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New Quinn ad sparks Dem criticism

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* As noted below, Gov. Pat Quinn’s new TV ad in part touts his veto of General Assembly salaries

And when legislators refused to fix the pension crisis,

Pat Quinn stopped their paychecks cold, and refused his own, until the job was done.

That’s the test of leadership.

* Well, there’s been some blowback

[House Speaker Michael Madigan’s] spokesman Steve Brown questioned why Quinn would use the paycheck issue in an ad.

“I don’t think its a good example because it didn’t work,” Brown said. “It was not a well-thought-out strategy. And then it was proved to be illegal.”

The ad also raised the eyebrows of state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who has complained before that Quinn often uses the Legislature as a whipping post.

“It’s always easy to make someone else the bad guy,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said voters should be prepared to see similar claims coming from the Rauner camp as the election moves into its final 100 days.

“I just think its part and parcel of what politics has become,” Jacobs said. “It’s become more show than go.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Beware October

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* As we already know, the Legislative Audit Commission will be resuming its investigation of Gov. Pat Quinn’s anti-violence initiative in early October. And now, a couple of weeks later, the IDOT lawsuit hearings resume

A legal battle between an anti-patronage lawyer and Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration will return to federal court less than two weeks before voters will decide if they want to re-elect the Chicago Democrat.

Anti-patronage attorney Michael Shakman has — as part of a lawsuit — requested an investigation of hiring in Quinn’s Department of Transportation and a monitor to ensure the administration complies with bans on political hiring for nonpolitical jobs. Quinn’s attorneys argue the judge should reject the request because it would be detrimental to state officials’ duties of hiring workers.

During a brief hearing on Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Sidney I. Schenkier gave attorneys time to file motions and told them to return to court Oct. 22.

Is Quinn’s much-vaunted luck finally running out?

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* The SJ-R looks at Illinois Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza’s investigation of State Fair Director Amy Bliefnick for accepting free beer tickets

“There is no evidence that she schemed to obtain the tickets,” the report said. “Rather, the unsolicited gift of beer tickets from the vendor to the fair director appears to be a long-standing, albeit unlawful, practice.”

The report said that the 2013 contract with CVA expressly says that free tickets are not to be given to anyone.

For statute-of-limitation purposes, Bliefnick was only charged with violating the gift ban during the 2013 fair when she accepted at least 120 beer tickets valued at $540. Each ticket is worth $4.50.

The report said Bliefnick distributed the tickets to senior Department of Agriculture officials, her staff, fair volunteers and fair patrons.

The report said the Department of Agriculture suspended Bliefnick for two days without pay based on allegations in the report. The suspension cost her about $754, it said.

“As noted in the report, as State Fair manager I accepted the tickets for distribution only to promote the fair,” Bliefnick said in a statement. “This practice will no longer continue at the fair. I learned a valuable lesson and look forward to a great State Fair this year.”

The full report is here.

* The Question: Your thoughts on this particular investigation and punishment of Bliefnick?

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


Quinn signs millionaire’s tax referendum

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* From a press release…

Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will give Illinois residents the opportunity to voice their opinion on whether millionaires should pay a little more to help ensure all students have access to a high-quality education. The legislation establishes a statewide advisory referendum on the November 4 ballot to ask voters if they favor a surcharge paid by the state’s wealthiest individuals to provide much-needed funding for public education in classrooms across Illinois. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to delivering stronger education in Illinois.

“Our democracy is strongest when more voters make their voices heard about important matters of public policy,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois voters will now be able to have their say when it comes to whether the state’s most fortunate should pay a little more to put more resources in our classrooms. An investment in education is the best investment we can make for our economic future.”

House Bill 3816, sponsored by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and State Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin), creates a Nov. 4, 2014 advisory referendum to ask voters whether the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional three percent tax on income greater than one million dollars. These resources would be directed towards classroom education. The legislation is effective immediately.

The Illinois Department of Revenue estimates that a three percent tax on income greater than $1 million would generate approximately $1 billion annually for elementary and secondary education. The Governor signed the legislation today at Irving Elementary School in Berwyn.

“This legislation will provide an important benchmark. Illinois is long overdue for tax fairness and a much needed boost for our school children,” Speaker Madigan said.

Governor Quinn is committed to properly funding education in Illinois in order to give every child the opportunity for success. The Governor’s 5-year budget blueprint includes an historic $6 billion increase in classroom spending over the next five years, doubling the investment in college scholarships for students in need and increasing access to higher education through dual enrollment and early college programs. Over the next five years, the Governor’s plan would bring classroom funding to the highest levels in Illinois history.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Today’s map

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* HaystaqDNA plotted tea party favorability by county nationwide. Click the pic for an interactive version…

* Methodology

First,12,636 voters in eight states (Alabama, California, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota) were surveyed. Then those results were combined with 724 other data points like census demographics and turnout history. The surveys were conducted through IVR phone calls earlier this year. The model was built on two-thirds of the survey results. The remaining third was used as a hold-out sample. The model’s predictions were validated by comparing the actual responses against the hold-out sample.

