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*** UPDATED x1 *** Joe Berrios’ odd press release

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

* I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen anything quite like the press release that Joe Berrios’ campaign just sent out. Berrios, of course, is running for Cook County Assessor, is the chairman of the county Democratic Party and is a Statehouse lobbyist.

One of Berrios’ lobbying clients is the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association. Berrios was instrumental in pushing the original video poker law, which will put the machines in taverns, clubs and truck stops all over the state.

This afternoon, the House passed a trailer bill which has been sharply (and somewhat unfairly) criticized by the Illinois Gaming Board’s chairman as too lenient on possible criminals. The bill now goes to the governor. Berrios lobbied for that one, too.

Oddly enough, Berrios’ campaign sent out a press release touting his lobbying involvement…

Cook County Assessor candidate Joseph Berrios on Wednesday praised Illinois lawmakers for passing a bill with the potential to create $500 million in jobs and revenue for the state during a tough economic crisis.

House Bill 4927, which was sponsored by State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) in the Senate, will allow truck stops to legally host paying video gambling machines under Illinois’ video gaming law. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.

“At a time when the state is struggling for revenue, this measure will bring in $250 million to $500 million a year for use in state capital projects like roads and school construction,” said Berrios, who lobbied for the measure on behalf of the Illinois Coin Operators’ Association. “It’s a win-win for the state. Our unemployment rate is at an all-time high and our schools are crumbling. This new revenue will help in so many ways.”

The bill, which had bi-partisan support, was presented to lawmakers as a way to make Illinois’ original law more efficient and profitable, in part by allowing truck stops and VFW halls to host the machines. The state has already legalized video gambling in bars and restaurants, though it will probably be the end of this year before the state’s Gaming Board formally allows the official start of video gambling in those establishments.

“I’m pleased that I could help get this bill passed during such a difficult fiscal time,” Berrios said. “However, as I have noted since last fall, once I become Assessor I will resign as a lobbyist and my sole priority will be serving the people of Cook County with fairness and efficiency.”

Berrios has been a commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review, which oversees property tax appeals, since 1988. He won the Democratic nomination for Cook County Assessor in February. Prior to being elected five times as commissioner, he served three terms as an Illinois state representative. He is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Berrios was the first Hispanic elected chairman of the party, a commissioner to the Board of Review and to the Illinois General Assembly.

I guess I can see his point here, especially the part about mentioning how he’s stepping down as a lobster if he’s elected. But it’s just weird to me that his campaign would be touting his lobbying business, particularly since most regular folks hear “lobbyist” and think “bad guy.”

What’s next? A press release touting his fight against the governor’s proposed cigarette tax increase on behalf of Altria? Probably not.


*** UPDATE *** The Forrest Claypool campaign has responded. From a press release…

Citizens for Claypool campaign manager Tom Bowen released the following statement in response to a release by gambling lobbyist Joe Berrios’ political campaign.

“How much did the gambling industry pay you to say that?” said Bowen

Earlier this week, Independent Candidate for Assessor Forrest Claypool called on Mr. Berrios to disclose his ties and contracts to the gambling industry in order to provide the voters of Cook County a way to judge the extent of Mr. Berrios’ conflicts of interest.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:03 pm:

    ===particularly since most regular folks hear “lobbyist” and think “bad guy.”===

    I think some regular folks hear “Berrios” and think “worse than a lobbyist.”

  2. - unspun - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:09 pm:

    It seems to me that he is attempting to take the wind out of his opponent’s sails, who will surely say that Berrios was “instrumental as a lobbyist in bringing the crack cocaine of gambling to Illinois”. This is his way of acknowledging his lobbying activity by tying it to a “jobs/economic stimulus” bill.

  3. - Who Else Goes Down - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:11 pm:

    I think budget stuff has gotten so bad that he’s counting on people hearing the part about him working and succesding in raising revenue in a bi-partisan way that does not increase taxes to raise revenue, and forgiving the fact that he did it as a lobbyist.

