Revealed: Darin LaHood’s Crony Capitalist Deals Funnel Millions of Taxpayer Dollars to Campaign Donors

AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky
AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky

Republican state senator Darin LaHood helped to perpetuate a cycle of crony capitalism and donor back-scratching by voting for a bill that benefited both his law firm and campaign donors at taxpayers’ expense, according to a study of his votes, law firm payments, and campaign contributions.

LaHood, who is running against Breitbart News’ Big Government founding editor Mike Flynn in a contest to replace disgraced former Rep. Aaron Schock, voted for a bill which would financially benefit his law firm, Miller, Hall, & Triggs, which represents the city of East Peoria.

On May 30, 2012, LaHood voted “yea” on a bill which established in East Peoria a new “Tax Increment District III” — a law which conveniently required the city hire to lawyers who would confirm each year that the city was in full compliance. This was the third such zone established by the city.

TIFs are set up to help offset the costs of building businesses in blighted areas or establishing a manufacturing plant, or “free enterprise zone.” Property taxes are increased on businesses and homeowners for as many as 26 years to fund new developments.

Who represents East Peoria? None other than Miller, Hall, & Triggs, for which LaHood is an associate. Yet LaHood apparently did not disclose to taxpayers that his firm stood to make significant financial gains from the new TIF zone he supported; transcripts from the vote show no evidence that LaHood made public the ties his firm has to East Peoria.

LaHood’s firm has made $1,285,803 over the course of five years (2010-2015) from its client, East Peoria. 

Since that vote, developers have also donated tens thousands of dollars to his congressional campaign after being awarded businesses in the new TIF zones in what appears to be a cozy, crony capitalist set-up.

Chairman of Cullinan Properties Diane Cullinan Oberhelman (and wife of Caterpillar CEO Douglas R. Oberhelman) earned $1,759,302 from TIF zones since 2010. Cullinan also donated $15,000 to LaHood’s state senate campaign PAC, and $10,800 to his congressional PAC. In total, she donated $25,800. The Otto Baum company, which received $4,073,797 to develop the new TIF zone since 2012, donated $5,000 to LaHood’s state senate PAC.

It’s noteworthy that over the course of his career, LaHood hasn’t experienced a real vetting process — he was appointed to his seat in Illinois’ 37th district after another state senator retired in 2011, and then ran unopposed to serve a full term in 2012. He’s also the son of former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and a distant cousin of Dayne LaHood, Schock’s district chief of staff.

LaHood’s campaign did not return requests for comment. The special election pitting him against Flynn takes place on July 7, 2015. Readers can investigate the full findings below.

Lahood: East Peoria

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