Illinois Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Case Challenging Use of Campaign Funds for Criminal Defenses | Illinois

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(The Center Square) — The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a case that challenges elected officials’ ability to use campaign funds for personal expenses, including defense attorneys.

The case was brought to court by Chicago Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez in an effort to stop elected officials from using campaign funds to pay attorneys for personal cases. He is seeking to overturn an earlier decision by the State Board of Elections to dismiss the Sigcho-Lopez case.

Sigcho-Lopez is represented by Adolfo Mondragon. Mondragon told the judges the case was to stop elected officials from using donor money to pay for their legal troubles.

“The purpose of the Illinois Election Code Campaign Disclosure Act is to deter and mitigate public corruption,” Mondragon said.

The case comes after Sigcho-Lopez filed a lawsuit against former 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis and his decision to use $220,000 in campaign funds to pay his attorneys to defend himself against wrongdoing charges.

Mondragon argued that what Solis did is exactly what they are trying to prevent from happening again.

“Let’s be clear here, the $220,000 that Danny Solis owed the Foley and Lardner law firm is what would normally be considered a personal debt,” Mondragon said. “It wasn’t a campaign debt because he wasn’t running for office.”

Sigcho-Lopez replaced Solis as alderman of the 25th arrondissement in 2019.

Current state law allows campaign funds to be used to pay for expenses incurred by elected officials, but not for personal expenses.

Michael Dorf, an attorney for the 25th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, asked the court to refer to the decision of the Illinois State Board of Elections to dismiss Sigcho-Lopez’s suit.

Dorf argued that politicians have been using campaign funds for “a very long time” and it should stay that way.

In 2019, former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, used $900,000 in campaign funds to pay legal fees in a lawsuit involving his handling of harassment complaints sex against members of its staff.

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