State Rep. Calvin Giles has until January to pay more than $140,000 in unpaid fines to a state election agency or face being kicked off the ballot for the March primary, state election officials have said.

Giles, a seven-term state legislator, has not paid fines totaling $144,000 to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The West Side Democrat, whose district includes Austin and a portion of Oak Park, was cited for filing late campaign finance reports to the election board dating back to 2000. A total of 50 fines were levied against Giles. In five years, Giles racked up penalties ranging from $50 to $10,000.

Giles and other candidates listed by the state have until Jan. 31, 2006 to pay their outstanding fines. If they don’t, the State Board of Elections will keep their names off the March 21 primary ballot.

“If they owe us any fines up to that point, the board has given every indication that they will go forward and seek ballot forfeiture,” said Rupert Borgsmiller, director of campaign disclosures for the board of elections.

Penalties levied against tardy candidates went for such late filings as pre-election and end-of-the-year reports. The fines levied against Giles are some of the highest ever assessed to an incumbent or candidate.

“When you don’t file, and you have multiple violations, that’s how the penalties escalate,” said Borgsmiller.

Giles has not returned phone calls to Wednesday Journal or other news outlets.

“You’ve reached State Rep. Calvin Giles’ 8th district office. We are unable to take your call personally…” states the phone message at his district office. A representative from his Springfield office said Giles “may not return the phone call,” but that a message would be left for him.

Giles, 43, has dodged media and state officials inquiring about his unpaid fines for several months.

Giles successfully thwarted an effort by state election officials last year to keep his name off the 2004 ballot while still owing $80,000. The state board hit Giles with an additional $60,000 for late filings from 2002 and 2003.

Giles, in fact, through campaign contributions raised more in 2004 than the assessed fines owed to the state.

Giles raised a total of $182,095 in his 2004 victory, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics. The institute’s data is based on campaign-finance reports filed by the candidates.

Giles’ donors included the Illinois Education Association to the tune of $51,000. The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, $3,250, Union Pacific Railroad, $1,750, and a beverage distributor group called Southern Wine and Spirits of Illinois, which contributed $1,478. The group gave more than $164,000 to Illinois candidates in 2004, mainly to Democrats.

More than $80 million dollars were contributed to Illinois candidates in 2004. David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said part of the problem is the state’s loose campaign finance laws.

Illinois currently has no restrictions on the amount of money candidates can receive. Candidates seeking federal offices are barred from accepting more than $2,000 from an individual donor.

The General Assembly in 1998 passed a bi-partisan campaign finance and ethics reform bill, prohibiting the personal use of campaign funds. The measure also tightened disclosure requirements. But the measure, according to critics, did nothing to streamline the amount of money candidates receive.

“The real problem is that the legislature refuses to place any restrictions on giving,” said Morrison. “Other states put limits on the amount of money people can give. But in Illinois, anyone, any group or anything can give whatever amount the candidate is willing to take. Candidates can take as much as they can get from an entity that’s willing to give to them.”

Morrison’s group filed a complaint against Giles with the state election board in early 2004. Giles had not filed for a year. Morrison said the fines against Giles are the highest he’s ever seen.

“Basically, he didn’t own up to where he was getting money before he faced the voters,” Morrison said.

State election officials haven’t ruled out hiring a collection agency or turning the matter over to the Illinois Attorney General to settle the matter. Borgsmiller said Giles and other candidates will face no additional penalties if they pay the fines by the Jan. 31 deadline.

“As candidates come in and pay, they are removed from the list of individuals facing ballot forfeiture,” he said. “If they pay, they’re fine as far as we’re concerned.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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