Editorial: Kennedy’s action no favor to supporters

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What Kennedy did was not illegal, but he may have led supporters astray.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy didn’t do his supporters at the University of Illinois any favor recently when he sent them a combined campaign announcement and solicitation for contributions.

The mass email he sent to employees on their university accounts was within the rules. After all, Kennedy may have been the chairman of the UI’s Board of Trustees from 2009-2015, but he’s a private citizen now.

But he set up his email recipients for a potential problem because it’s an ethics violation for state employees to make a political contribution through their taxpayer-provided email accounts. The seven-paragraph message included a method by which recipients could make a contribution.

It’s hard to imagine that the error by the Kennedy campaign was anything other than inadvertent. He, obviously, got a mailing list, a valuable resource for any marketing or political organization, and decided to make use of it.

An ethics official said it’s “up to the state employee to make sure the state employee does not become involved in any kind of prohibited political activity.”

Well, of course. But that doesn’t mean a state employee, perhaps not as familiar with the rules as he should be or tempted to violate rules he knows are in place, wouldn’t run afoul of ethics restrictions.

Although this kind of violation is minor on the scale of typical Illinois-style corruption, the email rules are in place for a good reason — to prevent public employees from engaging in political activities using public resources.

Kennedy’s action quickly raised questions. The UI’s ethics office reported receiving multiple inquiries about it, showing how sensitive some people are on the issue and how easily employees could get themselves into trouble.

— The (Champaign) News-Gazette

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via The Telegraph http://thetelegraph.com

February 24, 2017 at 12:51PM

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Editorial: Kennedy’s action no favor to supporters

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