Let's talk about money — who's got it and who doesn't.
First up, well-off former Congressman Aaron Schock of Peoria, the alleged victim of aggressive federal prosecutors who some claim didn't violate any rules or laws.
The 37-year-old onetime boy wonder of Illinois politics, a Republican whose political career began when he ran for the Peoria school board at the age of 19, signed off on a plea agreement earlier this month that probably will allow him to avoid prosecution and potentially prison time in exchange for conceding that he misreported mileage reimbursements and used his office to obtain tickets to sports events that he sold at a profit without reporting the income to the IRS.
Just about anyone — especially a congressman — should know that that is a violation of the law as well as unethical behavior.
Yet Schock's lawyer, George Terwilliger, argued in a Chicago Tribune op-ed that "those kinds of mistakes made in the face of rules subject to differing interpretations are not criminal acts."
Tell that to anyone else who has been charged by the IRS with tax evasion.
Here's part of what Schock's plea agreement says: "Additionally Schock acknowledges that he had a regular practice as a public officeholder of obtaining event tickets at face value. Although Schock on some occasions offered these tickets to constituents, staff and campaign contributors, on other occasions Schock obtained tickets, including for the World Series and the Super Bowl, and shortly thereafter resold them at a profit. Schock acknowledges that, through this conduct, Schock obtained approximately $42,375 in income that he did not report on his federal income tax returns for the six years he was in office."
We're supposed to believe the boy wonder didn't know that was wrong?
The other violation — or mistake as Terwilliger would call it — involved Schock padding his congressional expense account.
From the plea agreement: "Schock acknowledges that he, both directly and through his staff, caused mileage reimbursement vouchers to be regularly submitted to the House and to his campaign committees without providing documentation of the number of miles he actually drove during the reimbursement periods. Schock acknowledges that over time this process resulted in him receiving mileage reimbursements that exceeded the number of miles actually driven."
You could ask any man or woman on the street if that was crooked behavior for anyone, let alone a congressman, and they'd say yes. Aaron Schock is certainly no victim.
The millionaire commissioner
In what nonprofit business where most of the employees work for no pay can the boss make more than $2 million a year?
At the Big Ten Conference.
Retiring Commissioner Jim Delany, who opposes paying the athletes who are the only reason the Big Ten Conference exists, received total compensation of $21,332,498 between fiscal years 2008 and 2017, according to the conference's tax returns. His annual compensation varied from $1.16 million to $3.39 million during the 10-year period. The IRS filings also show that Delany receives other benefits including social club dues and travel for companions.
But the athletes received no direct compensation.
The nonprofit Big Ten reported $499.6 million in revenue in its 2016 tax return and expenses totalling $498.8 million. The conference doesn't break down how much it receives from its Big Ten Network but it's worth noting that conference revenue was $126.8 million in 2005, before the TV channel went live.
Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen has collected four individual contributions of $1,000 or more in advance of the April 2 election, while her only opponent, Azark Cobbs, doesn't have an official campaign committee to accept campaign contributions.
Feinen has received a total of $4,535 from three different sources, the Realtor Political Action Committee, Champaign Firefighters Local 1260 and Attorney's Title Guaranty Fund Inc. It's likely she's also received smaller contributions, but those don't have to reported until mid-April, weeks after the mayoral election.
In Danville, where there are four candidates for mayor, only two of the hopefuls have reported any contributions of $1,000 or greater.
Steve Nichols has a single $1,000 donation from Gardner Peck, the manager of Danville Metal Stamping.
James "Mouse" McMahon reported three large contributions: $2,000 from Danville businessman Julius Hegeler, $1,000 from local contractor Paul Offutt and $1,000 from Jude Dines of Westville. McMahon had started the campaign with $1,500 in his fund, meaning he likely has the most money of any of the candidates.
Mayor Rickey Williams reported $4.68 in his campaign fund on Dec. 31, and Donald Crews had $485 when his committee was formed in December.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.