Anatomy of a Referendum Campaign Begun by an Aurora Nonprofit

**Update 12/24 on the hearing: Kane County Chronicle reports that a decision on the campaign disclosure complaint against Show You Care Kane is not expected until next year.**

What would you say if Kish Health Systems were to send its chief executive to open and fund a political action committee (PAC) in order to promote passage of a referendum for a special property tax levy to fund its services?

That is NOT happening here, but a similar scenario IS shaping up for real in Kane County.

About a year ago, The Association for Individual Development (AID) in Aurora sent its president/CEO to head up a PAC called Show You Care Kane (SYCK). The stated purpose of the PAC is to “help children and adults with developmental disabilities” and The Chicago Tribune described some specifics in October:

Kane County voters could see a tax increase request on next spring’s ballot that would generate about $12 million annually for services for the developmentally disabled.

The proposal would tax property at 0.1 percent of its assessed value, and the money would be distributed by a disability board, made up of people from throughout the county, that would hire agencies to support independent living, jobs, therapy, transportation and supportive care for those with development (sic) disabilities.

Here’s what the Trib didn’t mention:

–AID has a $20 million annual operating budget and serves up to 5,000 clients each year. It would probably qualify for a big chunk of that $12 million considering there’s little competition within the county when it comes to DD adult services.

Show You Care Kane is funded either exclusively or very near exclusively by AID.

–SYCK used $73,000 of a $76,000 contribution from AID to pay a professional company to collect the number of signatures needed to place the referendum question on the ballot.

If I hadn’t dug up these things, I’d be inclined to treat the “disability tax” effort as grassroots. All I smell so far is artificial turf.

Yet, for all of its synthetic sophistication, SYCK will appear before the State Board of Elections tomorrow on a complaint that it did not properly report contributions to its PAC on two occasions.

Enter the opposition.

Allen Skillicorn, spokesman of Kane Cares About Taxes, confirmed Monday he brought the issue to the attention of the State Board of Elections. Skillicorn is an East Dundee village trustee.

Skillicorn alleges Show You Care Kane failed to report who donated $4,627 to the campaign in a December 2012 filing and misreported the category of a $76,000 Association for Individual Development contribution to the campaign in a October 2013 filing.

You can look at the filings here. To my eyes, Skillicorn is correct about the $76,000 donation because it is listed and itemized as a “transfer in,” but transfers in come only from other PACs and AID is clearly not a PAC.

SYCK likewise has probably made other errors. The only contributions they’ve reported are transfers and to top it off none of these were itemized on Schedule A forms until the big AID contribution came along. Looks to me like SYCK has filed correctly if a) PACs and only PACs have contributed a grand total of $90,000 to SYCK and b) PAC contributors transferred $15,000 in increments of less than $150 in aggregate for each reporting period, making itemization unnecessary. This seems unlikely.

Apart from the allegations of improper campaign reporting is the question of whether agencies that are tax exempt and collect much (if not most) of their revenues from government sources should be participating in elections this way.