State senate campaigns facing more criticism

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Rockton residents received copies in the mail of a letter written by Village President Dale Adams, endorsing state Sen. Dave Syverson (R-34) for re-election to the state senate. This has some crying foul.

State statute dictates: “No public funds shall be used to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated for political or campaign purposes to any candidate or political organization.”

A first time offense is a Class B misdemeanor. Subsequent violations elevate to Class A.

“The copies of the letter and the postage was all paid for by the campaign,” Syverson told The Rock River Times. “There was no expenditures from the city whatsoever.”

Some Syverson TV ads and campaign materials have come under fire this election season for what critics called “implied endorsements” they or their organizations had not made.

Adams argued he’d written the endorsement on his mayoral stationery, not the official village letterhead. Adams said the stationery was municipal property but that he’d reimbursed the village for the cost of the single page. The village president added he thought 2-cents for a sheet of stationery was a worthy investment because of Syverson’s role in appropriating state funds for Rockton.

“I’m pleased with what he’s done for our community, so I didn’t hesitate to send the letter,” Adams explained, “but I had no idea how they were going to use it.”

Village Trustee Dave Winters told The Rock River Times he has no problem with Adams backing Syverson, but that it was inappropriate for the personal endorsement to appear on letterhead featuring the village logo. Winters, however, agreed Syverson has accomplished important things for Rockton.

“If they were using official city letterhead, and they were having it sent out from the city, that would be something that would certainly be inappropriate,” Syverson said, defending Adams. “He didn’t do that.”

Concerns were also raised that the letter from Adams did not have the campaign disclaimer that the material was paid for by the Syverson campaign. Syverson said that disclaimer is only necessary when the campaign piece is soliciting money. Donald M. Craven, attorney for the Illinois Press Association, agreed with Syverson.

Rockford Democrat Dan Lewandowski, who is challenging incumbent Syverson, said he’d let the voters decide for themselves whether they think the endorsement was proper.

“Certainly, I would do my best,” Lewandowski promised, “to make sure that we’re doing things appropriately.”

The Democrat’s campaign, however, is not without issues of its own.

Harlem School Board President Sandi Johnson confirmed that Superintendent Pat DeLuca asked the Lewandowski campaign to pull any ads shot at Harlem Middle School.

Lewandowski spokesman Mike Wilson reported Principal John Cusimano allowed after-hours filming at the school, unknowingly violating board policy.

“We made sure that the school did not appear that they were endorsing us, which would be illegal,” Wilson said. “We covered our bases as far as that’s concerned. Dave did not.”

Two other Syverson campaign ads have suffered criticism because they used personnel and logos from the non-profit Barbara Olson School of Hope and the Rockford Park District. Democrats are unhappy with Syverson, too. Images of Harlem Township Supervisor and Winnebago County Board candidate in District 3, Doug Aurand, and an American Cancer Society Banner were used in another ad without permission. Images of former Rockford mayors Doug Scott and Charles Box were also used without their permission in Syverson’s ads. Syverson has said he did not intend to threaten the non-profit status of any organization, and public officials are pictured together constantly at many events.

Republican Syverson has served in the state senate for 14 years and has not faced a challenger since the state redrew lines for the 34th District.

Voters will decide between Syverson and Lewandowski Nov. 7.

From the Nov. 1-7, 2006, issue

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