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Friday, Sep 26, 2014

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Rauner contributes another $1.5 mil to self, $750K to state GOP

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* Pearson worked later than I did today…


* Quinn campaign…

News is breaking that billionaire Republican Bruce Rauner, the richest candidate in Illinois history, has given himself another $1.5 million in his efforts to buy the governor’s seat. Rauner has now given himself more than $12.5 million.

And the Chicago Tribune is tweeting Rauner gave another $750,000 to the Illinois Republican Party, bringing the total to more than$3.5 million. […]

Below is the statement of Quinn for Illinois Deputy Press Secretary Izabela Miltko at the new flood of Rauner money:

“As the public learns that Bruce Rauner has been deceiving them about his key role at a deadly string of nursing homes at a trial in Florida, Rauner has done what he does best: Reached for his pocket book.

“No amount of money will make up for the substandard care that was prevalent at Rauner’s nursing homes. And no amount of money will be able to hide the truth from the people of Illinois, that his policies, like his business practices, put profit ahead of people.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* I think I’m going to this…

Rich,

I meant to send this to you much earlier knowing your affinity for great live music coupled with tasty food and beverages, unfortunately I’m just now remembering to.

The SamJam - Unplugged on the Prairie event is 12 hours of acoustic, progressive bluegrass, roots, and Americana with all proceeds going to neurofibromatosis (NF) research through NF Midwest. It is tomorrow at the Macoupin County Fairgrounds in Carlinville from noon to midnight. If you’re in the area, you should definitely check it out.

The line-up is pretty solid with the 6 bands from St. Louis and Chicago area, they are Old Salt Union, Chicago Farmer, Tangleweed, Acoustics Anonymous, Clusterpluck, and The Leadfoot Band.

Here is a link to the SamJam website: http://www.samjam4nf.com/.

Sam, who is the namesake of ‘SamJam’, is a personal friend and an amazing guy. He loves live music and this is his and his family’s way to give back to all those that have helped him over the years. It should be a blast.

Cheers

* We’re ending the week with two videos. The first is the “Boat Drink Caucus” playing at the Phases of the Moon Festival. Notice that Sen. Don Harmon is playing bass. The band’s bass player fell ill. Harmon hadn’t played bass in decades, but he grabbed an axe and let it rip

* And, now, Van the Man

We were born before the wind

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Zorn on “early release”

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* Zorn writes about the case of Derrick Allmon, who’s accused of deliberately killing 9-year-old Antonio Smith after he served half his prison sentence and was released

“A violent criminal was let out early under (Gov.) Pat Quinn (and) murdered a 9-year-old boy,” seethed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner on Tuesday.

But Allmon wasn’t let out “early.” He was let out exactly when the prosecutors and the courts expected he would be let out on the day he was sentenced. He was let out exactly when the law, passed by Democrats and Republicans in Springfield, said he should be let out.

“We cannot allow this to continue to occur,” continued Rauner.

If by “this” he means a pervasive misunderstanding by the public of how prison sentences work — a misunderstanding to which Rauner opportunistically contributed by trying to score political points off the death of Antonio Smith — then I agree. […]

Or if by “this” Rauner means rewriting sentencing laws to give judges the latitude to keep dangerous people behind bars for longer periods or removing this fig leaf commonly known as “good time,” I also agree.

But if by “this” he means a sentence-reduction program that was discontinued several years ago and has been replaced (under Quinn!) by an incentive-based program only for those convicted of nonviolent crimes, I call rubbish.

I probably excerpted too much, but go read the whole thing to fully appreciate the arguments here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* First, it was the “early release” rehash from 2010, then it was thirty year-old comments from Mayor Harold Washington which were already used in the 2010 campaign, and now Gloria Steinem

Famed women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem is throwing her support behind Gov. Pat Quinn and launching a “Women for Quinn” Coalition.

Steinem was scheduled to appear at Chicago’s Allegro Hotel with Quinn and top Democratic female officeholders including Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Steinem said in a statement that she backs the Chicago Democrat because he supports abortion rights and equal pay for women. She said he fought for a law to end discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace.

No offense meant to Ms. Steinem, but it’s most definitely “Throwback Week” on the ol’ campaign trail.

* The Question: What blasts from the past do you predict the two campaigns will haul out next week? Snark is obviously encouraged, as are explanations for your “predictions.”

