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This just in… Walsh primary opponent drops out - Will co-chair state GOP “victory” operation

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* 2:32 pm - Rather than face a Republican primary against Congressman Joe Walsh, Darlene Ruscitti has dropped out of the 8th CD contest. From a press release…

Today, after careful consideration with family, supporters and friends, I have decided not to run for Congress in the 8th Congressional District.

My campaign collected over 4,000 petition signatures, signed up hundreds of volunteers and gained the support of dozens of elected officials - but my role as a leader within the Illinois Republican Party and a desire to avoid a costly primary outweigh my personal political aspirations.

Service to this great state and nation is the reason I decided to run for Congress and that passion for public service will continue to guide me as an educator and civic leader in the years to come.

Attempts to reach Ms. Ruscitti’s campaign have been unsuccessful, but other Republicans have confirmed that she’s getting out of the race.

* I’m told campaign finances were a consideration in this decision. She hasn’t raised much cash, and Walsh has a bunch of dough in the bank.

* By the way, this story is from last month, but Judy Biggert may have at least one primary opponent

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham will officially enter the contest for the new 11th Congressional District Nov. 28, when he expects to turn in his petition sheets. Cunningham Thursday confirmed his commitment to the race. It will be his second run for Congress. His last attempt came nearly 40 years a go.

“I’ve been going door-to-door and the response so far has been very positive,” Cunningham said. “So far the media is picking up more on my opponent’s name, but that was expected.” […]

Cunningham has said he plans on touting his residence within the 11th District as a major campaign issue. Other than that, he plans on running on a conservative platform featuring pro-life and protection of the Second Amendment.

Possibly joining Cunningham and Biggert in the potential GOP primary are Aurora Alderman Richard Irvin and Grundy County Board member Chris Balkema, who have both expressed an interest in entering the race.

* 3:33 pm - Tammy Duckworth…

“The choice for voters in the 8th Congressional District couldn’t be more clear. Just this week, Joe Walsh voted to increase taxes on 6.5 million middle-income families in Illinois starting January 1st. And then he voted to take a holiday vacation. He’s clearly not the kind of leader the 8th Congressional District needs.”

“Now is not the time to raise taxes on working families. Too many are concerned about how to pay their mortgages and credit card bills. And if I were in Congress, I wouldn’t have left without doing everything I could to pass the payroll tax cut extension.”

*** 3:45 pm *** So, apparently, this is what Ruscitti was talking about when she said she has a leadership role in the party. From a press release…

ILGOP Appoints Dr. Darlene Ruscitti Statewide Victory Co-Chair

Prominent suburban Republican takes on role with #1 Victory Program in the Nation

Chicago - Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady today named DuPage County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Darlene Ruscitti Co-Chair of the statewide Victory Program - the number one Victory operation in the country in 2010.

“Dr. Ruscitti is the first elected official to serve in this capacity for the Party and is a perfect choice given her background as a suburban leader in the state’s second largest Republican county,” said Brady. “Darlene’s experience gives us the competitive edge our ground game needs with so many important races in 2012″

The Illinois Republican Party Victory operation was first in the nation in 2010 beating states like Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin with over 4.1 million volunteer contacts. The program was critical to victory in 5 congressional races and 3 statewide elections.

“The Victory Program was instrumental in my race for Senate and Darlene is the suburban leader we need to lead our targeted races to victory in 2012,” said Senator Mark Kirk.

“As a leader in Congress and Illinois, I am committed to the Illinois Republican Victory Program and can’t think of a better person to help lead this effort than Dr. Darlene Ruscitti,” said Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam.

“I’ve known Darlene for many years and her hard work and record of success on winning campaigns will be an invaluable asset to our candidates in a competitive election year”, said Congresswoman Judy Biggert.

This is starting to look like a well-coordinated nudge out of the race.

* 4:51 pm - Joe Walsh…

Reaction from Congressman Joe Walsh on the decision by Darlene Ruscitti to exit the race for the 8th District

Darlene Ruscitti is an incredible force within the Republican Party and local politics. I have a good deal of respect for her leadership, both in the Party and in public service. She is a prime example of what good, honest government should be. The people of Bloomingdale Township & DuPage County are fortunate to have Darlene in office.

