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Another angle on the IHSA lawsuit

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* Phil Kadner writes about a little-known angle of the Better Government Association’s suit against the not-for-profit Illinois High School Association

(T)he IHSA generates money for its schools, and the school boards, athletic directors and coaches are prepared to protect it from public scrutiny.

That’s how Consolidated High School District 230, based in Orland Park, got dragged as a defendant into the BGA lawsuit.

There’s a law that states a public agency that does business with another agency, even if it is private, must turn over any documents in its possession about that private business.

Andrew High School in Tinley Park is in District 230, and its principal, Andrew Nolting, is an IHSA board member.

So the BGA filed a freedom of information request with District 230, asking for the IHSA documents that it couldn’t get from the IHSA. District 230 denied the request, claiming that the documents sought “do not pertain to the transaction of the district’s public business.”

Let’s forget the legal mumbo jumbo for a minute and the responsibility of public bodies to be transparent.

Why would organizations that use schoolchildren to make money refuse to provide information about how they spend that money?

There would be no need for a lawsuit if people of good will simply did what was in the public’s interest.

I can see how the IHSA can say it’s protected from FOIA, but a high school district?

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Was Rauner consultant behind anti-Schock ads?

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* Open Secrets has a story (I’m quoted) which shows some links between Nick Ayers, the former executive director of the Republican Governors Association and Bruce Rauner’s media consultant, and the now infamous out of nowhere advertising attacks on Congressman Aaron Schock while he was mulling a GOP gubernatorial bid. Read the whole thing

Rauner’s campaign denied any responsibility for the [anti-Schock] ads. He went on to win the nomination with the help of Nick Ayers’ media buying firm, Target Enterprises, which was paid a whopping $12.9 million — making it the campaign’s biggest contractor by far. Another $133,000 went to C5 Creative Consulting, which lists Ayers as its owner.

Along the way, Jobs & Progress [the group behind the anti-Schock ads] vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared. […]

Named by TIME as an up-and-comer in Republican ranks, with a successful RGA tenure and big-name presidential campaign (even if it flopped) under his belt, Ayers was someone that a candidate like Bruce Rauner would have good reason to hire. […]

On numerous occasions — once before he worked for either Rauner or Perdue, once while working for Rauner and many times this past spring while working for Perdue — companies that Ayers led were paid by various arms of the same Ohio groups that attacked Schock and Kingston. […]

First, before and at the same time as he worked for Bruce Rauner’s campaign, Nick Ayers worked for Government Integrity Fund, which has the same board president as Jobs & Progress Fund — Columbus lobbyist Tom Norris. Jobs & Progress is the group that attacked Schock, discouraging him from making a run against Rauner.

Norris did not return a call seeking an interview. Rauner’s campaign spokesman, Mike Schrimpf (who formerly worked for Ayers at the RGA) said he did not know of any connection with Jobs & Progress Fund, and said the campaign did not track who else paid its top consultants.

It’s a bit convoluted, and there is no hard proof, but Russ Choma at OS has done a pretty good job of connecting some very big dots.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


False equivalence taken too far

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* The AP’s Chicago bureau claims that both gubernatorial candidates “are playing a little fast and loose” with budget numbers. But so is the AP

Under Rauner’s plan, the rate would drop to 3.75 percent in January then be scaled back over four years to 3 percent.

Except Rauner has also said he’s open to raising the rate after January’s scheduled drop. No mention of that in the piece.

…Adding… This commenter accurately points to yet another big problem with the AP story

“Under Rauner’s plan, the rate would drop to 3.75 percent in January”

“rolling back the rates as scheduled on Jan. 1, which Rauner supports”

That is–at present–the plan for Quinn, too. Quinn signed the sunsetting increase into law and signed a budget that includes that drop.

Exactly. Rolling the rate back to 3.75 percent come January 1st isn’t “Rauner’s plan,” it’s current state law.

The AP’s Chicago bureau does a horrible job with state government. They need to let Springfield’s top-notch bureau carry the load.