…Adding… The Steinem visit has been postponed. Also, Dave Dahl over at the Illinois Radio Network mentioned the above throw-back items in his report today and ended it with a funny “Back to the Future” theme…

Heh. I love that guy.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Another unknown

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* No way does Bruce Rauner want the NRA’s endorsement while he’s trying to do well in suburban Cook County and Chicago. So he didn’t respond

* Rauner did, however, talk to the AP about generalities

Rauner, a Republican businessman from Winnetka, applauded Illinois becoming the last state in the nation to approve concealed carry, and warns that too many regulations on assault weapons and other firearms can run afoul of constitutional rights. […]

“Gun regulations are important,” Rauner said at a news conference, where he was endorsed by a group of black Chicago ministers. “It’s important that we keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill, but going much beyond that creates constitutional issues.” […]

“I believe in common sense gun safety measures like background checks that keep guns away from criminals and people with mental illness,” he wrote. “Going beyond that requires a very careful balance between promoting public safety and protecting constitutional rights.”

During a GOP primary debate, Rauner said gun owners may want to use the weapons for target practice or other purposes on their own property — calling it a constitutional right “and we’ve got to respect that fact.” Quinn’s campaign on Monday repeated its criticisms of his stance, saying such weapons “belong on a battlefield — not in our schools and not in our communities.”

* Jim Oberweis, on the other hand, needs all the help he can get

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Frerichs accuses Cross of violating campaign finance law

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* From a press release…

Tom Cross announced one year ago that he would not seeking re-election to the Illinois House and instead was running for State Treasurer. But over the last year, Tom Cross spent $192,692 from his legislative PAC, Citizens to Elect Tom Cross State Representative, to support his race for Treasurer. Those expenditures include: more than $40,000 in payments to Cross’ campaign manager Kevin Artl and five other employees; nearly $40,000 in payments to campaign consultants; and over $10,000 in meal charges. During the same period, Tom Cross continued to funnel money into both his legislative campaign account and Cross for Treasurer, which was created on September 11, 2013.

The Frerichs campaign says that is a clear violation of Illinois campaign finance laws. Under the law, PACs are required to report when they spend money on behalf of another candidate or cause, even when it is the same individual running for another office, which Cross failed to do. Illinois law also limits Cross to spending $52,600 from his legislative PAC on behalf of his Treasurer’s race in an election cycle, a cap that the Frerichs campaign says Cross clearly violated. The Frerichs campaign notes that Cross did report transferring $15,000 from his legislative campaign account to his treasurer’s race, a move that is perfectly legal. That move, they say, is proof that Tom Cross knew the law yet chose to ignore it

“Tom Cross wants to be our state treasurer, but he can’t even account for his own fundraising,” says Frerichs campaign manager Zach Koutsky. “Tom Cross violated basic election laws in a major way, and he clearly knew he was doing it.”

The contribution caps were enacted in 2009 on the anniversary of the arrest of Tom Cross political ally Rod Blagojevich. Frerichs voted for SB 1466 while Tom Cross voted against the measure.

Documentation is here.

* From the Cross campaign…

Another day, another false attack by Senator Mike Frerichs. Over the course of the last few weeks, the Frerichs campaign has launched a litany of untrue attacks, ranging from statements about Tom attending conferences he never did to mistruths about his voting record.

“As it relates to today’s fictitious attack by Senator Frerichs, our campaign has fully complied with the requirements of the Campaign Finance Act by fully disclosing all contributions and expenditures. The purpose of the Campaign Finance Act is to compel the disclosure of political spending and Tom has fully disclosed for each committee, period.

“The desperation of the Frerichs campaign, which is losing in every noteworthy general election survey, is exemplified in the dirty tactics they are undertaking. The conduct of Senator Frerichs calls into serious question whether he has the character or judgment to serve the state of Illinois as its next Treasurer.”

I’m expecting more back and forth on this one, so stay tuned. Notice that Cross’ campaign didn’t specifically address the caps issue.

*** UPDATE *** As expected, the Frerichs campaign has responded. The relevant portion…

Tom Cross continues to dodge questions, just as he dodged complying with our state’s campaign finance laws.