A second validation survey was also conducted on July 8th among 5,829 voters in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. Overall favorability in that survey was unchanged from the findings of the original survey.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Thanks, but I’ll pass

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* A few years back, I wrote that I was really getting tired of the iPhone. It wasn’t the phone itself that bugged me, it was Apple’s paternalism when it came to their apps that honked me off.

I much preferred Google’s approach with its Android system. You wanna develop an Android app? Go for it. Google won’t stop you. It’s a more open, “Internet” approach, as opposed to Apple’s nearly closed system.

* So, when Amazon announced recently that it had developed a new “Fire” phone based on the Android platform, I was really excited. Some of the bells and whistles, like 3-D imagery, tilt to scroll and easy Amazon purchases looked pretty cool to me. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has received some pretty solid reviews, so I figured the new phone would build on that.

Finally, I thought, a phone that could compete with the iPhone and even best it. I was all set to jump ship.

And since I occasionally write about tech here and have a tech feed on the page, I reached out to AT&T (the sole mobile provider for Amazon’s Fire) and asked if they had a review program. They did, and I received the phone yesterday - several days after the big guys were given their own review phones.

* I like the way the phone feels in my hand. It’s slim and has a bigger screen than my iPhone. The display looks cool, and it doesn’t take long to figure out the mechanical differences between the two phones. The Fire can also display all your apps on a single page, which saves lots of time scrolling through to find the app you want to use.

I use several apps in the course of my days and weeks. And that’s the real problem with Fire. Amazon has walled off their phone from existing apps. Android apps won’t work on it. Google’s YouTube app is locked out, as is the Google maps app. And none of the apps I use the most are currently available, and I’m not sure if they ever will be.

Yes, Apple tightly controls who can make apps for its system, and I don’t like living in that world. But the iPhone is in such wide use that there are quite a lot of apps available. Amazon? Not so much.

* So, I’ll be sending my test phone back to the company. My iPhone screen is badly cracked and my AT&T contract is up, so I gotta find a new phone soon. It won’t be the Fire.

Any suggestions?

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


Roberts appointment questioned

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* The BGA looks at the ties between the new Legislative Inspector General Bill Roberts, a former US Attorney, his law firm and political leaders

* Political committees controlled by Madigan paid Hinshaw & Culbertson more than $40,000 between 2002 and 2008, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Roberts represented Madigan during an investigation by federal authorities in Springfield into the possible misuse of state resources that ended in early 2005 with no charges filed.

* Hinshaw has contributed to the campaign funds of Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago; Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne, D-East St. Louis; Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont; and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. Roberts personally donated $500 last year to the campaign fund of state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission that approved Roberts’ appointment on May 30. Other members of that committee include Clayborne, who until recently worked for the law firm run by Roberts in its downstate Belleville office.

* State agencies have hired Hinshaw and paid the firm more than $1.8 million over the past five years, state records show. That includes $2,339 from the Cullerton-led Senate Democrats in the 2012 budget year and $1,950 from the Madigan-led House Democrats in 2014.

* The Sun-Times editorial board, while noting Roberts’ respected career, thinks this is a lousy choice

Roberts’ selection reflects a brazen lack of concern for the appearance of good government and the effectiveness of ethics laws. Certainly, the Legislature doesn’t appear to believe the job of the inspector general is very important. If Roberts were to investigate himself, he no doubt would find the appearances of conflict of interest are compelling. It is not a close call.

An IG at any level is supposed to be independent and pursue only the facts. There should be no restraints of a political nature. An IG also relies on the people who are interviewed in the course of gathering facts to believe they are dealing with an unquestionably impartial investigation. Roberts’ ties to legislators cast a shadow over that.

Roberts said he wouldn’t have taken the job if he thought there were conflicts. We’re not sure the average Illinois citizen will see it that way.

The General Assembly is expected next year to select a permanent person to fill the IG job until 2018. Rather than put Roberts in that job, the Legislature should cast a wider net for someone who has not only his investigatory skills, but also a firm record of independence.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Poll: Rauner has 14-point lead

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* Sun-Times

Gov. Pat Quinn is facing an increasingly uphill battle against Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, a new We Ask America poll shows.

Rauner is now sitting on a 14-point lead in the poll that was conducted July 28, which is up from his 10-point lead he had in a June poll. Rauner’s boost can be attributed to his economic plan, which includes a state income tax reduction. A poll showed while people don’t believe Illinois can afford this plan, a majority say it makes them more likely to vote for him. […]

Overall, if the election were held today, Rauner would pull in 47 percent of the vote, compared to Quinn’s 33 percent. Of those polled, 20 percent said they’re still undecided.