  4. - Who Else Goes Down - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:11 pm:

    sorry for the typos.

  5. - Anon - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:19 pm:

    Should Berrios’ daughter be voting for these gambling bills that benefit her father’s client? Doesn’t seem so far from the Brady conflict-of-interest story, but maybe I’m missing something…

  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:23 pm:

    You have to embrace the cognitive dissonance in life, lol.

    I’m sold: I know I want the next guy setting my assessment to be a successful tout for the gambling industry. Like peas and carrots.

  7. - Not surprised - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:33 pm:

    Well you have to admit that jobs is a better issue than fronting for mob-connected gambling operators!

  8. - Amalia - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:49 pm:

    The B in Berrios stands for brazen.

  9. - George - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:51 pm:

    “How much did the gambling industry pay you to say that?” said Bowen

    Pat Quinn’s campaign can learn a lesson or two from Mr. Bowen on pithiness.

  10. - State Sen. Clay Davis - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 3:55 pm:

    What better way to honor our veterans than to get them addicted to video poker. I had no idea Berrios was a lobbyist for these guys.

  11. - dupage progressive - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:06 pm:

    That sound you hear is the sound of the berrios candidacy dropping like a rock.

    In the words of our former Gov. and his campaign ads, “what was he thinking????” Ok, what was his campaign thinking?? Hmmm, how to get some good press this week… how about taking credit for a gaming bill that passed. This is the bill that even the sponsor acknowledged was a “complicated/ technical in nature bill.”
    Hey, wow, GREAT idea - let’s promote our involvement in a dirty gaming bill that is complicated & techinical in nature. Brilliant!

  12. - CuriousGeorge - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:09 pm:

    God, this is AWFUL. I mean, we all know that this is the crack cocaine of gambling. How did it ever pass? There must have been a whole host of good-government, reform minded legislators that voted against it, right? How did it pass?

  13. - Anon - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:09 pm:

    I think Berrios is SEVERELY underestimating his opposition. Making odd moves like this will doom him.

  14. - chitownguy - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:17 pm:

    Nice retort Mr. Bowen. Well played. will Mr. Berrios answer the question?

  15. - Anonymiss - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:21 pm:

    Goofiness of the strategy aside, here’s what I don’t get:

    >>”However, as I have noted since last fall, once I become Assessor I will resign as a lobbyist and my sole priority will be serving the people of Cook County with fairness and efficiency.”

  16. - Anonymiss - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:23 pm:

    (sorry, that got truncated)

    Is he saying, then, that while serving as (Property Tax Appeal) Board of Review commissioner his sole priority has NOT been serving the people of Cook County with fairness and efficiency? If it was, shouldn’t he have resigned as a lobbyist sooner?

  17. - CuriousGeorge - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:28 pm:

    Good Call Anonymiss! Enough of the lobbying while serving in office! No elected official should be able to have any source of income derived from politics other than the office he or she holds, yet everyone seems to do it. Jim Houlihan lobbied for the first 5 years that he was Assessor! I though he was supposed to be one of the good guys! How’s that for “reform?”

  18. - Lakefront Liberal - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:31 pm:

    I have had a fair number of run-ins with machine types. They have a pretty standard bag of tricks that they use to try to intimidate you, one of which is to completely deny glaringly obvious facts with huge shows of indignation that anyone would ever challenge their version of events

    This seems like the press release version of that tactic.

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  20. - Steve - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:40 pm:

    Berrios is sending a message to everyone that’s he’s an effective lobbyist. He knows voters in Illinois don’t care about ethics. There’s no amount of outrage that can dislodge someone powerful like Berrios. With the huge Cook County Democratic voting advantage he can win his next election.

  21. - Lee - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:45 pm:

    I thought Republicans were opposed to Gambling - is this where leader Cross is taking them - right off a cliff to more gambling? What sort of deal did he make?

