Campaigns at charitable events? Frankfurt citizens express concerns
FRANKFORT, IL — A March 3 event hosted by the Frankfort 157-C Education Foundation has local residents concerned about the campaigning activities of two candidates, Marc Dabaco and Nicole Queen, who are running for local office in the April 4 election.
The benefit event, an annual Casino Night, took place at the Prestwick Golf Club in Frankfurt.
Several local residents, asking not to be named, reached out to Patch and said there were campaign signs outside of the venue and that campaign materials were also located inside the event.
Dabaco, who serves as the foundation’s board chairman, is running for the Frankfort Village Trustee. Queen, who serves as co-vice president of the board, is running for district 157-C board of education.
The foundation has published a statement regarding Casino Night on its website.
“Recently, at the 157c Education Foundation Casino Night in aid of Frankfurt Schools on March 3, our current President, Marc Dabaco, mentioned in his welcome remarks that he is currently running for the position of Frankfort Village Trustee,” the statement said . “We are also aware that one or more of his campaign supporters may have brought promotional material to the event. Our foundation is aware of its obligation to avoid participation [in] political activities and apologizes for any impression that the Foundation might give to support Mr. Dabaco’s candidacy. To be clear, the Foundation does not endorse Mr. Dabaco’s candidacy or any other candidate for political office. Our foundation is committed to supporting our schools, teachers and most importantly the children of Frankfurt, and we hope to continue to do so in the years to come.”
The statement goes on to thank volunteers, sponsors and the community for their support of the Casino Night fundraiser.
Residents who have reached out to Patch are concerned about the campaigns because of the foundation’s charitable status.
According to the IRS Code, all 501(c)(3) organizations are “absolutely prohibited from participating in or interfering, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of (or against) any candidate for public office.” the IRS website states.
Violating this prohibition could result in “denial or rescission of tax-exempt status and imposition of certain excise taxes,” according to the IRS website.
Patch has reached out to Queen and Dabaco for comment, and Dabaco issued the following statement.
“In recent years, local Frankfurt bipartisan campaigns for village offices and volunteer school and park races have been besieged by an avalanche of comments from online bullies trying to advance themselves or opposing candidates by tearing down other community volunteers. It really needs to stop, but unfortunately the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to be obnoxious online,” he wrote in the statement to Patch.
Dabaco wrote that during the Casino Night event, a stack of political pamphlets lay at the venue, which “online bullies constitute various violations of Illinois and federal campaign laws, tax laws, and ethics laws.”
“Despite the hysterical ridiculousness of these allegations, which only harm an organization that helps all of our children, I have sent investigative letters to both the IRS and the Illinois State Board of Elections seeking their views on the matter. As soon as these responses are received, I will make them available to the members of the Board of Trustees and post them on social media,” Dabaco said. “Although I am absolutely certain the responses will confirm that nothing remotely violates any law or regulation I urge you to stop the online chatter before it does lasting harm to a good nonprofit.”
Queen also responded, saying she “didn’t know that Marc [Dabaco] would mention in his speech that I’m running for school board, or that my signs were out, or that any of that was a violation.
“I apologize for all of this and if I had known, they would have been removed immediately. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never be malicious or do anything that would jeopardize the loss of this foundation for the children in this district,” she said. “We are a new board and we are still learning. We are all human and make mistakes. We have feelings and families, and we’ve all put a lot of time into making this foundation a success for the kids.”