Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner | AP file

Rauner campaign used gift cards to help get out vote: report

SHARE Rauner campaign used gift cards to help get out vote: report
SHARE Rauner campaign used gift cards to help get out vote: report

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign handed out thousands of dollars in gift cards to people who helped get supporters to the polls during the November election, prompting questions about transparency and whether recipients should be considered volunteers or campaign staff.

The Chicago Tribune reports the campaign says it bought 5,145 Visa prepaid gift cards in denominations of $25, $50 and $75.

The gift cards weren’t mentioned in campaign finance reports filed with the state until July 13, when the Republican’s political committee noted it received $54,713 in April and May through “liquidation of previously purchased asset — redemption of gift cards.”

The campaign hasn’t disclosed who got the cards or if anyone received cards totaling $150 or more — the level at which Illinois campaign finance laws requires compensation to workers be reported.

Kent Redfield, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield and a campaign finance expert, says not disclosing the gift cards creates a “lack of transparency.”

“You should be able to figure out what people spent money on and where the money went,” Redfield said.

Sarah Clamp, spokeswoman for Rauner’s campaign, said the campaign reported the gift cards correctly.

“The campaign is only responsible for reporting when the campaign makes an expenditure and did this by reporting the purchase of gift cards,” she said.

Rauner, a multimillionaire businessman, defeated Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to win his first public office.

His campaign said it considered the gift cards “property” and that transferring them to workers didn’t need to be reported.

Larry Noble, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, said debit cards are “as good as cash” and the campaign should have reported which workers got the cards.

While campaigns often reward volunteers with pizza or coffee, Noble said giving gift cards “definitely is odd.”

Officials at the State Board of Elections would only say they’re aware of the issue.

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