One of the main purposes of the law is to ensure that campaign spending is transparent. Tom Cross violated both the spirit and the letter of the law by spending money from his legislative PAC on his Treasurer’s campaign and failing to disclose that fact. Period. Cross also clearly violated caps that limit how much his legislative PAC can spend on his Treasurer’s race to $52,600 per cycle.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* In other news, Greg Hinz followed up with the Illinois Department of Revenue about its changed stance over Sen. Frerichs’ legislative office property tax bill

Initially, the department ruled that Mr. Frerichs’ case was similar to that of state Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago, who some years ago was ordered to pay property taxes on space she leased from Chicago Public Schools for her district constituent office. But now it says otherwise. Why the shift?

According to the department, state law treats school property differently from a building owned by a mass transit district.

Even though both are public bodies, “Once the (school) property is no longer used for exempt purposes, it is again subject to property tax, even if leased to the state government,” a department spokeswoman said. But the law covering transit districts allows the break if the leasing entity also is a public body, in this case a member of the state Senate using the space for public purposes.

* Meanwhile, this looked like a pretty big hit when I read the Tribune headline and lede

Simon hits Topinka on aides’ lucrative 2nd jobs

Democratic challenger Sheila Simon on Thursday criticized Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka for her role as president of a federally funded nonprofit that paid two key comptroller staffers more than $50,000 a year for part-time work on top of their six-figure taxpayer-funded salaries.

But, as it turns out, the organization in question didn’t update its disclosure forms after Topinka was elected. It’s actually much less time per week for much less money. At least, that’s what they’re saying.

* The Topinka campaign fired back…

Lt. Governor Simon reports income from “consulting” in 2014 but does not indicate what the consulting involved, who it was for or how much time she spent on the work outside of her Constitutional Office.

Hypocrisy has a name and its name is Sheila.

Simon’s disclosure report is here. Disclosure is required for any annual income earned over $5,000 and Simon lists “Consulting” in that category.

…Adding… From the Simon campaign…

Rich -
Attached is the transcript of the full exchange between Comptroller Topinka and the editorial board on the Smart Money Smart Women issue. As you can see, Judy Baar Topinka believes she left the company several years ago, but the tax filings for the company list her as the president as recently as 2012.

Here are links to the Form 990s for the company in question. As you can see on PDF page 7, Nancy Kimme was earning $117,300 in 2010, Markus Veile was making $84,310, and Ken Kamps was making $66,000, for what they list as 35 hours per week worked.

Fast forward to 2012, and you see that on PDF page 7 again, Nancy Kimme and Markus Veile are still there in the same position, listed at 35 hours per week, and now earning $53,350 each (while also drawing six figure salaries at the Comptroller’s office, full time). Judy Baar Topinka is still listed as the president of the company.

So they say they listed the wrong amount of hours, and also Judy Baar Topinka should not have been listed as president. But they DID go in and alter the salary amounts - how could the rest have been overlooked? The signature block on the first page clearly says:

“Under penalty of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return, including accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true, correct, and complete. Declaration of preparer (other than officer) is based on all information of which preparer has any knowledge.” In 2010, Ken Kamps signed the form. In 2012, Nancy Kimme signed it.

Also, for the “consulting” thing with Sheila, if Comptroller Topinka’s campaign referred to page 4 of the filing they will see under “Major sources of income” that Sheila listed $8,516 from textbook royalties. She was the co-author of a law textbook.

Here are cleaner PDF links:

2009
http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2010/770/627/2010-770627531-077abf76-9.pdf

2011
http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2011/770/627/2011-770627531-08a65aec-9.pdf

2012
http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2012/770/627/2012-770627531-09bc9ca8-9.pdf


Dave Mellet
Campaign Manager
Sheila Simon for Illinois

The attachment is here.

* The two went at it at the Sun-Times as well

Topinka boasts that she has implemented a policy of prioritizing payments for not-for-profit and service agencies that serve the state’s most vulnerable residents. She says there are “no favorites” but that she works with state agencies, lawmakers and vendors themselves to understand which situations are most dire.

But Simon says the office should work to disclose exactly who it’s paying when, and why.

“It’s perfectly legal to be silent about that. I just think it’s wrong,” Simon said. She suggested the comptroller’s office should publicly disclose who agencies getting expedited payments employ, the number of people they serve, and whether they’ve exhausted all other lines of credit.

Topinka calls Simon’s idea unfeasible and “overly simplistic,” noting the state writes checks from hundreds of different funds, some of which have large backlogs, and others which have no backlogs at all. The office is obligated by law to pay for some services, such as foster care, immediately.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Unclear on the concept

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* Riopell and Silverberg at the Daily Herald

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn wants his tax plan put into action right after the Nov. 4 election, echoing his key campaign argument that the state can’t afford to let income taxes drop at the end of the year.