Our government only works when good people decide to step forward and I applaud Darlene for having done so. I am excited to work with her to do what is best for the people of the 8th District. There’s much work to be done in Washington and I will continue to look to her as a shining example of leadership and service. I decided to run for Congress two years ago because of a desire to take back our country. I know that Darlene is driven by the same commitment to less government, lower taxes and a federal government that allows small businesses and individuals to prosper.

This decision must have been a difficult one for Darlene, her family and supporters, but, by doing so, Darlene chose to put her country and party ahead of political interest. Now, Darlene will be spearheading the Illinois Republican Party’s Victory operation. In that capacity, she will be responsible for the most important aspects of insuring Republican victories up and down the ballot across the state. I look forward to working very closely with her to get this District and the country working again.


How about ending a real war?

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A local congressman is complaining that he can’t use taxpayer funds to say “Merry Christmas” in his official mailers

Rep. Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, and Rep. Mike Ross, an Arkansas Democrat, are trying to overturn a rule that forbids the use of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” in taxpayer-funded congressional correspondence.

Congressional rules state that mail containing holiday greetings cannot be “franked” — Hill lingo for receiving taxpayer reimbursement for postage — according to a memo from the “Franking Commission Staff” obtained by The Washington Examiner.

And people wonder why nothing ever gets done in DC.

The House has banned the phrase since 1974, but Senators can apparently use it in their official mail, so this shouldn’t be a big deal. But leave it to Walsh to scream bloody murder about a trivial matter. Instead of going all-in on the alleged War on Christmas, how about using all that boundless energy to end the all too real, disastrous, un-American, budget-busting and morally bankrupt War on Drugs? Now, that would be something to brag about

War is over if you want it

And before he flips his lid yet again, maybe Walsh should ask Franking Commission Chairman Aaron Schock, a fellow Illinois Republican, why he hates Christmas so much. Just kidding, of course. Schock apparently hates Hanukkah as well. OK, kidding again. It’s not Schock’s fault. The rule goes way back to 1974. Whatever. It’s a joke. Merry, um, holidays, Aaron. Hope it’s a great one.

* Meanwhile, Rep. Jack Franks is at it again

A bill inspired by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh’s child support issues would forbid people owing more than $10,000 in back child support from running for office in Illinois.

House Bill 3932, filed Tuesday by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, would require statements of candidacy to include a statement that the person running for office is not delinquent by $10,000 or more.

Walsh, a tea party Republican freshman representing the 8th Congressional District, is facing allegations in court by his ex-wife that he owes her more than $100,000 in back child support. Walsh has not been found delinquent or in contempt of court in the ongoing dispute.

While Franks said Walsh, R-McHenry, was his inspiration for the bill, he wants to make sure that people holding office are taking care of their family responsibilities.

“I think it’s important for people to take care of their families first, and preclude people from public office if they fail to take care of their primary obligations,” Franks said. “Nothing is more important than taking care of your family.”

* I told subscribers about this odd development yesterday morning and again today. The group simply started its recruitment drive way too late

With the congressional candidate filing period to begin Friday in Illinois, another potential challenger to U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, has said no.

Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville, said Tuesday he would not oppose Johnson in the newly created 13th Congressional District that runs from Champaign-Urbana south to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis.

He said he was contacted by a group last week that said their polling indicated he had the best chance of any other area Republican to unseat Johnson.

“There was no proactivity on my part, in any way, shape or form. The phone calls that came to me late last week came totally out of the blue,” said McCann, who was elected to the state Senate last year. “I had not sat back and contemplated it, up to that time, at all. These gentleman called me and told me about the polling.

* And congrats to Congressman Kinzinger...

One of Washington’s most eligible bachelors is taking himself off the market.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, 33, said this morning that his girlfriend of more than a year, Riki Meyers, 31, is now his fiancée.
“I haven’t taken the plunge yet,” he said. “I’ve taken the pre-plunge.”

Meyers, a captain in the Air Force, is currently stationed in Charleston, S.C., but is scheduled to relocate to the Washington area sometime in February, Kinzinger said.

* Other stuff…

* U.S. Rep. Bob Dold tries to explain his tax vote

* Why Dorothy Brown Wants Another Term as Circuit Court Clerk

* Santa’s ready with lots of gifts for good — and bad — Chicago pols

* VIDEO: Christmas at the Illinois Governor’s Mansion


Lunchtime Christmas Video: Louis Armstrong

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Go, cat, go with that Cool Yule

So dig, Santa comes on big

Feel free to tell us about your favorite Christmas/holiday tunes in comments, and don’t forget to link to the videos if you can.


Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Chief of Staff goes to Tim Mapes of the House Democrats. Almost half the people voting wanted Mapes to win, and almost all of the nominators backed up their choice with strong opinions. For instance…

There has never been such a force in the capitol that holds the keys to control quite like him; and there will probably never be another that will rival that control.

The man never seems to tire and he has his fingers in everything. We have a running joke where he’ll say, “Miller, I already knew everything you wrote in the Capitol Fax today,” and I’ll say, “No kidding, Tim, that’s because it was about what you did yesterday.”

Mapes oversaw the impressive remodeling of the House chambers and was his usual persnickety self. I once saw him walking through the hall on the Democratic side of the chambers pointing out tiny flaws in the woodwork to some workers.

Many believe he has way too much control, but he was obviously the people’s choice, and it would be impossible to ignore the breadth and depth of his support.

* Runner-up is Andy Manar of the Senate Democrats. Manar is leaving soon to run for the Senate and I, for one, will miss his helmsmanship…

No caucus is as diverse and complex as the Senate Dems, and he helps Cullerton handle them perfectly… Andy is a great, down to earth guy that welcomes anyone into his office regardless of their title or issue. He will be missed.

All true.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best State Legislative Staffer - Non Political is a tie. Adam Margolin of the House Speaker’s staff…

The sheer knowledge this guy has is uncanny. From tax and revenue issues, to everything else in between, he definitely knows his stuff. He always manages to fly under the radar, which is pretty much how he likes it. He has been part of the leading force behind the Speaker’s staff for years now and is definitely someone to watch for in the upcoming years.

* Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki with the House GOP. Matt gets both the policy and the politics, and his desire to help out everyone has always been impressive. His lack of shaving is compensated for his hard work and unique ability to the process. So often staffs are inundated with political science majors, it is extremely helpful to have an accountant that understands the policy, but equally important, the numbers. On several occasions I have seen him dig deep into the actual effects of legislation/budget process, only to have the numbers altered later because of his knowledge.

I also loved this Paprocki nomination so much that I have to share…

He is a walking Illinois tax policy handbook and is very knowledgeable about most other subjects as well. Not to mention he is a modern renaissance man. Matt invented the skinny tie. He is a level-9 bongo drummer. And, he fixes up run down tandems in his spare time. Is there anything cat can’t handle?

Next year, we’ll break this category down into the various caucuses.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois Congresscritter goes to US Sen. Dick Durbin. Commenter “bored now,” who doesn’t like to use capital letters, had the best nomination, but Durbin was also the clear popular choice…

when one considers that senator durbin is competing against the biggest mouth in d.c. (chuck schumer, for those who do think that illinois is the center of everything) and competes in his own, very, very midwestern way, quietly getting things done, gaining the respect of his fellow senators, delivering for his party. understated is not the same as lack of power. he’s a tremendous asset to illinois, even if that isn’t always recognized by politicians in the state.

Durbin won last year, for good reason, so we may have to offer a separate category for US House in the future and put US Senators into the statewide category, where they probably belong anyway.

* US Rep. Peter Roskam is the runner-up. Commenter “bored now” with his lower-case letters, did a good job of summing up Roskam as well…

if i had to choose someone from the house, i’d choose peter roskam. i don’t think there’s a more conservative member from illinois, but he’s not a camera-hog or an extremist. a little different from durbin, roskam continues to rally his peeps and is mastering the nitty-gritty of the house. it won’t surprise me a bit to see roskam gain a real leadership role, and i’d be least surprised if he took over the nrcc chair soon. roskam is also a power player and it was no surprise he got the safest district on the gop side…

It has been amazing, but not all that surprising, to watch Roskam’s rapid rise through the ranks. He’s whip smart, that guy.

* We’ll vote on our final round of nominees tomorrow, the lobbyists. Here are today’s nominations, all new categories…

* Best Local Government Official - Chicago/Cook County

* Best Local Government Official - Collar Counties

* Best Local Government Official - Downstate

I understand that you may not be able to nominate in all three categories, because this is such a local thing. But, please try to do your best to nominate in all three. And, of course, make extra sure to explain your nominations. I’ll ignore you if you just post a name. As always, keep in mind that this is much more about intensity than raw numbers. Thanks and enjoy.


