* 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.