Walter Burnett Jr. is missing $300,000 in campaign money

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Since 1999 Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said he invested $375,000 of the $4.2 million in campaign contributions he received from political supporters – but $300,000 of the money invested disappeared from his reports campaign finance, according to a Chicago Sun-Times investigation.

Where is the missing money?

Burnett won’t talk about it. He declined to answer reporters’ questions about his campaign reports, which he frequently edited, some of them up to five times.

The Chicago City Council member said in a text message in response to questions, “I don’t feel comfortable talking to you about this. It’s not my municipal business.

But he says he didn’t convert any campaign fund investments into personal income: “Of course I didn’t cash them into my personal account.”

He also did not explain where the money went to the Illinois State Board of Elections, which says it has known for several months that Burnett’s campaign fund has stopped reporting what he has been doing. with invested contributions, which it is required to do under state law.

The state board of elections has the power to amend Burnett’s campaign fund. If he deems the offense serious enough, he could also report any campaign finance violations to the Illinois Attorney General’s office for consideration for possible prosecution.

But state election officials have been talking with Burnett’s campaign aide to figure out “where the money is or isn’t,” according to a Nov. 3 email from John Levin of the board of elections. “Let me see if there’s a way to do this without filing over 20 years of amended reports.”

Burnett has more than $733,000 in his Friends of Walter Burnett Jr. campaign fund, according to his latest campaign return, Sept. 30, in which he said he had no investments involving contributions.

That $733,000 does not include the $300,000 in missing investments he said he made with campaign contributions since 1999, when Illinois elected officials were first required to report any investments made. with campaign money.

Burnett’s two most recent investments were with Wintrust Bank, which holds the mortgage on Burnett’s home. Wintrust is also the owner of Burnett’s neighborhood office, which is in the same building as the bank’s branch at Madison Street and Western Avenue.

His campaign fund has repeatedly corrected errors in previous campaign finance reports, including, on July 2, 2021, amending 24 quarterly reports spanning six years. He said it was to eliminate a duplicate payment of $19,330 made in 2015 to the regular 27th Ward Democratic Committee, led by Burnett.

None of the campaign’s amended reports discussed the status of its investments.

“They made an effort to revise their reports,” said Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections. “The committee has taken steps to correct past reports, and we will continue to work with them to ensure accurate reports are tabled.”

About a month after Burnett’s campaign fund changed its reporting last year, the Sun-Times reported that he and his wife had been receiving property tax breaks since 2013 for owners of their residence and also on buildings. investment, although Illinois law allows the homeowners exemption to be claimed on only one principal residence. Burnett paid $3,217 to cover property taxes due from 2016 to 2019 on his investment property.

The Cook County Assessor is only allowed to go back and bill wrongly claimed breaks up to four years. County officials could not say how much the Burnetts saved from 2013 to 2015.

Burnett, 59, who represents the 27th Ward – which stretches from the Near North Side to the West Side – has the third-longest term of any current member of the Chicago City Council and is serving a term that expires in May . His campaign fund continued to raise money, but he has not announced whether he will run again.

A protégé of longtime Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Burnett was first elected to the Chicago City Council in 1995, despite being convicted of armed robbery and despite a state law prohibiting convicted felons from holding office. He then obtained a pardon from the governor at the time. Jim Edgar so that he can run for re-election without fear of being knocked out of the ballot.

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