The never-ending battle

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* If you think that the CME/Sears “We’re moving unless you pony up” crisis was a one-off event, you have another think coming. From the Associated Press

More than 100 companies, including Deere & Co. and Abbott Laboratories, have incentive packages expiring in the next three years — and may want better deals to keep jobs in Illinois.


* And before you suggest that some sort of corporate tax reform or repealing the corporate income tax hike would stop these companies from putting out their hands, pause for a minute while I explain a couple things.

Corporate tax reform which spreads the burden around more equally to all corporations would mean modest tax relief to a relative handful of companies and big tax increases for everybody else. The companies who would finally be forced to pay significant state income taxes (like, perhaps, Caterpillar) would scream bloody murder, threaten to leave and demand relief.

And as far as repealing the corporate income tax hike goes, well, keep in mind that these companies all received tax incentive packages before the tax hike passed. Repealing that tax hike would not prevent them from threatening to move. Not gonna happen.

There are things the state can and should do to create a better business climate here. But don’t kid yourself that there’s some magical solution to our problems. Many of these problems were created long ago, and even if they are corrected, the corporations who received tax relief packages back in the day have now become addicted to them and will not give them up without a major fight.

* Meanwhile, if you think only Democratic areas have “judicial hell holes,” a new report by the American Tort Reform Foundation shows the problem is bipartisan here

After a year of observation on the “Watch List,” McLean County advances to a Judicial Hellhole due to its unique practice of allowing lawsuits that seek compensation for asbestos-related injuries, even when the plaintiff did not come in contact with the named defendant’s products . These “civil conspiracy” lawsuits target deep-pocket companies with allegations that they had some role in concealing the dangers of asbestos from the public decades ago . One such McLean case recently resulted in a stunning $90 million verdict .

McLean County is about as rock-ribbed Republican as you can get in Illinois.

* A bunch of conservative organizations including the Illinois Policy Institute, along with one left-leaning group has been berating FutureGen this week. But there is a big problem on the horizon as Exelon and other generators shut down coal-fired power plants

An Associated Press analysis has found that more than 32 mostly coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will be forced to close because of the new, more stringent regulations. Another 36 plants are at risk of closing.

No lights will go dark. But the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 14.7 gigawatts _ enough power for more than 11 million households _ will be retired from the power grid in the 2014-15 period when the rules take effect. One rule curbs air pollution in states downwind from dirty power plants. Another sets first standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants from smokestacks.

The effect is greatest in the Midwest and in coal belt states such as Virginia and West Virginia, where dozens of units are likely to shut down.

Those closures are going to put a lot of upward pressure on electric rates as supply dwindles. And it’s one reason why many believe that Exelon has come out so strongly against coal gasification projects in Illinois. Tighter supply means higher prices, simple as that.

* And, speaking of conservative groups, check out how Illinois Statehouse News swallowed the Illinois Policy Institute’s spin hook, line and sinker

“This is not a study to say what exactly led to people leaving, but we do note that taxes matter to people, a good, friendly environment to business matters, bad deficits and a bad governance matters to people, and people vote with their feet,” [IPI vice president Ted Dabrowksi] said.

From the IPI’s study summary

Why are so many people leaving Illinois? Because the state’s poor public policies are forcing them out. Public policies drastically influence quality of life. On average, Illinois residents are leaving for states where they can have a higher standard of living.

* Also, too

However, jobs, not taxes, factored into 33,551 tax-paying households leaving Illinois and moving to Indiana. During the time period of the study, Indiana had a higher individual income tax at 3.4 percent before Illinois jumped from 3 percent to 5 percent and a sales tax of 7 percent compared to Illinois’ 6.25 percent.

Actually, 18,847 left for Indiana while 14,389 Hoosiers relocated to Illinois.

…Adding… From John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute…

I saw your blog post from Wednesday that mentioned the Illinois Statehouse News report about our latest study on out-migration from Illinois.

At the end of your blog post, you quote the Statehouse News story saying:

“However, jobs, not taxes, factored into 33,551 tax-paying households leaving Illinois and moving to Indiana. During the time period of the study, Indiana had a higher individual…. Illinois’ 6.25 percent.”

