Another of George Ryan’s old buddies on the State Central Committee is Roger Claar. He was not only a close friend of Ryan’s – he was one of only three founding donors to Ryan’s legal defense fund in 2002.
When Ryan was convicted on all counts in 2006, Claar reserved all of his vitriol for the jury. Here is how the Bolingbrook Sun quoted Claar on April 21, 2006:
“I cannot believe George Ryan was convicted. Most, if not all, of what I read was circumstantial at best. With the cynicism of people today, I’m not sure any elected official could get a fair trial. From what I have been reading about the jury it sounds like most of the jury pool is, in fact, guilty of what they are suggesting George Ryan is guilty of. Many of them lied on the basic form to be completed by a juror. A lot of hypocrisy on their part. George Ryan served the State of Illinois well for over 30 years. He did many fine things for the Village of Bolingbrook. He is my friend and will be my friend!”
Claar’s day job is serving as Mayor of Bolingbrook, a position he has held for almost two decades. In 2007, Chicago Magazine did an expose on Claar, describing just how lucrative being a mayor of a town with a population of 71,000 can be:
In his roles as Bolingbrook’s mayor, liquor commissioner, and tobacco commissioner, Claar pulls in an annual salary of $122,033. Throughout the 1990s, he also ran a political consulting business. Beyond his income-producing ventures, he maintains a campaign fund of close to $1 million-the amount varies as he takes in money and spends it-one of the biggest mayoral funds in Illinois. (Though there’s no official ranking, many observers say the coffers of Citizens for Claar are topped only by the campaign fund of Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley.)
Claar has been generous over the years dolling out a campaign cash to his favorite Republicans. But Claar has also contributed to Democrats.
In 2007 Claar contributed $1,000 to Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress Jerry Bennett. Claar not only contributed money, he contributed his endorsement.
Claar made his $1,000 contribution to Bennett through an organization called ActBlue. One of the enabler blogs described ActBlue as a “DuPage Democratic group” – but that’s not correct. ActBlue is in fact a national organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It describes itself as “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action.”
This actually isn’t the first time Claar has financially assisted Democrats. Just a few years ago Claar gave smaller amounts to State Senator James DeLeo, State Senator Terry Link, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board President Terrence O’Brien, State Representative Jay Hoffman and State Senator Louis Viverito, all Democrat public officials. Those contributions were made prior to Claar joining the State Central Committee in 2006, but not much before.
Hoffman received $250 from Claar in November 2003. DeLeo received $700 from Claar between September 2003 and June 2005. Link received $1,000 from Claar in October 2005.
O’Brien received $300 from Claar in September 2005, and Viverito received $600 in August 2005. It is interesting to note that Viverito was the lone Democrat to vote “no” on allowing Senate Bill 600 to pass out of the Senate Elections Committee on March 10, 2009.
Claar is also the guy who, according to the Chicago Tribune back in 1996, had his home raided by the Illinois State Police in connection with a two-year investigation into tollway land deals. Claar was a board member at the tollway authority at the time.
Claar collected about $105,000 in donations from tollway affiliated firms in the decade since he was appointed to the tollway board. He routinely voted to give multimillion-dollar contracts to those contributors – in all, about $170 million in state contracts.
Claar has never been charged with any wrongdoing.
A recent report by the Chicago Tribune raised some serious questions about Claar’s campaign contributions:
Since 1999, Claar has taken in more than $5 million in donations, according to records reviewed by the Tribune. His campaign had a balance of more than $1 million in cash and investments, in the latest reporting period.
Nearly half of his donations came from companies and individuals who have done business with Bolingbrook. Those contributors received more than $300 million in village work — nearly 60 percent of the money that Bolingbrook spent on vendors over the last decade, the Tribune analysis shows.”
Claar has also been criticized for the building of the village’s posh, $36 million golf club, which has lost the village millions since opening in 2002.
If you would like to urge Roger Claar to do the right thing and resign, here is the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.