May 29, 2013

Illinois fracking rules sponsor buys Chicago luxury hotel stays, jewelry, gifts courtesy of campaign fund stuffed by fracking interests

Representative John Bradley, chief sponsor of the proposed fracking bill written with industry lobbyists, sometimes pleads with listeners about his concern for water quality in southern Illinois. He testified in favor of the fracking bill saying, "Our first and foremost ... effort, intent in everything we did and every negotiation we had, was first and foremost that we are going to protect the ground water in southern Illinois."

Many residents in areas slated for fracking find it difficult to take those words seriously after he took thousands in campaign contributions from fracking interests while negotiating the regulatory bill. Of course, he claims the money doesn't influence him.

And after all, the money is only spent on campaign expenses. Right? Well...

John Bradley finds interesting uses for his campaign funds, including multiple trips to pricey luxury hotels in Chicago and St. Louis, jewelry, and other gifts.

His most recent campaign finance filing shows he spent $736.47 for three days at the Talbott Hotel in January. Their website describes it as a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Chicago's effervescent Gold Coast.

Perhaps less opulent hotels were all booked that week, but similar expenses show up on his other reports. On December 20 of last year he spent $701.40 at Chicago's River North Westin Hotel. In July he spent just over $1,000 at the Michigan Avenue Westin for himself and a staff member. That same month he spent $3,343 of campaign funds at the Hilton Suites on the Magnificent Mile. In between those trips, he found time for a $596.83 July 21 stay at St. Louis' Chase Park Plaza.

I'm guessing he didn't see many of his southern Illinois constituents while spending July in downtown Chicago's best hotels. But, perhaps he did when he returned again in September to spend an additional $765.97 at River North Westin, another $442.32 at the Magnificent Mile Hilton, plus a mere $221.16 at the downtown Sheraton, all in the same month.

I looked back through just one more filling period and found more of the same. Nearly $5,000 for more stays at pricey Chicago hotels in the first half of 2012.

More recently, he spent roughly $1,000 on gifts for his staff. That includes over $300 spent at a jewelry store for one staff member, and $233 at the Magnificent Mile Brooks Brothers. There were several small payments to a member of his family, but those appear to be campaign expenses during his last election.

This may sound similar to Jesse Jackson Jr's misuse of his Congressional campaign fund. But luckily for State Representative Bradley, rules at the state level are more lenient than they are for members of Congress. General Assembly members are free to use their campaign fund in ways that aren't directly related to campaign activity.

I believe Representative Bradley when he says he cares about water quality in southern Illinois. But, I bet he also doesn't mind staying in luxury hotels and shopping the Magnificent Mile courtesy of the fracking industry and his other campaign donors. It doesn't help dispel his reputation for being a puppet of fossil fuel industry lobbyists.