Quinn has called for keeping the state’s 2011 income tax hike intact instead of letting it lower on Jan. 1 as scheduled. Without the money from the higher income tax rate, he says, the state faces serious cuts to schools and a growing pile of unpaid bills. […]

Quinn says his re-election will demonstrate to lawmakers that his plan is the right one.

“It’s going to happen in 2014, in November and December,” he said of his tax plans. New lawmakers take their seats in January.

You’d think that after six years as governor he’d know he will need a three-fifths super-majority to pass his tax hike extension in November or December.

Ain’t gonna happen, guv. January is the month you’re looking for.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Pot, meet kettle

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* Republican Bobby Schilling is quite upset with a new DCCC TV ad

“Congresswoman Bustos and the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) should be ashamed of themselves for promoting an edited, dishonest video and running advertisements based upon it,” Schilling said.

“This was bullying, plain and simple,” he continued. “I’m calling on Congresswoman Bustos and the national Democrats to do the right thing and remove this dishonest advertisement from the airwaves.”

Schilling wants the campaign to get away from disputing political ads and center more on the issues.

“There has to be some way we can have (ads) vetted through so you have independent people looking at and say, ‘This is and honest ad, and here’s the facts’ and be able to put it out,” Schilling said. “But, that’s probably never gonna happen.”

* Oh, for crying out loud. And I do mean “crying.” I think I posted the ad already, but here it is in case you missed it

* The script…

The Sensata plant in Freeport closed and shipped off more than 100 jobs to China…

When workers in Freeport needed their Congressman, Bobby Schilling turned his back on them.

Schilling voted to protect tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs

– and even voted to let them keep their government contracts.

He used your tax money to help send American jobs overseas.

We don’t need any more politicians like Bobby Schilling.

* From the QCTimes

Schilling, who represented the 17th District from 2011-12, objected to the new ad Tuesday, calling it a “lie.”

The commercial doesn’t say so directly, but the Democratic committee confirmed it is referring to a September 2012 confrontation between the former Republican congressman and a few workers from Sensata Technologies at a Stephenson County Farm Bureau meeting.

Workers at the meeting demanded to know whether Schilling supported a piece of legislation and, after some back and forth that involved what appeared to be a farm bureau official, the workers began chanting “yes or no,” and Schilling was escorted by one of his campaign staff to the back of the room.

When at least some of the Sensata workers left the room, Schilling returned to the front of the room, according to a video of the incident posted at the time by Schilling’s campaign.

“They’re saying Schilling walked out on constituents. That’s a lie,” the Republican said in an interview Tuesday.

* And check out how he goes to great lengths to prove his point

Yes, he makes some valid arguments, but his over-interpretation of the simple phrase “turned his back” is more than a little goofy.

And I have to agree with Cheri Bustos’ campaign that his idea to have “independent people” vet ads is pretty rich coming from a guy who ran a TV ad this month which FactCheck.org brutally slammed as “shamefully misleading.”

As I often say in comments: Move along, please.

…Adding… This just came over the transom. From a WEEK TV story

“And they did this to try to bully and intimidate and put this out to make it look like I walked out on a meeting. I believe it is unamerican and it’s the bad part of politics for anyone to do that, whether it is Republican or Democrat” said Schilling.

Oh, please. Unamerican? Clean your own house first, dude.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Today’s number: 71 percent

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* As you know, I greatly prefer legalization, but Springfield’s decrim appears to be drastically cutting down on the city’s arrests for tiny amounts of marijuana. SJ-R

Arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Springfield dropped dramatically from 2009 to last year, following the city council’s move to change how such offenses are dealt with.

A decriminalization ordinance passed in 2009 said people found possessing less than 2.5 grams of marijuana would be ticketed and fined $300. Before the ordinance was passed, the offense would have resulted in a Class C misdemeanor charge that included a $1,500 fine. […]

There were 101 arrests in Springfield last year for possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana, a nearly 71 percent drop from the number of arrests for the same offense in 2009. […]

In the four-year period starting in 2010 and including 2014 to date, there have been 465 arrests in Springfield for small amounts of marijuana, according to figures provided by the city. During the same period, 1,627 citations were issued for such possession offenses, roughly 3 1/2 times the number of arrests.

