It’s been a while since the public heard anything about Sam McCann, self-described man of the people. But like the proverbial bad penny, he’s turned up.
Here Illinoisans go again — more corruption.
The good news is that it’s not more of the same kind of high-profile, major league, multi-conspirator corruption like that on display in the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal. This is more the penny-ante kind of thievery in which our public officials usually engage, although it’s alleged that many pennies are involved.
Former state Sen. Sam McCann — anyone remember him? — was indicted this week on charges that he’s been using his campaign account as a personal bank account.
He was charged by a federal grand jury with fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. The indictment alleges that McCann, who was a Carlinville resident when he was elected to the Illinois Senate, converted more than $200,000 in campaign money to personal expenses.
This is not an altogether surprising turn of events. It was widely reported when McCann was a member of the Illinois Senate that his construction businesses were in financial trouble. Further, news reports tied him to suggestions that he played fast and loose with mileage reimbursement expenses while in office.
So what’s really surprising is that McCann had campaign money to misuse, not that he allegedly misused it to pay personal expenses.
Some may recall that McCann, a Republican, ran a bizarre third-party Conservative Party campaign for governor in 2018. A labor union that traditionally funds Democrats made substantial contributions to McCann’s race as a means of drawing voters away from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s re-election bid.
It turned out that Democrat J.B. Pritzker didn’t need McCann’s campaign to defeat Rauner, but there it was anyway.
Now 51 and living in Plainview, McCann is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Feb. 16 at Springfield’s federal court. If it gets to trial, it will be interesting to see how his lawyers will defend their client.
Illinois’ campaign finance rules are famously loose, making it very easy for legislators so inclined to use donated funds to feather their own nests. So it would be no great surprise if McCann claims that at least some of his purchases, including vehicles, were used for travel throughout his district.
But it’ll be difficult to explain other spending, including that after he left office. For example, the indictment contends that “$50,000 in campaign funds were used for personal expenses including Green Dot credit card payments related to a family vacation in Colorado and other personal expenses, charges from Apple iTunes, Amazon, a skeet and trap club, Cabela’s, Scheels, Best Buy, a gun store, and cash.”
Money and politics, of course, go hand in hand everywhere. But in Illinois, money goes too often from hand to a public official’s back pocket.
If that’s what happened here, it’s another in a series of slaps to the public’s face. By now, of course, voters are used to it.