SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, resisted political pressure during his last campaign to give up the $24,500 in donations he had taken over the years from former Gov. George Ryan's campaign fund.
"I am going to wait and see what the prosecutors and the courts do," he said at the time. "If the George Ryan campaign is found guilty as charged, then my campaign committee will donate a sum to charity equal to the amount that it received."
In March, Citizens for Ryan was convicted as a criminal enterprise under the federal racketeering law, but Winkel's most recent campaign disclosure reports show none of the promised donations was made between Jan. 1 and June 30.
Winkel acknowledges it is time to pay up, but he said his plan to donate $24,500 to charity will have to happen in installments.
"They were convicted sometime in March and, quite frankly, after the campaign, there was very little money in my campaign fund," he said. "As I raise funds for my campaign in the future, I will, from time to time, make donations to charity, which I will certainly flag with the idea that they can be tracked.
"But I don't have that on hand, and the money I received from Citizens for Ryan was spent long before 2000. It's not as if I had the funds set aside."
Winkel, who won several hotly contested elections for the Illinois House in the past decade, had accepted nearly twice as much money from Citizens for Ryan as any other state lawmaker.
But the money had all been spent by the time he decided to run for the Senate seat retired Urbana Republican Stan Weaver had held for three decades.
After an expensive primary against former state Sen. Judy Myers, R-Danville, a general election battle against Democratic former Champaign Mayor Dan McCollum and the cost of setting up new offices in Urbana and Danville, Winkel's funds were basically tapped out.
According to his campaign disclosure forms, Winkel took in about $14,000 during the first six months of the year.
Most of it came in the form of a $10,000 transfer from Weaver's campaign committee.
Winkel spent about $27,000 in the first half of the year and reported $178.55 on hand as of June 30.
That's about $24,321 short of what he plans to donate to charity.
"Obviously, I recognize my commitment that I made publicly began at that time (of the Citizens for Ryan conviction) and I intend to honor it," Winkel said.
You can reach Kate Clements at (217) 782-2486 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.