  22. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:57 pm:

    –I think Berrios is SEVERELY underestimating his opposition. Making odd moves like this will doom him.–

    Who’s the opposition?

  23. - Lou Lang - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 4:58 pm:

    Hey folks…calm down. There is NO NEW GAMBLING in this bill. NONE

  24. - Jake - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 5:05 pm:

    Hey, Lou, are your pants on fire?

  25. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 5:17 pm:

    Jake, dunno who you are but you really should actually READ THE BILL.

  26. - anon - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 5:29 pm:

    Smart move by Berrios in my opinion. The fact is the state is in a mess financially. I don’t like the gambling angle but hey it will bring in a good chunk of money. At least Berrios is for something. Claypool comes across as a whiner, and opportunist. Don’t see reformer in him at all.

  27. - Mongo - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 5:44 pm:

    Representative Lang, how about prostitution in this bill (new or old?)!

  28. - dupage progressive - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 5:51 pm:

    Hmmm… Looks like Berrios’ campaign is on the scene - thank God. Don’t you have some press inquiries to answer or something? Maybe you should have tested this strategy with polling or something. Do you think suburban Cook is going to thank Berrios for all his work on this gambling bill? Really?

  29. - Park - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 6:34 pm:

    What’s going on with Claypool’s petitions?

  30. - "Clerks" fan - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 7:20 pm:

    Maybe Bowen should spend less time getting “his name” in the press and more time getting his candidate on the ballot.

  31. - Anon - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 7:29 pm:

    I’ve been approached several times about petitions for Claypool. They are out there working hard.

  32. - Tired of it All - Wednesday, May 26, 10 @ 9:33 pm:

    It’s a bad bill. Quinn will sign it because he needs Berrios support. Despite of everything Lang and others say, the staff of the Gaming Board opposed this legislation. The Administrator of the Gaming Board (Mark Ostrowski) testified before the Executive Committee and told them it would hamper the IGB’s efforts to keep gaming clean. This is all about money and the Outfit’s reach. Congratulations Illinois! The G.A. has created the largest video gaming jurisdiction in the WORLD and it’s clipped the wings of those in charge of making sure no bad apples get in. But hey, this is the same body that created the Rosemont/Emerald mess. That only took about 10 years to unwind.

  33. - steve schnorf - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:20 am:

    Rep Lang is absolutely correct, and it’s clear that one earlier commenter hasn’t spent much time at any Legion halls or VFWs.

  34. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 8:17 am:

    Speaking of Assessor did anyone else notice the bungling by Hooli & Co. mentioned in Trib Dope John Kass’ laterst offering. It is the heart of the storty but Kass just glides by….

    “The castle sits on several parcels of land once held by the Illinois Department of Transportation. King Rudy bought the land in 2002, but a miraculous thing happened.
    We discovered on Wednesday that, according to county real estate records, one parcel is still listed as vacant land. The other parcel is listed as tax-exempt state-owned property.
    Jeepers. Can’t all of us serfs get such royal treatment on our property taxes?
    Cook County assessor’s spokesman Eric Herman said Wednesday that his office was investigating.
    Even on the taxes King Rudy was hit with, he hasn’t paid in full. According to county records, Acosta is delinquent $9,300 in taxes for 2008 and 2009.
    “We are already in the process of putting this property back on the tax rolls,” Herman said of the exempt parcel. “It will be assessed by 2010. And we will recommend a back tax to Jan. 1, 2003.”

    And the other parcel that’s listed as vacant land? Herman said it will be reassessed….”

    Yikes how many other blunders have been committed
    How many other freebies is Hooli handing out?

    Maybe the Trib could dial that up

  35. - Question - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 10:45 am:

    If we believe that corruption has taken over our state’s politics and politicians, and if we know that it is rare a politician does much for the good of mankind unless of course there is something in it for him/her - then the question is - what are these politicians getting out of this bill?

    If on the other hand we believe that politicians always tell the truth and do only good things then, have a great day keep on thinking that way.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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