This month DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin reappointed local attorney Chris Hage to serve on the board of the DuPage County Election Commission. A year ago, Hage was a candidate in a "spirited" campaign for the Republican primary slot for 42nd District Representative of Illinois, losing hands down to Jeanne Ives.
Cronin first appointed Hage to the Commission last July after the resignation of J.P. "Rick" Carney in the well-publicized shake-up following the release of a scathing Crowe Horwath report in April.
“Under our administration, this will be an agency above and beyond reproach,” Cronin told the Daily Herald.
Hage accepted the position paying $27,500 annually on the Board which meets twice monthly just six months after he submitted his candidate profile to the Daily Herald's editorial staff: Eliminating boards and commissions that pay generously for part-time work will both pare down the size of government and help our bottom line.
Unlike other County appointments, the DuPage County Board chairman isn't required to seek approval by the County Board for his choices to the Election Commission.
The lack of requirement of a confirming vote doesn't stop County Board members from publicly voicing concerns over Cronin's Commission appointments. In a Board meeting held several weeks ago, an elected County Board member pointed out that Hage had kept his political campaign committee open while serving on the Election Commission and continued to have keep his political websites alive.
Cronin responded in a letter cc'ed to all County Board members last week that Hage's political committee had been terminated in January 2013 -- one month earlier. The Chairman added that Hage "demonstrates the requisite knowledge, skills and integrity to be an effective advocate for impartial and accurate elections".
While termination of Hage's political committee was noted, numerous ethical and public trust issues surrounding Hage's appointment remain unaddressed:
- Republican News Watch's Doug Ibendahl reported that Cronin and Hage share mutual interests in a politically-charged power grab of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly (RNHA) of Illinois. A video circulates of Hage interrupting the RNHA's state convention in 2011 at the Comfort Inn in Dixon, the boyhood hometown of both Hage and Ronald Reagan, in a failed coup d'état attempt. Police were called to escort former DuPage County Assistant State's Attorney Hage away for his freakish disturbance. (See also: "Thugs Messed with the Wrong Marine at RNHA of Illinois Convention" by Ibendahl.)
- According to the Federation of Illinois Young Republicans website and his own LinkedIn page, Hage currently serves as executive director of the Federation. Hage closed down his personal political committee six months after the oath to serve on the Election Commission, but serving as an officer of this organization with an active committee at the ISBOE shows that he is still in the political arena. Hage's specialties listed on his LinkedIn page include political campaigns and political strategy.
- Will County's Steve Orlando, who serves as an officer with Hage on the Federation of Illinois Young Republicans, has an ongoing lawsuit filed in DuPage County (2013CH265) against Rafael Rivadeneira of Elmhurst, the head of the "other" RNHA of Illinois organization. Rivadeneira lost his race for DuPage County Board District 2 and has been an outspoken critic of Cronin. The lawsuit is the latest maneuver by the old guard RNHA (Orlando) to take over the "newer thinking" RNHA (Rivadeneira) with established members. Those close to the case claim it is no accident this lawsuit was filed in DuPage County.
- While Crowe Horwath was polishing its report of the Election Commission, Hage was still a candidate for the Republican primary slot of 42nd District Representative of Illinois and Milton Township Precinct 86 Committeeman, losing both races to Jeanne Ives. At the time of this publication, Hage has not disabled his "VoteHage" website, nor his "Citizens for Chris Hage" Facebook page. (Check out: Hage's Facebook photo with Karl Rove; he refers to the political strategist as "brilliant".)
- CountyLeaks cannot find any reported political expenditures of Hage's ribfest fundraiser at DuPage Forest Preserve-owned Danada House held on Jan. 31, 2012. Invitations of this widely-publicized event lured contributors with Q-BBQ ribs and pulled pork. David Diersen, writer/editor of GOPUSA Illinois Daily Clips, reported that there were 100 attendees of this "outstanding" event. Yet, Hage showed no expenditures for rental of Danada House or Q-BBQ, nor in-kind contributions for this event in his required paperwork filed to the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBOE). Hage's campaign treasurer was Jack Hogan, financial director of the DuPage Forest Preserve. As an Election Commissioner, Hage makes decisions on candidates' filed paperwork -- one minor mistake could bounce someone off the ballot.
