Cash from a Crook: Niles Mayor Takes Campaign Money from Imprisoned Predecessor

Niles Mayor Robert Callero accepted $2,500 in campaign cash from his imprisoned predecessor. (Photo/Village of Niles website)

Like a child with tapeworms, politicians in Illinois are insatiable—although it’s campaign cash they crave.

That being said, many political figures have the willpower to restrict their fundraising diets—refusing, for example, campaign contributions from people who leave a bad aftertaste.

So we wondered about a donation made earlier this year to Robert Callero, the mayor of Niles.

His predecessor, ex-Mayor Nicholas Blase, transferred $2,500 to Callero’s campaign fund on Feb. 3—just days after Blase was sentenced to a year and a day in prison on corruption charges, to which he pleaded guilty, records show.

There’s nothing illegal with taking money from felons, but really: Why would you? It seems to send the wrong message that it’s no big deal to violate the public trust.

It’s worth noting that earlier this fall Callero cast the deciding vote to keep Blase’s name on a public plaza, reasoning that the disgraced former mayor—who pocketed more than $400,000 by shaking down businesses in the middle-class near north suburb—had done “many good things” over the years, according to published accounts.

Callero did not return phone calls placed by the Better Government Association, but responded to questions via email, writing about the Blase campaign contribution: “I accepted the donation from a 35-year friend of mine.”

Former Mayor Nicholas Blase is currently serving a 366-day sentence in Duluth. (Photo/Village of Niles website)

A decade ago, Blase’s campaign fund had about $50,000. As of a week or so ago, just $700 or $800 was left, according to the treasurer, Esther Lordots.

It’s winding down—as is Blase’s time in federal prison in warm, sunny Duluth. He’s due to be released in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, although Lordots heard he could be out sooner.

In the meantime, maybe Callero should think about using the $2,500 contribution from Blase to bring in an expert on government ethics to conduct a mandatory seminar for village officials.

This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Herguth, the BGA’s editor of investigations. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at



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2 responses to “Cash from a Crook: Niles Mayor Takes Campaign Money from Imprisoned Predecessor

  1. Pingback: Ex-Niles Mayor Finds Salvation | BGA Investigators' Notebook

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