Frerichs: Workers would not be allowed to give to campaign
SPRINGFIELD — Champaign Democrat Mike Frerichs says that if elected state treasurer he wouldn't permit his staff or their family members to contribute to his political campaign, nor "ask, coerce or force any treasurer's office employee" to work for his campaign.
Frerichs, who is currently a state senator representing most of Champaign and Vermilion counties, also said he would cut the publicly funded travel the current state treasurer, Republican Dan Rutherford, uses to promote his office's I-CASH program that helps link Illinois residents with unclaimed property.
Rutherford also has come under fire after a former employer claimed that he did political work for the treasurer — a GOP candidate for governor earlier this year — on government time.
Asked where Rutherford "went wrong," Frerichs said, "I think perhaps our current treasurer was too focused on the next step in office rather than doing the job he was elected to do."
Frerichs said his series of reforms would "look much different than it does today. I will work to restore the integrity of the treasurer's office by cutting waste and ensuring that politics does not play any part in the office."
"Let me reiterate," he said, "I will never use state funds for political purposes."
Frerichs said he would continue to accept campaign contributions from banks and other financial institutions. He said, however, that such institutions would be disqualified under the law from taking state deposits.
"If they're not doing business with the state of Illinois (they) should have the right and ability to express their voice and participate in our democracy. If they want to do business and they expect something in return, then they are sadly mistaken," Frerichs said at a news conference at a Springfield hotel Tuesday. "Because if they are contributing to my campaign they will not be doing business with me as state treasurer."
In recent months the Frerichs campaign has received either direct or in-kind contributions from the Illinois League of Financial Institutions, the Illinois Small Loan Association, the Community Bankpac and the Credit Union political action committee.
Frerichs also said he would make public the treasurer's daily schedule by putting it online and also would order an outside audit of the treasurer's office on his first day there.
"Experts will provide a thorough review of all the services and programs conducted within the treasurer's office to determine if it's operating at its full potential," said the onetime Champaign County Board member and county auditor who grew up in Gifford.
Frerichs, who will be opposed in November by state Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he still favors a proposed constitutional amendment that would merge the treasurer's and state comptroller's offices.
"I think you can combine the offices but you need to make sure you have strong controls in place," he said.
"We have a limited amount of time here before we can get a constitutional amendment this year. And it wouldn't take effect for nearly five years," he said. "I think we can't be waiting for that to happen. We've got to be looking for efficiencies, ways to save money, and work with whoever the next comptroller is to save some money for the people of the state of Illinois."