But 2.5 grams is less than a tenth of an ounce. Maybe it should be expanded?

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


They really do think highly of themselves

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* Gov. Pat Quinn

“I always do the right thing, no matter what”

* Bruce Rauner

“I’ve been successful at everything I’ve ever done.”

…Adding… As a reader points out, neither can hold a candle to Billy Madison

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Legit probe or retaliating against whistleblowers?

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* We’re getting to this a bit late in the game, but here’s the Sun-Times’ take

A Snapchat text from Wrigley Field during state worker hours and a pair of sexually harrassing text messages to female co-workers were among the new details to emerge Wednesday in the firings of three high-level staffers in state Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s office.

The Executive Ethics Commission Wednesday released a report by David Wells, executive inspector general for the treasurer’s office, into an alleged scheme to circumvent the time-keeping system in Rutherford’s office.

Wells identified Patrick Carlson, George Daglas and Ashvin Lad, all three senior members in Rutherford’s management team, and said all three violated the “trust and integrity” of Rutherford and state taxpayers by their conduct. […]

“All three positions are senior staff positions within the office of state treasurer, appointed by Treasurer Rutherford. These individuals are in leadership positions of a state agency wherein integrity and trust are key character traits. By their participation in this fraudulent time keeping scheme, whether it was ‘every day’ or ‘one time only,’ their actions violated the trust and integrity of Treasurer Rutherford, the office of state treasurer, and most importantly, the trust of the taxpayers of the state of Illinois,” Wells’ report concluded.

* The Tribune has a different sort of angle

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford fired three top aides who were accused of falsifying timekeeping records, but the former employees say they were targeted in retaliation for participating in a probe looking into allegations of sexual harassment and political pressure made against their boss. […]

In written responses released by the inspector general, Carlson, Daglas and Lad say there are several inaccuracies in the report and question the legitimacy of the investigation, saying the inspector general did not follow proper protocol and inform them of the right to have interviews recorded.

Carlson said in his response that he at no point admitted to being a part of the scheme, and accused Wells of having an “accusatory tone and demeanor” during interviews. Carlson wrote that Wells’ behavior matches that of other treasurer’s office staff members and was “designed to purposely and willfully create a hostile workplace environment and was done in retaliation” for statements Carlson made to another investigator hired by Rutherford to vet allegations brought against him by a former employee that the treasurer engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment and political pressure.

Lad also questioned Wells’ investigation, saying the ethics officer relied on statements from “co-workers who were set to find ways to retaliate against me for cooperating with an internal investigation.” Daglas did not say he felt he was being retaliated against in his formal response to the report, but told the Tribune on Wednesday that the trio was unfairly targeted for participating in the Rutherford probe. Carlson and Lad declined to comment further, deferring to their written responses.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


We have our problems, but thankfully this isn’t one of them

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* I put this post together during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, but never published it. Not sure why. But as you’ll soon see, it’s relevant to today’s revelation about Bruce Rauner.

* I’ve known several people, all poor, who faced the constant threat of arrest over things like a small fine not being paid, or a hospital collects on a debt and a court date is missed and they can’t afford to pony up

In Ferguson, court fees and fines are the second largest source of funds for the city; $2.6 million was collected in 2013 alone. That’s become a key source of tension. There is a perception in the area, Harvey says, that the black population is targeted to pay those fines. Eighty-six percent of the traffic stops, for example, happen to black residents — even though the city is 67 percent black.

“I can’t tell you what’s going on in the mind of a police officer but, in the mind of my clients, they’re being pulled over because they’re black,” Harvey says. “They’re being pulled over so the city can generate revenue.” […]

“This becomes a major issue: if you can’t pay your fines, you stop going to court. And then a warrant goes out for their arrest, and if they don’t have the fine money they’ll sit in jail until the next court date. We’re talking about traffic tickets here, really the lowest level offense.”

* People all over the country get caught up in this ridiculous cycle. And if they do wind up arrested and sit in jail, they can lose their jobs and their kids. From the New Yorker

(A)cross much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees. (Often, poverty means transience—not everyone who is sent a court summons receives it.) “Across the country, impoverished people are routinely jailed for court costs they’re unable to pay,” Alec Karakatsanis, a cofounder of Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil-rights organization that has begun challenging this practice in municipal courts, said. These kinds of fines snowball when defendants’ cases are turned over to for-profit probation companies for collection, since the companies charge their own “supervision” fees. What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampieren, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free. A recent state-by-state survey conducted by NPR showed that in at least forty-three states defendants can be billed for their own public defender, a service to which they have a Constitutional right; in at least forty-one states, inmates can be charged for room and board in jail and prison.

