Incumbent Democrat Cites Cook County Ethics Standards as Model; Breaks Them Repeatedly

It's a unique approach for a politician asked about pay-to-play donations: hold up the ethics standards of Chicago and Cook County, famous worldwide for their machine politics and backroom deals, as the model for your campaign.

In a Daily Herald article on the appearance of pay-to-play corruption at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), incumbent Commissioner Debra Shore, a Democrat, defended her campaign contributions by claiming that her campaign followed ethics rules "similar to" those used by the City of Chicago and Cook County.

There's just one problem: Shore, whose campaign committee has taken more than $90,000 in donations from firms that received millions of dollars in MWRD contracts during her time on the Board of Commissioners, has repeatedly taken donations that would violate those ethics rules.

Cook County prohibits donations to candidates from businesses "doing business or seeking to do business" with the county in excess of $750 in a non-election year, or $750 during the primary cycle and another $750 during the general election cycle in an election year.

Shore's campaign committee, Friends of Debra Shore, has taken contributions in excess of those limits from firms which bid on (and received) MWRD contracts at least 45 times during her incumbency, most in the form of greater-than-$750 donations, with a handful of combined contributions within the same year or primary/general cycle:

Donor Donation Date Donation Amount
Black & Veatch 6/7/16 1000
Black & Veatch 6/13/17 1500
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 11/4/11 1000
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 6/27/12 1000
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 5/24/13 1000
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 5/23/14 1000
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 6/5/15 1000
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 6/15/16 1000
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 5/5/17 1000
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 6/13/17 1000
Engineering Resource Associates 6/12/17 500
Engineering Resource Associates 6/26/17 500
Environmental Design International Inc. 5/23/11 1000
Environmental Design International inc. 8/15/14 1000
Environmental Design International inc. 7/16/15 1000
Environmental Design International inc. 6/7/16 1000
Environmental Design International inc. 6/13/17 1000
Environmental Design International, Inc. 6/14/13 1000
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 11/4/11 1100
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 5/24/12 1500
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 5/9/14 1500
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 5/22/15 1000
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 6/21/16 2500
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 5/10/17 2500
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 12/13/17 1000
Greeley & Hansen 10/28/11 1500
Greeley & Hansen 5/24/13 1500
Greeley & Hansen 6/6/14 1500
Greeley & Hansen 5/29/15 2500
Greeley & Hansen 5/17/16 2500
Greeley & Hansen 5/10/17 3100
IHC Construction 6/27/12 750
IHC Construction 6/28/12 250
IHC Construction 5/5/17 500
IHC Construction 6/12/17 1000
IHC Construction 12/5/17 1000
Illinois American Water Company 6/5/15 1000
Illinois American Water Company 6/15/16 1000
Illinois American Water Company 5/26/17 1000
MWH Americas 5/1/08 1000
MWH Americas 6/15/11 1000
Rubinos & Mesia Engineers, Inc. 11/2/11 1000
Rubinos & Mesia Engineers, Inc. 6/29/13 1000
Veolia Water North America 12/22/11 1000
Veolia Water North America 6/29/13 1000

By Chicago's more lenient standards, Shore fares a little better, but still comes in for multiple violations.

City of Chicago ordinance allows up to $1500 yearly in donations from businesses "doing business or seeking to do business" with the city, regardless of election cycle. Eleven of Shore's campaign contributions from MWRD contractors fall afoul of those limits:

Donor Donation Date Donation Amount
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 6/13/17 1000
Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd. 5/5/17 1000
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 6/21/16 2500
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 5/10/17 2500
F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen 12/13/17 1000
Greeley & Hansen 5/29/15 2500
Greeley & Hansen 5/17/16 2500
Greeley & Hansen 5/10/17 3100
IHC Construction 5/5/17 500
IHC Construction 6/12/17 1000
IHC Construction 12/5/17 1000

The firms from which Shore took contributions in excess of both Chicago and Cook County standards are some of the largest recipients of MWRD money: combined, the four firms were awarded $319,666,099.30 by the Board of Commissioners in the past five years alone (as far back as online contracting records go). 

The good news for Shore is, neither Cook County nor City of Chicago campaign finance rules apply to Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The Board of Commissioners is a separate level of government, with no campaign finance ordinances above and beyond state and federal law. There won't be any fines coming Shore's way.

However, Shore's claim that her campaign follows internal rules "similar to" Chicago's and Cook County's should give voters pause. A candidate holding up Cook County's ethical standards as a shining exemplar of good governance would be odd enough on its own, but it's clear from the donation records that Shore doesn't actually feel bound by the rules she chose to cite.

The Greens for MWRD campaign does not take corporate contributions. For an MWRD Board of Commissioners that can fairly evaluate contract bids, vote Green on November 6th, 2018!