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A campaign finance disclosure filed March 17 with the Illinois Board of Elections reveals that a public relations company that receives lucrative contracts from Proviso High School District 209 contributed nearly $6,000 in services to Dist. 209 school board president Chris Welch’s campaign for 7th District state representative.

Welch was defeated in the race by incumbent Karen Yarbrough, who received just over 70 percent of the vote in the March 21 election.

In January, the Forest Park Review revealed that Danielle Ashley Advertising, which also contributed generously to Welch’s 2005 campaign for board president, had been paid just under $150,000 by Dist. 209 in 2005, with bills in recent months reaching as high as $21,000.

The district also employs a full time public relations director, Angela McDaniel, who is paid between $60,000 and $70,000, according to Chief Education Officer Robert Libka.

Danielle Ashley representatives are typically paid between $100 and $200 per hour for their services, with tasks described on their invoices including preparing district news letters, editing press releases prepared by McDaniels and providing media training to Dist. 209 administrators.

Other districts in the area surveyed by the Review pay between $50,000 and $80,000 to their in house public relations officials, though none said they employ an outside firm.

The contribution disclosed on March 17 was an in-kind contribution, described as “marketing,” in the amount of $5,600.

Though the Welch campaign put out nine mailers since Feb. 3, no contributions from Danielle Ashley were disclosed until the final pre-election disclosure date. The campaign filed a D-2 report on March 7 that supposedly included contributions made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 19, and filed an A-1 report required 30 days before the election on March 1.

The Welch campaign reported an expenditure of about $4,000 for printing in December, but no further payments for printing or design of campaign literature were disclosed. Welch’s mailers state that they are paid for by the People for Emanuel “Chris” Welch, his campaign committee.

According to the Illinois Campaign Disclosure Act, “Every person or political committee which makes any expenditure in excess of $50 on behalf of a candidate or political committee or contributes goods or services in excess of $50 directly to a committee or indirectly to another on behalf of a committee shall certify to the treasurer of the political committee within five business days after making the contribution.”

In the case of in-kind contributions, the Rules and Regulations section of the act states that they are deemed to be received two days after the form required by the act is filed, or if no form is filed, “two days after the date information comes into possession of the candidate, chairman, or treasurer of the recipient committee or the public official from which the person receiving the information knows or should reasonably know of the in-kind contribution.”

Asked in January if Danielle Ashley would be contributing to Welch’s state rep campaign, Vice President Paul Davis did not directly answer, but said that “whatever activity we might do, it’s legal.” He also dismissed allegations that the firm’s continued employment at Dist. 209 had to do with its past campaign contributions.

Welch has also vehemently denied any impropriety.

The company also gave an in-kind contribution of $6,417.64 to Welch’s New Students First Party, which comprises the majority of the Dist. 209 school board, in February, 2005. It has contributed $5,500 since to the campaign fund of Cook County Recorder of Deeds and Welch ally Eugene Moore, who was also defeated by Yarbrough for his spot as Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman in the March 21 election.

A Chicago based company called J&B Signs also gave Welch’s campaign a $5,500 in kind contribution, also described as “marketing.”

Also disclosed on March 16 was a $1,500 contribution from Zpd+a, the company employed as project manager for the construction and ongoing finishing touches on the new Proviso Math and Science Academy at 1st Avenue and Roosevelt Road in Forest Park. The company had previously contributed $3,000 to the campaign.

Welch and Davis did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

While campaigning for state rep, Welch told the Review that, if elected, he would support legislation banning campaign contributions from vendors.

A Chicago Tribune story on Tuesday named Danielle Ashley as one of three companies being looked at by state auditors in relation to nearly $500,000 spent to inform motorists about the Dan Ryan Expressway construction project. According to the story, Danielle Ashley was involved in more than $390,000 of the questionable expenditures identified by auditors.