Springfield, IL (ECWd) -
When we started the Edgar County Watchdogs our Board of Directors made it very clear that our agenda must be focused on compliance with the law and exposing those who violate it, regardless of a political party. We also agreed to never accept funding from people who themselves had a political agenda and wished to use us as the means to get their message out.
Our goal was simple. Help those who ask for help with fixing known problems within their local government. At the time we had no idea this would become a full-time venture. Illinois is a target-rich environment when it comes to public corruption so rest assured there is no shortage of things to investigate and expose.
That brings me to the recent Op-Ed in the Daily Herald by Adam Andrzejewski that exposed how much money Rich Miller, a local political blogger who owns Capitol Fax, has been paid with taxpayer dollars, which now appears to be $500 per subscription. (Click here for Daily Herald article)
The first thing that comes to mind is where in the state statutes does it permit state agencies or public bodies to pay for a political blogger subscription? I wanted to know because if the law permits it then maybe we could jump on the money train. OK, only kidding, but the question remains, where in the law does it permit this type of expenditure?
In a time when most mainstream media is no longer trusted, we see more and more people turning to social media and other independent sources to get their news. We have seen our viewer numbers almost doubling each year so we understand people's frustration with the media.
To date, according to the Illinois Comptroller's website, Rich Miller has been paid out $43,000 in FY2015, which is the highest ever for Miller.
$4,000.00 of taxpayer money was paid out by Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger in July 2015 alone. This is very disappointing considering the financial condition of this state as well as her position on social issues. Her past campaign website outlines "she knows firsthand the difficulty that state payment delays cause social service agencies".
We have starving social services and Miller’s company is being paid… during a budget showdown?
"The bottom line is Illinois does not have the money to cover current costs," Munger said. "It is incumbent on each of us to find ways to become more efficient and deliver critical services more affordable." (Her own press release)
Can anyone explain how a person tells the people of this state we do not have the money to cover current costs all while forking out $43,000 for a political subscription to Capitol Fax?
The Attorney General's subscription reflects the payment is for Awards and Grants? How is a political subscription an "Award or Grant"? The Secretary of State's subscription refers to this payment as "Equipment". (Click here for screen shot of the payments in 2015)
As the keeper of our books, is it asking to much for her to demand a forensic audit to correct these clear mistakes in accounting codes?
Now I don't fault a guy for making money and creating a business, but how on earth can the Comptroller or any other public body justify spending money on a political blogger subscription when the state is broke and we still don't even have a budget passed?
Miller's position on his operation is pretty clear and was provided in response to a question from City News reporter James Taylor last year in an email.
Taylor to Miller: This morning I received an email from "Open the Books" which was making statements about a series of what I consider, negative allegations about funds you are alleged to have received from various political groups and organizations. The implied allegation is that you and your blogs and reports are part of pay to play. I really have been an admirer and supporter of yours for years and hope sincerely that these allegations are not true. I must admit that over the years I have often wondered why the only thing I have ever observed you wrote about our publications is something about Coen when he ran and "the Gift that Keeps on Giving". Other than that, I have been very supportive and recommended your efforts to many others who I felt needed to be exposed to a journalist who actually didn't spin. What is going on and will you respond for publication?
James Taylor Sr.
"I publish a newsletter about government and politics. Some government and political groups subscribe. I’m not in the business of handing out stuff for free."
Although I am not in the business of handing out stuff for free either, I am in the business of ensuring that my tax dollars are providing me a public purpose.
What public purpose does a private political publication provide to the taxpayers of Illinois? If we are paying for it don't we all have a right to access it?
I have no problem if a lobbyist, legislature, or even a political party wants to pay for a subscription with "their" money however I find it very disturbing that now our tax dollars are going towards what is clearly a political publication and during a time when we simply can not afford such an expenditure.