* Reboot

The poll contained three questions asked in sequence to gauge respondents’ reactions to the tax plans forwarded by Quinn and Rauner. Respondents first were asked for whom they would vote if the election were today. They then heard specifics of the tax plans in a second question: “Pat Quinn wants to make permanent the 5 percent personal income tax rate. Bruce Rauner wants to take four years to reduce the income tax rate to 3 percent. Rauner would also expand the sales tax to cover 32 services; not just goods. We’d like to know which plan you think is more likely to balance the budget?”

After answering that question, respondents were asked, “Knowing this information about each candidate’s approach to taxes and budgeting, for whom would you vote if the election were held today?”

Support for Quinn fell slightly — from 33 to 31 points — after respondents heard about Quinn’s plan to keep the current 5 percent personal income tax rate rather than allowing it to fall as scheduled to 3.75 percent at year’s end. Though Rauner’s plan contains its own version of a tax increase even as it proposes to lower the income tax over four years, his poll numbers increased slightly after respondents learned of his plan.

Respondents said they believed Rauner’s tax plan was more likely to balance the state budget than Quinn’s by an 11-point margin.

That last line is telling for its preposterousness. People really want to believe in magic fairy dust. Rauner apparently knows that.

Also, Rauner is still leading in suburban Cook. That’s truly ominous news for Quinn.

- Posted by Rich Miller   95 Comments      


Today’s rant

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* Tri-County Tea Party leader Rick Newton, whose group spans DuPage, Cook and Lake counties

Over four months after the Republican primary election, we continue to hear conversations among conservatives about the uncertainty/lack of comfort with Bruce Rauner as a candidate for Governor. In my opinion, however, I sincerely believe that it’s time for anyone in Illinois whose political beliefs lie anywhere right of center (and even a little to the left!) to come to grips with reality. Not only is the primary over, but more importantly, this state is in the throes of a veritable economic death spiral.

Yet, we have people who would normally vote Republican who continue to quibble over degrees of conservatism while our state is bleeding jobs, money, and people! Do we truly believe that re-electing Pat Quinn to work in tandem with the Michael Madigan and John Cullerton will create even a modicum of meaningful, positive improvement for this state? Not only should our answer to that question be a well-deserved “Hell no!”, but it shouldn’t require deep thought.

Yes, from a conservative’s viewpoint, the Illinois GOP has ample room for improvement – but its ability and willingness to become more aligned with its own party values is not going to happen overnight. That’s going to take strong grassroots efforts to make that happen and that’s where we in the TP movement exert the most influence.

The good news is that Bruce Rauner has a viable chance to be elected Governor of Illinois. But because he’s opposing an incumbent, because Illinois politics is a cesspool of corruption and selfishness, and because the state’s Republican Party is too often its own worst enemy, we cannot afford to succumb to the distractions that would divert our focus.

It’s time for the whining to stop and for all of us to ask voters to put on their big boy/big girl underpants and recognize what’s at stake. Bruce Rauner can win this election, but it can’t happen without conservatives all rowing in the same direction and with optimal energy.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 *** Quinn campaign goes up with first TV ad of the season

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* I’m told the governor’s campaign is launching his first TV ad today. I’m also told it’s a positive spot. Stay tuned.

*** UPDATE *** The one-minute spot is called “Comeback.” It references his veto of legislator paychecks, among other things. Rate it

…Adding… Script…

It’s in times of challenge,

when leaders are tested.

To do what’s right, no matter how hard.

Pat Quinn’s never backed down from a challenge…

even when it meant taking on the powerful.

As a young man Pat Quinn took on the giant utilities.

He stopped them from gouging families on their electric bills.

It’s who he is.

Pat Quinn sees problems, takes action, and gets the job done.

With an economy in meltdown, and a crisis of corruption,

Pat Quinn took over as governor…

and went to work.

He cut five billion dollars in spending. Created jobs.

And when legislators refused to fix the pension crisis,

Pat Quinn stopped their paychecks cold, and refused his own, until the job was done.

That’s the test of leadership.

Now, Illinois is making a comeback.

With so much more work to be done,

Pat Quinn’s the leader we need on our side.

Pat Quinn. Governor.

Because courage counts.

And character matters.

*** UPDATE *** Greg Hinz

The Rauner campaign had a response within an hour — or as the campaign put it, “Pat Quinn’s reality check.”

Among other things, it notes that Mr. Quinn once handled patronage duties for then-Gov. Dan Walker, that the state’s bond rating has plummeted during the Quinn years, and reminds viewers that the state’s economic recovery has indeed been tepid at best, lagging the rebound in almost every other state.

The Rauner rejoinder also underlines that the Quinn administration is being scrutinized for alleged patronage abuses and says spending for education has dropped while the income tax has increased.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

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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   29 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      


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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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