* And this appears to have been added to make the story look more “even-handed”

Quinn overstates the revenue drop under Rauner’s plan — at least to start.

A report from the non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability says rolling back the rates as scheduled on Jan. 1, which Rauner supports, would reduce revenues by almost $5 billion for the budget year that begins in July 2015 — not $8.5 billion. Rauner says his sales tax plan would generate another roughly $600 million, bringing the total revenue loss to about $4.4 billion. This year’s entire general fund budget is $35.7 billion.

The larger drop in revenue would come later, when the rates would be lowered to pre-2011 levels.

The number the Quinn campaign is using is accurate because they’ve never said it was the immediate impact.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


The weekend in Facebook

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* Rep. Greg Harris

Really inappropriate dreams starring my friends Guy Zakrzewski, James Hallberg Piechocinski, a random bag lady, Little Jim’s and a copy of the state budget.

What, no bacon or Sharknado references?

* Will Caskey

Toddler’s new favorite toy is a small plastic hammer. So he was hanging out with me and tried to hammer the window. I said no, off limits.

Then he hit himself on the head with it and got upset. I comforted him and said that’s why we don’t hit ourselves.

He looked at me defiantly and hit himself in the head again.

Insert political metaphor here.

I’m sure we can come up with something.

* Anders Lindall

You know you’re dragging when … you try to plug your phone charger into your granola bar.

* John Fritchey

How did I get this far in the day without knowing that it’s National Tequila Day?

* Rep. Rob Martwick’s band “Little Egypt” performed at Jeff Fest over the weekend

What did you post?

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Protected: Subscribers Only - Events list (use last week’s password)

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

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Question of the day

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* Gov. Pat Quinn has agreed to live off the equivalent of the minimum wage, but he hasn’t yet said what that would entail

At Sunday’s event, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky had just told the crowd that she has lived for a week on a minimum-wage income. She then turned to ask Quinn if also he’d also take what she called “the live-the-wage challenge.” He answered, “Yes.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what that would entail for Quinn, including what amount of money he’d live off of and for how long.

But Schakowsky said she lived on $77 for the week, or $11 a day. That is the amount of expendable money supposedly left over after subtracting typical housing expenses.

She conceded some critics saw what she did as a gimmick.

“I say to them: Try it,” she said. “There’s no way that you can stop into a Starbucks, that’s for sure, or pass a vending machine and decide you want a snack. Everything needs to be planned out for the week.”

* The Question: A political stunt or a worthwhile endeavor? It undoubtedly includes a bit of both, but it’ll be up to you to decide which way it leans. Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


surveys

- Posted by Rich Miller   85 Comments      


Republicans look to the future

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* Bernie talked to Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider

Schneider said he hopes the party can pick up three or four House seats to end the Democrats’ veto-proof majority there. He said the climb is steeper in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 40-19 majority.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Schneider said.

“What I truly believe is once the voters, and the people of Illinois, understand what a Republican-led administration can do,” he said, “we’ll see the transition of the House and the Senate to Republican leadership.”

* Bruce Rauner was even more optimistic

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner predicted a GOP majority in Illinois eight years from now during a campaign stop in Springfield Saturday afternoon. […]

“We’re going to rebuild our Republican party from the grassroots up in every county. We’re going to take seat after seat in the General Assembly, and eight years from today we’re going to be celebrating. We’re going to be the majority party,” Rauner told the crowd.

He later defended the statement as “very realistic.”

“Limited government, low taxes, individual liberty and personal responsibility. Many Democrats believe in that, independent voters believe in it and if we build the Republican party on that, that’s a unifying message,” he said.

