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Campaigning At Non-Profit Event? Frankfort Residents Raise Concerns

Patch 3/10/2023 Andrea Earnest
Residents who reached out to Patch are concerned about the campaigning due to the Foundation's nonprofit status. © Patch Graphics Residents who reached out to Patch are concerned about the campaigning due to the Foundation's nonprofit status.

FRANKFORT, IL — A Frankfort 157-C Education Foundation event on March 3 has residents concerned about campaigning activities of two candidates, Marc Dabaco and Nicole Queen, who are running for local office in the April 4 election.

The fundraising event, an annual Casino Night, was held at Prestwick Golf Club in Frankfort.

Several residents, who asked to remain unnamed, reached out to Patch and said that campaign signs were outside the venue and campaign materials were inside the event as well.

Dabaco, who serves as the Foundation's Board president, is running for 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 released a statement about Casino Night on its website.

"Recently, at the 157c Education Foundation Casino Night benefitting Frankfort Schools on March 3, our current president, Marc Dabaco, mentioned during his welcoming remarks that he was currently running for the position of Frankfort Village Trustee," the statement reads. "We are also aware that one or more of his campaign supporters may have brought promotion materials into the event. Our Foundation is aware of its obligation to avoid engaging [in] political activity and apologizes any impression that may have been conveyed that the Foundation was supporting Mr. Dabaco’s candidacy. To be clear, the Foundation neither supports Mr. Dabaco’s candidacy nor any other candidate for political office. Our Foundation is committed to supporting our schools, faculty and, most importantly, the children of Frankfort and we hope to continue to do so in the years to come."

The statement continues and thanks volunteers, sponsors and the community for their support of the Casino Night fundraiser.

Residents who reached out to Patch are concerned about the campaigning due to the Foundation's nonprofit status.

Under the IRS' Code, all 501(c)(3) organizations "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office," the IRS website states.

Violating this prohibition could result in the "denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes," according to the IRS website.

Patch has reached out to Queen and Dabaco for comment, and Dabaco gave the following statement.

"In recent years, local Frankfort nonpartisan campaigns for village offices and volunteer school and park races have been besieged by an avalanche of comments by online bullies seeking 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 on the internet," he wrote in the statement to Patch.

Dabaco wrote that a stack of political brochures were at the venue during the Casino Night event, which "online bullies are alleging to be various violations of Illinois and federal campaign laws, tax laws and ethics laws."

"Despite the hysterical ridiculousness of these accusations, which do nothing but harm an organization that helps all of our children, I have sent letters of inquiry to both the IRS and the Illinois State Board of Elections to ask their opinion on the matter. As soon as those answers are received, I will provide them to the Foundation Board Members and post them on social media," Dabaco said. "While I am absolutely certain the responses will confirm that nothing remotely contrary to any law or regulations occurred, I implore the online chatter to stop before it causes lasting damage to a fine non-for-profit organization."

Queen also responded, and said she "was unaware that Marc [Dabaco] would mention I was running for school board in his speech or that my signs were outside or that any of this was a violation."

"For all of that I apologize and had I known-they would’ve been removed immediately. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never be malicious or do anything that would jeopardize losing this foundation for the kids in this district," she said. "We’re a new board, and we’re still learning. We’re all humans and make mistakes. We have feelings and families, and we’ve all dedicated a lot of our time to making this foundation a success for the kids."

The article Campaigning At Non-Profit Event? Frankfort Residents Raise Concerns appeared first on Frankfort Patch.

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