- Hage, often described by the media as a political activist, has been paid $178,000 for political work since 2006 on Illinois state campaigns -- mostly by Citizens to Elect Joe Birkett. In 2011, Hage was on the payroll of Brady for Senate, Inc. Hage was also a paid political worker for Steve Sauerberg's U.S. Senate run in 2008. His years as a political operative made close associations with certain Republicans in DuPage County, raising questions of ethics and potential conflicts of interest in his appointed position on the Election Commission.
Is it time to change the state statute allowing the DuPage County Election Commission to be an independent, county-wide election board? This law gives the County Board chairman the power to appoint its members without County Board approval. The County Board votes on other appointments of county-funded boards and commissions -- why not the Election Commission?
Last week, the Daily Herald broke the story of bills introduced in Springfield to consolidate the DuPage Forest Preserve back into the County and to reduce the salaries of Commissioners to zero. Again, why not the Election Commission?
Should anyone who refers to Karl Rove as "brilliant" be allowed to serve in a government position anywhere on the planet?
Was this appointment Cronin's way of paying Hage back for his help on the nasty Republican National Hispanic Assembly battles?
With Hage on the Election Commission, will Rivandeneira ever get a place on a DuPage ballot again?
Did it show good judgement for Hage to maintain "Citizens to Elect Chris Hage" during the first six months he was serving on the Election Commission? Or don't the first six months matter? Were they just the warm-up act?
Why didn't Cronin tell Hage to shut down his political committee and websites prior to taking his oath to serve on the Election Commission last July?
Ethics scholars, if the Federation of Illinois Young Republicans website is correct that Hage is its executive director, isn't it a conflict for Hage to continue serving as an officer of an organization with an active political committee while on the Election Commission? And is everything suddenly okay if he quits the Federation gig? Do the past eight months matter?
If Cronin truly wanted someone on the Election Commission with previous experience as a candidate for public office, why didn't he just keep roller-skating-gorilla-suit-wearing J.P. "Rick" Carney? Not only did Carney have more years of experience as a candidate, he wasn't a loser...
How can someone described as a "political activist" suddenly become impartial?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird was it for Hage to burst into the convention of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Illinois in a failed coup d'état attempt and to be escorted out the door of the Comfort Inn by Dixon police? What would The Gipper have said?
What if a thug pulled the same stunt in a DuPage County Board meeting? Would Cronin reward that thug with a part-time position paying $27,500? Why would it be okay in Dixon but not okay in Wheaton?
Will the citizenry form a coup d'état to remove Hage?
Should character be an important factor in weighing qualifications for appointments?
Should public servants -- especially outwardly committed Christians running on a "pro-family" record -- be held to a higher standard of ethics and accountability than other politicians or the average private citizen?
Why didn't Citizens to Elect Chris Hage submit any expenditures or in-kind contributions for its ribfest fundraiser at Danada House for a reported 100 attendees at $40 per person? Did the DuPage Forest Preserve provide Danada House for free to Citizens to Elect Hage while charging this space to other candidates? Did none of the 100 attendees eat or drink the advertised pulled pork and chicken, ribs, mac, and beans? Were all food and refreshments returned untouched to Q-BBQ or was this just a cheap ruse to lure contributors? (Surprise!) Did Anne Jorgensen have any pulled chicken? Did Bob Grogan eat any beans? How did this work? After all, Diersen reported that the event was "outstanding"...
Legal scholars, should a candidate who omits required expenditures to the Illinois State Board of Elections be allowed to stand in judgement of other candidates with benign errors in their campaign paperwork, ie: a petition signature which doesn't match the voter registration name scribbled 30 years ago?
Hypocrisy scholars, is it a double standard for Hage to expect other people not to receive generous compensation for part-time work on boards and commissions, while receiving generous compensation himself?
Because Hage's deep convictions include eliminating part-time board and commission positions which pay generously, shouldn't Cronin put the poor guy out of his misery and remove his salary of $27,500?
How many political connections does Hage need to have before it is considered a conflict of interest for him to serve on the Election Commission? 100? 250?
Of the 560,718 registered voters in DuPage County, couldn't Cronin have appointed someone more...normal?
Did Hage speed dial his buddy at Reverse Spin about this blog?