Boland feeling heat for giving tuition aid to donor's daughter
Scott Reeder, the Dispatch/Argus' man in Springfield, hits Rep. Mike Boland with a sticky story 23 days out from election day.
The daughter of one of Rep. Mike Boland's larger political donors has received legislative college scholarships worth about $10,000 from the lawmaker and hopes to receive more tuition aid from him in future years.This can't be good for Boland.
In this case, Rep. Boland, D-East Moline, gave scholarships to Alleyene Suehl, the daughter of Barb Suehl, a successful real estate agent in the Fulton area. Mrs. Suehl donated $15,891 to Rep. Boland's campaign in 2004 and 2005.
She is the top individual contributor to Rep. Boland's campaign during the last seven years, said University of Illinois professor Kent Redfield, an authority on Illinois campaign contributions. (This excludes contributions from labor unions, businesses, political parties or political action committees.)
In the 2004 campaign, Mrs. Suehl's contributions to Rep. Boland's election bid ranked second among all sources, exceeded only by money from the Illinois Democratic Party, according to the "Almanac of Illinois Politics."
Mrs. Suehl said her income has varied during the past seven or eight years. She earned $130,000 or $140,000 some years, but on average she earned about $100,000, she said.
She added that, because of a slow housing market, she may earn $80,000 this year.
In a 2000 interview with The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, Rep. Boland said he would not give a scholarship to any student from a household with an annual income greater than $100,000.
Rep. Boland said Tuesday that he has since adjusted that threshold to $120,000.
According to 2000 census data compiled for the "Almanac of Illinois Politics," the median family income in Rep. Boland's 71st House District is $49,059.
Rep. Boland said Alleyene Suehl is the only child of a political contributor for whom he has provided a scholarship. He said he does not consider the family wealthy.
"To have said, 'I'm not going to give you a scholarship because your mother gave my campaign money,' would have just been wrong. Alle is the most outstanding applicant I have had for a scholarship in the 12 years I have been a representative," he said.
Rep. Boland said he was in no way influenced by campaign contributions when he selected Alleyene for the scholarship. He said the young woman takes after her mother in being community minded.
The entire legislative scholarship program has come in for criticism in the past year in the wake of a prior media story about who uses it and to what extent and many question whether it shouldn't be eliminated altogether.
While it's hard to question the idea behind it, namely that deserving young people can get much needed and greatly appreciated help with often enormous tuition costs, it's unfortunate that they gave the responsibility for chosing receipients to actual politicians.
Needless to say, the temptation to use this perk as a way to repay donors or as a quid pro quo for future donations or other benefits is probably too much for politicians to resist, as appears to be the case with Rep. Boland.
And when you've said you'd not give a scholarship to anyone with an income over $100,000 and then you give a scholarship to your largest donor and it's revealed that their income is over $100,000, simply saying you "adjusted" the threshold to $120,000 is ... well, it doesn't come across too well. (though the $100,000 limit was set 6 years ago, and tuition costs have skyrocketed since then.)
Ms. Suehl, the young woman who recieved the tuition help, is an only child and had lost her father when he passed away in 2004. Whether it's acceptible for Rep. Boland to choose to award the scholarship to the daughter of a large donor even though their yearly income was approximately $80,000 is a matter for debate.
Read the rest of the story here.