You commented on that passage, saying “Actually, 18,847 left for Indiana while 14,389 relocated to Illinois.”

Your comments seem to imply that either the Statehouse News story or our report were wrong. I wanted to make sure you had the correct information.

The 33,551 number that Statehouse News used reflects how many net households left Illinois for Indiana between 1995 and 2009. The 4,458 number you cite (which is 18,847 minus 14,389) is for just 2009… not the entire study period that Statehouse News is referring to.

The “actually” you used in your comments and then “hook, line and sinker” reference at the start of the post seem to imply that we got creative with our math or are misleading people, and that’s not the case. You can check our numbers with the IRS, and the Statehouse News also did not have any errors in that passage of the report.

I would appreciate if you could let your readers know that the story and our report were in fact correct.

Thanks, Rich, and Happy Holidays!

John Tillman

* Related…

* Protesters Want Mayor, City Council To Pass ‘Clean Power Ordinance’

* Sun-Times sale expected to be announced Wednesday - Deal involving group of local investors comes amid ongoing industry slump

* Judge Dismisses Plea to Stop Toll Hike

* Judge approves deal on disabled in nursing homes

* Funding Needed for State Transportation Projects

* Big Illinois firms wrest tax deal from legislature


*** UPDATED x1 *** Don’t hold your breath

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gov. Pat Quinn said this week that he’s creating a pension reform “working group” to tackle the complicated issue. While many would say this is preferable to allowing the corporate titans at the Civic Committee and their little “me too” buddies at the Chicago Tribune editorial board to dictate all the terms of pension reform, it’s a whole lot easier said than done

Quinn said the working group will be led by Jerry Stermer, a senior advisor in his office, and will be made up of a mix of Democrat and Republican lawmakers from the Senate and House. Union groups and other organizations will also have a seat at the table, Quinn said. […]

Quinn said he modeled the makeup of the group on similar panels that have brought about major education overhauls and changes to the state’s workers compensation system.

“This process seems to me to be the very best way to make sure that everyone has a voice,” Quinn said. “We will work together to go forward on the common good when it comes to pensions, public pensions in Illinois.”

The school reform negotiations were long and tedious, but most of the groups at the table were OK with the general reform goals, which put pressure on the Chicago Teachers Union, for instance, to get in line. I highly doubt we’ll see the same willingness by the unions to compromise on sweeping pension reform, but correcting some of the more egregious abuses (like getting rid of the magic wand that universities have to put anybody they want into the pension system) is possible. So, good luck, Jerry, you’re gonna need it.

*** UPDATE *** Steve Schnorf ought to be on this panel. There isn’t a better big picture and small details guy in all of Illinois. If the governor wants this panel to succeed, then Schnorf most definitely needs to be on it. Period.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Meanwhile, one of the most significant developments in pension reform this year just happened in Rhode Island

Retired police and firefighters from Central Falls, R.I., have agreed to sharp pension cuts, a step thought to be unprecedented in municipal bankruptcy and one that could prompt similar attempts by other distressed governments.

Matthew J. McGowan, who represents the retirees, said the agreement could be groundbreaking if the courts approved it.

If approved by the bankruptcy court, the agreement could be groundbreaking, said Matthew J. McGowan, the lawyer representing the retirees.

“This is the first time there’s been an agreement of the police and firefighters of any city or town to take the cut,” he said, referring to those already retired, who are typically spared when union contracts change. “I’ve told these guys they’re like the canary in the coal mine. I know that there are other places watching this.”

As cities, towns and counties struggle with fiscal pain, there has been speculation that they could shed their pension obligations in bankruptcy. Some have said it might, in fact, be easier for local governments to drop those obligations than it is for companies, which use a different chapter of the bankruptcy code. Large steel companies, airlines and auto suppliers like Delphi have terminated pension plans in bankruptcy.

Illinois municipalities can’t declare bankruptcy without the state’s permission, and the state Constitution is written in such a way that they probably couldn’t discharge their pension obligations in bankruptcy anyway. But, hey, you never quite know what will happen when an issue reaches the courts.


Morning Christmas Video: Happy Christmas from the Family

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My favorite Christmas song is about how love overcomes holiday family chaos

He threw a breaker and the lights came on
And we sang Silent Night, O’ Silent Night, O’ Holy Night


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Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

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