Chicago Tribune: Rauner campaign gift cards raise transparency questions
Larry Noble, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, said he had never heard of campaigns distributing that many debit cards to workers and said it "definitely is odd." Many campaigns reward volunteers with doughnuts, coffee or pizza — not gift cards.
"If they're giving them a debit card with value on it, that's payment to these people. You can't get around it," said Noble, now senior counsel at the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group involved in campaign finance legal issues.
But Noble, the former FEC lawyer, said he doubted that explanation shields the campaign from disclosing who got the cards if workers got more than $150 worth.
"The idea of it being property, I don't think that flies. Even if it was something other than a debit card, even a plant, or they gave each person $75 of food for their home, it's still something of value. These are debit cards. These are as good as cash," Noble said.
But Noble and other finance experts said the campaign should not have reported the quarter-million-dollar bulk purchase of the cards since it was the equivalent of giving people money out of a campaign bank account. Instead, it should have just reported who got the cards.
Noble likened it to rules that require campaigns to itemize the specifics of what they purchased using credit cards rather than just list a bulk payment made to a credit-card company.
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