As this was being written, we didn't know who would win this year’s contentious race for Moline mayor.
We do know this: A political action committee called Committee for a Better City Government played a pivotal part in the result.
By now, Moline voters have likely seen the incendiary and misleading flyers that targeted Sangeetha Rayapati in the closing days of the contest.
We’re not naïve, we know it’s not unusual for PACs to skirt the truth in the midst of a campaign. But what is especially troubling about this instance is the denials by the group’s officers that they had anything to do with the advertising.
John Hunt Harris is listed as the chairman and Richard Parsons as treasurer of the committee on the State Board of Elections web site. But both have told this newspaper that they’re no longer involved with the group, which has been around for years. Parsons, in fact, said he hadn’t been to a committee meeting in three to four years.
"It was like the committee just drifted away," he said.
Even though its true identity is obscured, the committee is clearly on Mayor Stephanie Acri’s side. According to campaign disclosures, the group donated $15,000 to her mayoral campaign.
The latest quarterly report from the citizens group, filed in January, still uses Harris’ name. But, given his denials, we’re left with little certainty about who is really behind this group. Which is not what voters should be faced with, especially with a committee that is playing such an outsize role in who will be the next mayor. The idea behind campaign disclosures is that voters know who is trying to influence them; that they don't have to guess.
Political committees are responsible for filing reports that keep up to date who’s in charge, but we're told there are rarely consequences for failing to do so.
That shouldn't be, either. This group shouldn't be able to continue hiding in the shadows.
Perhaps we'll learn more when, by law, the committee must file its quarterly report next week.
Whatever the case, we believe state and local authorities need to follow up on this. It’s important that our laws be followed, and that voters know who is participating in their elections – even if they do so behind an innocuous name and incomplete documentation.