A Republican governor during the next remap process would, indeed, be a huge development.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Beer tickets? *** OEIG: Rednour solicited a big gift, Bliefnick improperly accepted gifts

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* From the Executive Inspector General…

First Deputy Inspector General Kristy Shores today discussed the results of the investigation by the Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor (OEIG) into the solicitation and acceptance of gifts from State vendors at the DuQuoin and Illinois State Fairs. In a ruling issued on July 24, 2014 and made available today, the Executive Ethics Commission (EEC) found that DuQuoin Fair Manager John Rednour, Jr. improperly solicited a gift valued between $4,000 and $8,000 and that Illinois State Fair Manager Amy Bliefnick improperly accepted gifts from a fair vendor, both in violation of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act.

“The Ethics Act sets clear standards for what State employees may solicit and what they may not solicit or accept,” said Deputy Inspector General and Chief of the Springfield Division Laura Bautista, whose division led the investigation. “It is illegal to solicit or accept gifts of a certain value from a vendor, and our investigation revealed that both State employees violated the law in this regard.”

After conducting its investigation, the OEIG referred the matter to the Office of Illinois Attorney General (OAG) for prosecution. Assistant Attorney General Francis Neil MacDonald represented the OEIG before the EEC and subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment in this matter. In proceedings before the EEC, John Rednour, Jr. acknowledged that he had asked a State vendor for gifts worth between $4,000 and $8,000 in 2012 and Illinois State Fair Manager Amy Bliefnick acknowledged receiving gifts from a State vendor in varying amounts worth more than $100 each year.

The EEC levied a $5,000 fine against John Rednour, Jr., which in this instance is the maximum fine available. In its decision, the EEC also noted that Mr. Rednour agreed to not seek or accept State employment for five years from the date of the EEC’s final decision. The EEC also levied a $1,000 fine against Amy Bliefnick.

Obviously, the Rednour problem is far more serious. Rednour, one of the heirs to a wealthy, connected southern Illinois Democratic family, resigned in January to take over his late father’s bank.

*** UPDATE *** This turns out to be a bit silly. I highly doubt they drank all that beer themselves. They most likely gave the tix away

Illinois State Fair manager Amy Bliefnick has been fined $1,000 by the Executive Ethics Commission after she admitted to the commission that she accepted $540 in free beer tickets from a beer vendor during the 2013 fair.

The commission also fined former DuQuoin State Fair manager John Rednour, Jr., $5,000 after he admitted he solicited up to $8,000 in free beer tickets from beer vendor at that fair.

That’s fairly standard practice in the private sector. But, whatever.

- Posted by Rich Miller   69 Comments      


Rauner investing heavily in campaign infrastructure

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* Greg Hinz

One insider tells me that a combination of the state and national parties and the Rauner campaign is prepared to spend as much as $2 million just on an absentee ballot operation—perhaps seven or eight times as much as in 2010, when Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington lost to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Another source reports that the party has opened 20 field offices just in the collar counties. In comparison, Mr. Brady had three offices in the entire state. […]

Mr. Rauner is “showing leadership, because he’s willing to spend resources” on more than his own campaign, says Democratic strategist and campaign operative Greg Goldner. “He’s creating an infrastructure that hasn’t existed for a very long time on the Republican side.” […]

Mr. Rauner’s campaign—typically as closed-mouthed as someone who’s just had three teeth pulled—won’t say a lot about this. But it is known that the candidate put an emphasis on grass-roots organizing from the beginning. His field operation is being run by deputy campaign manager Mike Zolnierowicz, who handled similar chores for Mark Kirk in his successful 2010 run for the U.S. Senate.

“I think we’re making a historically significant investment,” allows Chip Englander, Mr. Rauner’s campaign manager. “We’re making a big push, an unprecedented push, and it’s paying dividends.”

* Meanwhile

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came to Chicago Friday and gave Republican Bruce Rauner $2.5 million.

With that the Republican Governors Association more than doubled its financial support of Rauner’s campaign for governor.

Christie, the association’s chairman and a potential presidential candidate, appeared with Rauner at Portillo’s in River North.

