Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) paid himself more than $115,000 from his campaign fund over a three-year span, most of it disclosed belatedly.
In some cases, Cochran reported the payments more than two years after he should have.
Cochran has submitted a series of amendments to his campaign finance disclosure reports during the past year to correct the omissions.
The cleanup work could be an indication Cochran has more serious problems than with the bookkeepers at the State Board of Elections. Think Bill Beavers and Jesse Jackson Jr., whose failure to keep their campaign funds separate from their personal finances got them in a real jam.
Cochran’s campaign finance reports were in such disarray that he originally reported his ending balance for the second quarter of 2015 as $174,600 before eventually adjusting it to negative-$4,075.
That’s a big difference, much of it attributable to payments Cochran made to himself that were not disclosed in his original reports.
For example, Cochran reported no payments to himself in his initial accounting of campaign spending for the first quarter of 2015, which was filed that April. Amended reports that he filed in August and October still showed nothing.
Finally, this past Jan. 15, Cochran revealed he’d actually received 34 payments totaling $48,685 from his campaign fund during that period. The payments were accompanied by notations such as “personal use,” “campaign work,” “compensation,” “candidate pay” and “payroll-self.”
I’m not quite sure how he missed those the first three times. Surely, he knew he received the money.
Cochran initially overlooked another $16,050 in payments to himself for the second quarter before later fixing his reports.
The belated disclosures date back to money Cochran took from his campaign fund — without disclosing — in January 2013.
It’s not against state law for politicians to pocket money from their campaign funds as long as it’s “for services actually rendered,” though they can get in big trouble if they fail to report the income to the IRS.
They are required to report all contributions and expenditures every three months.
During the first half of 2015, Cochran was campaigning for re-election to a third term, which he won in a runoff against civil engineer Kevin Bailey.
Two days following the election, after telling reporters he was on his way to Las Vegas to celebrate, Cochran was hit with a foreclosure lawsuit on his Woodlawn home, records show.
It was the second home-foreclosure case filed against Cochran in four years, not including a separate foreclosure involving a chain of laundromats in which he had a financial interest.
All three cases were dismissed.
It’s possible some of the payments to Cochran were reimbursements for expenditures the alderman made on behalf of his campaign, but I couldn’t get him to clarify.
Cochran, 64, was conspicuous by his absence at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, at which aldermen approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new police accountability ordinance, an issue on which Cochran, a former police officer, had played a more prominent role than normal.
When I couldn’t reach him at City Hall that day, I visited his ward office and left a message with his staff. A sign on the door indicated Cochran had cancelled that evening’s ward night for constituents because of a “scheduling conflict.” Nobody answered the door at his home. I also left phone messages for him.
Cochran’s daughter, Angela Moore, was listed as the alderman’s campaign treasurer until earlier this year, when he took over the duties. Moore, who previously was on Cochran’s city payroll, declined to comment.
Cochran retired from the Chicago Police Department in 2003 after 26 years and was first elected to the City Council in 2007. He replaced Ald. Arenda Troutman, who was sentenced to four years in federal prison for shaking down developers in her ward.
Cochran is paid $116,208 a year as alderman and also collects a $58,889 police pension.
So you’re thinking: Why would a guy making that much money off the taxpayers need to grift off his campaign fund, too?
If only we knew why they do what they do.Tweets by @MarkBrownCST