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State investigates complaint against Young Republicans

Mayoral candidate Brooks says partisan group did not comply with election law

Independent Morris Mayoral candidate John Brooks has filed a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections against the Grundy County Young Republicans and some of its members, including one of his opponents, Alderman Drew Muffler.

Sharon Steward, director of campaign disclosure for the state board, confirmed Wednesday the complaint was being looked into and a closed hearing would be held.

The complaint alleges the Young Republicans failed to comply with the state board’s disclosure laws. It names Muffler, Grundy County Board Vice Chairman David Welter, and Young Republican President Aren Hansen as the officers of the Young Republicans at the time of incidents.

“This group of young Republican politicians have been operating recklessly in our community and these types of undisciplined politicians do not bring the needed level of leadership and maturity to government to tackle our city’s challenges,” Brooks said.

Brooks and Muffler are running against incumbent Democrat Mayor Richard Kopczick. Kopczick has been left out of these allegations by Brooks.

Muffler and Welter referred comment to the attorney for the Young Republicans, John Hanson of Hanson & Hanson Attorneys at Law. Chairman Aren Hansen did not return a voice message.

Muffler did say that during the alleged times, he was not in charge of any finances for the Young Republicans, and that he has not held a position with the group in three years.

Welter also stated he was not affiliated with any of the Young Republicans finances.

Attorney Hanson said the complaint makes numerous allegations that he will investigate and respond to.

He said the allegations in the complaint are from almost five years ago, so he questions the timing.

“We will take the appropriate action when the facts are investigated,” he said.
THE COMPLAINT

Brooks’ complaint to the state board has 15 counts, which state the Young Republicans should be fined according to state law. Numerous fines are listed, including one for $65,000 for allegedly failing to file 13 semiannual and quarterly reports.

Steward from the state board said the next step is to schedule a closed hearing with both parties. The hearing officer would then make a recommendation to the Board of Elections. The board will then make a determination.

Whether this will all be settled before the April 9 mayoral election is unclear.

Steward said it will depend if the hearing can be scheduled soon enough. The state board already has an April 4 special meeting scheduled, she said, so if the hearing can be done before then, it could be addressed at that meeting.

She said Muffler is a certified ballot candidate, so whatever the conclusion, it would not affect his ability to be elected as mayor.

The complaint’s counts state the Young Republicans failed to file a “Statement of Organization” with the State Board of Elections. Brooks alleges in the complaint that, in August 2008, the group had raised more than $3,000 within a year, therefore it is considered a “political action committee” and is required to file.

The complaint states this occurred as well in 2009.

The second count states the Young Republicans failed to disclose its “sponsoring entity,” which the complaint claims is the Grundy County Republican Central Committee. A “sponsoring entity” is defined as a person, organization, corporation or association that contributes at least 33 percent of a committee’s total funding, according to the complaint.

Brooks alleges the central committee donated at least $2,000 of the Young Republicans’ contributions, which is about 44 percent according to the complaint. It continues that, from 2009 through 2012, the central committee continued to contribute, putting it at more than 50 percent of its contributions.

Counts three through 15 state the Young Republicans failed to file 13 “mandatory semiannual and quarterly disclosure reports,” violating the State Board of Election rules.

In the complaint, Brooks asked the state board to make the Young Republicans file their missing paperwork, pay the fines and penalties for each day they failed to file, and to apply a temporary restraining order and injunctions to stop the group and its officers from spending funds and to seize operations.

In addition, he asks the state board to seek misdemeanor criminal prosecution against the Young Republicans’ officers “for their repeated and willful violations.”

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