisan corruption that is Illinois politics. Republican leadership in both chambers pressured their own caucuses to nearly unanimously approve Mike Madigan’s deputy as auditor.
Now, Frank Mautino faces scrutiny – not from political groups – but from citizen watchdogs.
Yesterday, the noted downstate accountability group – the Edgar County Watchdogs – quantified $213,338.31 in campaign gas and vehicle repairs paid
from Mautino’s political committee since 2005 into one hometown vendor: Happy’s Super Service Station in Spring Valley. The "gas" and "gas and vehicle repairs" averaged $20,000 per year or roughly $55 per day over the last ten years and nine months.
Last year, Republican Congressman Aaron Schock resigned from office after newspaper disclosures of alleged misappropriated gas and travel reimbursements. A grand jury, FBI investigation is on-going. With Mautino, the gross amounts of the questionable transactions could dwarf the allegations against the congressman.
How many brand-new cars with full warranties could Mautino have purchased with $213,338 in reported "gas" and "gas and vehicle repairs"? How many vehicle gas-tanks hold 79 gallons or how many times does an engine-transmission fail?
Incredibly, in a four year period (2011-2014), $120,951.80 was spent on "gasoline and campaign vehicle repairs
." For example, from November 2013 through February 2014, the committee spent $12,194 on "gasoline and campaign vehicle repairs"; and between November 2011 and March 2012, $16,303 was spent on "gasoline and campaign vehicle repairs." Eighty-six transactions ranged between $1,000 and $5,811 since 2005.
The Watchdogs noted that 137 of the 387 transactions were whole numbers – many for over $1,000. Happy Super Service Station, where all the purchases occurred, isn’t even registered as a business with the State of Illinois, but the owner is an alderman in Spring Valley.
After legislative appointment to the non-partisan Auditor General post, but before swearing in, Mautino continued to raise political cash. In a declaration to the Illinois Times
, Mautino stated that he raised $16,000 to "pay off campaign loans" and "shred documents" while closing his state representative office. But Mautino’s campaign disclosures show that the loans were already paid-off.
In Illinois, our #1 manufactured product is corruption where governors typically end up making license plates. The people need an auditor with basic integrity. In Illinois, this integrity must be proven.
Mautino must provide the receipts and proof of the "gas" and "gas and vehicle repairs." Receipted proof should be provided immediately – not in a week or two weeks – but now. If the documents were shredded, then Mautino must resign or face removal by a three-fifths vote of the legislature.
Before publishing this piece, we reached out twice to Frank Mautino for comment. As of publishing, Mautino had failed to return both messages left at the Auditor General’s office with his secretary. Furthermore, Mautino would not answer questions from the Watchdogs or his local newspaper in Spring Valley over the last few weeks. The gas station owner is not answering questions either.
Our organization at OpenTheBooks.com found other questionable dealings. The family distribution company, Mautino Distributing Company, has received $271,417 in state agency payments – mostly starting in 2009. Coinciding with his promotion to Michael Madigan’s leadership team as Assistant Majority Leader, state agency payments into the company jumped from $9,393 (2008) to $71,701 (2009).
On Mautino’s "statement of economic interest," Mautino disavows a direct financial stake in the business, but he worked there for 16 years under his father. Mautino proudly highlights his impact on the business in all of his resumes, and today, his cousin, Mark J. Mautino of Spring Valley runs it.
None of the financial information in this article was provided to the bi-partisan legislative committee that recommended Mautino to the general assembly for approval last fall. This fact was confirmed in phone conversations with committee members.
In Illinois, only two statewide constitutional offices are vested with subpoena power: Attorney General and Auditor General. Now, Speaker Michael Madigan controls both of these positions. Madigan’s daughter Lisa is the Attorney General, and Madigan’s legislative lieutenant Frank Mautino – at least for the moment – is now ensconced with a ten-year term as Auditor General.
Mautino should open his own books without delay. The last thing Illinois needs is another corruption crisis that distracts the state from the reform we desperately need.
Adam Andrzejewski is the Chairman of American Transparency with the transparency website www.OpenTheBooks.com