POLITICO.COM — The two candidates for Illinois comptroller — the costliest race in the state — tangled in a contentious debate televised on WTTW Tuesday night, each accusing the other of acting as a shill for party leaders.
At one point, Democrat Susana Mendoza slammed incumbent Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger as the “state’s chief fiscal launderer,” for millions of dollars that have passed through Munger’s campaign fund to other Republican campaigns. Munger countered that Mendoza was beholden to unions and other special interests that have contributed to her election account.
Mendoza has previously accused Munger of acting as a rubber stamp for Gov. Bruce Rauner, after the governor recently pushed through $3 million to $4 million in performance bonuses to non-union workers.
Mendoza said the state doesn’t have money to pay its bills or keep open social service agencies, saying they “should be prioritized, certainly over anyone receiving a performance bonus while we’re in the midst of our worst, worst fiscal crisis of all time.”
But Munger said she was under court order to pay state workers.
When moderator Phil Ponce pressed: “including bonuses?” Munger said she cannot make a distinction over salary and bonus when an agency sends the request to her office for payment.
“There is no way to determine, which is bonus, which is pay,” Munger said, accusing Mendoza of not knowing how the office worked.
Mendoza countered that one of her top advisers is former comptroller Dan Hynes, and said Munger should have, upon taking office, immediately reviewed each agency’s expenses so she could make financial distinctions when necessary.
The Illinois comptroller is charged with paying the state’s bills. The job has come under greater scrutiny since the Rauner and Illinois Democrats have sparred over the state’s budget, failing to enact a budget for 10 months before finally approving a temporary spending plan until after the elections.
Mendoza accused Munger of allowing Rauner to control her office, complaining that Munger accepted $1 million from the governor when she is supposed to act as a balance to his office. But Munger hit right back, saying Mendoza had accepted money from the Democratic Party of Illinois, which Madigan leads.
“I actually stood up to the governor, right away, when I first took office. He asked me to withhold fair share union dues. I told him I couldn’t do that,” Munger said. “I stood up to the Attorney General when I went to court to make sure we could pay our employees, she sued me to stop. I went in with my own lawyers and we’re paying state employees because we went to court for that.”
When asked about $7 million that flowed to Munger’s campaign from two of Rauner’s top allies, Munger said that the money had already been transferred out of her account to other campaign accounts.
“She’s now admitted to being the state’s chief fiscal launderer,” Mendoza said.
Munger said that Mendoza’s term in the state legislature contributed to the state’s poor fiscal condition, including voting for unbalanced budgets and delaying pension payments. Munger also accused Mendoza of “double dipping” in her time as state rep, saying she received pay at the same time for a city job. Mendoza has insisted that she did not accept pay for one job while working at another.
“The reality is that she is continuing to lie, but you can buy a lot of lies with $9 million from three billionaires,” Mendoza said.