Why hide the money in a shoebox? Just buy a car!
At 57.5 cents per mile, old cars are like money machines for state politicians
And we thought Frank Mautino liked it behind the wheel.
As reported widely across Illinois last month, Mautino managed to spend $220,000 in campaign funds on “gas and vehicle repairs” over his last 10 years as a north central Illinois state representative.
That’s $20,000 per year and approximately $55 per day over 10 years and nine months of driving. It's enough to reign as the undisputed, reimbursable rural driving king of this great state ... for barely a month.
Only in Illinois.
Springfield Republican Sen. Sam McCann somehow managed to double Mautino’s annual driving output in 2015. He paid himself $38,000 for driving expense out of his campaign fund in 2015, according to a report in the State Journal-Register, or 57.5 cents per mile for 66,608 miles, an average of 5,550 miles per month.
Driving 5,550 miles -- the equivalent of driving from Chicago to San Francisco to Los Angeles to Houston to Toledo and back to Chicago -- would take 81 hours, according to Google Maps.
At 81 hours over 30 days, that’s about 2.7 hours of driving per day.
For his constituents’ sake, here’s hoping McCann spent the time driving contemplating solutions to Illinois’ budget and pension woes, and that he wasn’t just binge-listening to books on tape.
Last June, McCann submitted an astounding $8,000 in mileage reimbursements, according to state campaign records. That would be for 13,913 miles -- or the equivalent of 83 round trips from his Springfield office to Pleasant Hill in his district’s outer reaches.
That’s 83 round trips over 30 days.
Mautino, of course, showed stamina that McCann hasn’t yet proven he can sustain.
He delivered behind the wheel for nearly 11 years. And that’s what we know. Mautino started serving in the state legislature in 1991. How much driving and car repairing he did in the 16 years before 2005 is in some paper archive in Springfield.
McCann, who is up for re-election in 2016 and facing a primary challenge from state trooper Bryce Benton, suggested in an interview with the State Journal-Register that his surprisingly high reimbursements requests were a function of time constraints.
McCann said he only has one legislative assistant, and he has no paid campaign staff.
“I don’t sit down every night and submit a mileage reimbursement request,” McCann told the SJR. “The mileage I paid myself for last year was for last year.”
Benton said the explanation doesn’t hold water.
“You can’t claim tens of thousands of dollars in mileage reimbursements without proper documentation for every mile – it’s unethical and may be illegal,” Benton wrote on Facebook. “I hope Sam will be forthcoming and tell the truth about these shady payments to himself, but most importantly, stop treating his campaign fund as his own personal piggy bank. If the expenses the reimbursements cover cannot be individually identified, they should be returned to his campaign account immediately.”
Illinois’ history of mileage scandals
Beyond Mautino and McCann, mileage reimbursement scandals aren’t new to Illinois.
Last year, Congressman Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) reimbursed the U.S. House $88,220 for mileage reimbursements after it was disclosed he billed the federal government for 170,000 miles traveled in a car that only had been driven 80,000 miles.
In 2014, College of DuPage President Robert Breuder and other senior managers were caught collecting nearly $5,000 in mileage reimbursements even though they also received car allowances from the school.
In 2011, 54 Chicago firefighters were accused of “drastically padding” their mileage expense reports, costing taxpayers more than $100,000 in 2009 alone. The city’s inspector general recommended all be fired, but the Chicago Fire Commissioner only fired four of the 54.