“This is amongst the most important governor’s races in the country,” Christie told reporters.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   77 Comments      


Yet another stumble

Monday, Jul 28, 2014

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Back in January, state Sen. Michael Frerichs formally kicked off his campaign for Illinois state treasurer and posted a video online touting the fact the he’d ended “free, lifetime health care for state legislators.”

Actually, Frerichs had voted against that bill in the General Assembly. Frerichs’ campaign had to pull the video and replace it with a new one, even though he’d been planning his formal launch for at least a year.

In April, Frerichs appeared to flip-flop on his long-standing position that the comptroller’s and treasurer’s offices should be merged.

“People have said to me,” Frerichs told a WBBM Radio interviewer, “‘Wouldn’t it just be a lot more efficient if we just had one financial officer?’ And I’ve said yes, we could become very efficient, efficient like the city of Dixon, Illinois, who just had one chief financial officer and she was able, from this small little town, over several years to take something like $52 million away from them.”

Frerichs was quickly forced to restate his support for the office merger.

A few weeks ago, Frerichs was endorsed by the Illinois Education Association. At the kickoff tour, a Springfield reporter asked an IEA official why her organization backed Frerichs over Republican state Rep. Tom Cross. The official quickly deferred to her union’s spokesman, who was mostly silent for 25 very long and uncomfortable seconds while he tried to come up with an answer. He eventually cited the union’s “long association” with Frerichs and Frerichs’ support for more state revenues.

Since at least February, Frerichs has been pushing an idea to make the treasurer’s investment fund more Illinois centric.

“The current Republican Treasurer has placed a premium on investments outside of Illinois and the US, over the benefits that can be gained from investing in our people, our infrastructure, and our businesses,” he wrote on a Daily Herald questionnaire published on February 14th. Over and over since then, Frerichs has criticized incumbent Treasurer Dan Rutherford for investing Illinois dollars “overseas.”

But Frerichs either didn’t check the details of Treasurer Rutherford’s investment portfolio or didn’t think anyone else would because the one and only “overseas” investment in Rutherford’s portfolio is in bonds issued by the Israeli government.

Oops.

Support for Israel has long been an important statewide political issue in Illinois, dating back to at least US Sen. Charles Percy’s first win and then his 1984 loss to Paul Simon because Percy had allegedly become less supportive of the nation. Mark Kirk made a congressional career out of his unquestioning support for Israel and that stance helped him defeat Alexi Giannoulias for US Senate in 2010. There are other examples, but you get the idea.

So, last week, Tom Cross’ campaign blasted Frerichs for his investment proposal.

“One country that would be singled out under Frerichs’ plan is Israel,” a Cross press release noted. “The office of Treasurer currently has $25 million invested in foreign bonds, all with Israel.”

Treasurer Rutherford later confirmed that Israeli government bonds are the only overseas investment his office makes. So, if, indeed, Frerichs wants to divest the state treasurer’s portfolio of “overseas” investments, those Israel Bonds are the one and only instruments he could sell off.

Frerichs quickly sent out a statement noting that he’d co-sponsored a bill to encourage more purchases of the Israeli bonds, and attached a quote from several Jewish state legislators claiming that he was “among the most outspoken and vocal advocates for the State of Israel in the Illinois General Assembly.” The Frerichs campaign later issued a statement which said in part: “He would continue investing in Israel bonds as Treasurer. To say anything else is flat out wrong.”

But Cross’ hit was politically legitimate. He didn’t go overboard and frantically accuse Frerichs of being anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, he merely pointed out a simple fact: Frerichs has repeatedly demanded overseas divestiture and in the real world that can only mean one thing, Israel Bonds.

I wouldn’t expect that this easily preventable problem will go away any time soon.

Frerichs has earned a reputation for being a hardworking state legislator. He’s easy to talk to, but educated and ambitious. He raised a ton of money early on. The Downstater worked overtime to keep all potential Chicago-area candidates out of the Democratic primary. Most Democratic primary voters are in Cook County, so that was a real coup for the Champaign County legislator.

But he’s obviously not living up to expectations. He needs to up his game.

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


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