- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Illinois U.S. House 12th District candidate C.J. Baricevic has gotten most of his campaign funding from attorneys who work in the Belleville-based court system headed by his father, according to a newspaper’s recent analysis.

The Democratic candidate, whose father is 20th Judicial Circuit Chief John Baricevic, has received more than $246,000 from lawyers and others associated with more than 70 law firms, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1s3F1ie ) reported. One of those firms has donated more than $37,000 through its lawyers and employees, including secretaries who gave the top allowable contribution of $2,700 each.

“It is clear that C.J. Baricevic has far more support in the trial lawyer community than he does among the majority of 12th District voters,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Zach Hunter said in statement.

While Republicans raise concerns about a conflict of interest, C.J. Baricevic said the support from lawyers comes from him being a partner in the Belleville law firm Chatham and Baricevic.

“My peers are donating to me, which is flattering,” he said. “A lot of these people encouraged me. … Without their support, I probably wouldn’t have run in the first place.”

C.J. Baricevic is attempting to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep Mike Bost of Murphysboro. He argues that “the real story” in the campaign is that most of his contributions come from individual donations, while his opponent is relying heavily on money from the Republican Party and PACs.

Bost has raised more than $700,000 in party and PAC money, while Baricevic has raised only about $70,000 from the same sources, according to federal election records.

Judge Baricevic disputes any connection between his position and attorneys donating to his son.

“Call any lawyer, call any judge. I do not interfere with the normal process” of assigning cases to other judges, he said. “You won’t find one lawyer who will make that accusation, because it’s unfounded.”

No one has accused Judge Baricevic of meddling in case assignments, but critics believe it raises the question of whether attorneys feel pressure to donate to his son’s campaigns.

“Common sense would tell you if you give money to the chief judge’s son, he’s going to like you, and if you don’t, he won’t,” said Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook, a Republican who is running for 20th Judicial Circuit clerk and is suing to get Judge Baricevic removed from a judicial ballot this year in an unrelated election dispute.

Judge Baricevic has served on the bench in the 20th Judicial Circuit for more than a decade.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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