* Thankfully, Illinois took a stand against this craziness two years ago. From a May 30, 2012 press release

Attorney General Lisa Madigan today applauded state lawmakers for supporting the Debtors’ Rights Act of 2012, a measure that would protect poor people from being jailed over unpaid debts.

Small traffic-related fines, hospital bills and the like were covered under that legislation. It was a very good bill that helped Illinois move away from criminalizing poverty. Other states, however, are not so enlightened.

* Now, on to Bruce Rauner. It’s not known whether Rauner had anything to do with plans to purchase this company, which was finalized just two months after he retired from GTCR, so it’s once again difficult to pin anything on him. From the Chicago Reader

Though Rauner retired from GTCR in 2012, he’s still an investor in it. Not long after he left the firm, it acquired a company called Correctional Healthcare Companies, which provides medical and mental care, including “behavioral programming,” for prisons and jails that want to save money by outsourcing such services.

Illinois is one of the states that’s contracted with CHC. As the Better Government Association has reported, the mental care it’s provided at juvenile detention facilities has been the subject of a lawsuit—though the suit was filed against the Quinn administration. Records show that the state has paid CHC about $21 million since 2012.

But CHC owns another company that does far more controversial work. Judicial Correction Services doesn’t operate in Illinois, but in a number of states in the south it’s a leading provider of what’s called private or offender-funded probation. Simply put, the company contracts with local courts to oversee people on probation for misdemeanor offenses. The arrangement is attractive to budget-cutting officials because there are no direct costs for taxpayers: the offenders cover expenses by paying monthly fees to be supervised.

The thing is, these aren’t hardened criminals—they’re people snared in the court system for committing low-level offenses. And the problem with asking them to pay is that many of them are on probation because they didn’t have the money to pay the fines for their misdemeanors in the first place. The ACLU calls the practice “court-sanctioned extortion.”

* From that BGA story

In Illinois, the company has drawn criticism in connection with a federal lawsuit filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois against the state Department of Juvenile Justice, accusing the state agency of inadequately treating detainees with mental health conditions. […]

But Dr. Louis Kraus, a court-appointed expert in the ACLU case, says he found that Correctional Healthcare “is not meeting the needs of the kids.” Kraus, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, says he found some Correctional Healthcare employees lacked the training and certification needed to treat juveniles with serious mental health and psychiatric problems. […]

An unrelated court case, which was settled in November 2012 for undisclosed terms, accused Correctional Healthcare of being “deliberately indifferent” to the medical needs of an unnamed Illinois youth prisoner. That lawsuit was filed in May 2011 in federal court in Chicago against Correctional Healthcare, an affiliate of the company and a Correctional Healthcare physician the lawsuit said didn’t send the detainee to a hospital until more than 14 hours after the boy first complained of severe testicular pain. As a result, one of the boy’s testicles had to be surgically removed, according to the suit.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** “Very serious” probe of Roland Burris?

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* Roland Burris was expected to testify against C. Gregory Turner in his federal trial related to alleged illegal lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. But Turner’s lawyers say they received new federal documents about what’s said to be a federal investigation into the former US Senator. The Sun-Times has the scoop

Prosecutors Barry Jonas and Georgia Alexakis said most of the documents handed to Turner’s lawyers Thursday relate to the federal probe of Burris’s controversial appointment by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the U.S. Senate in 2008, which was already “in the public domain.” But they also acknowledged that there is also new information about a second probe of Burris, which they described as “sensitive” and said should not be discussed in open court.

Details of the new allegations against Burris weren’t discussed publicly Friday morning, but after [Turner lawyer James Tunick] passed the judge a three-page document that details the new allegations, the judge’s eye’s bulged and she appeared to stare pointedly at prosecutors.

“As you can see, it’s very serious,” Tunick told her. […]

Bucklo ordered both sides to return at 3 p.m. so that they can discuss the matter further.

OK, let’s please not speculate in comments. We’ll track any further developments later this afternoon.

*** UPDATE *** From the Twitters…



Oof.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Madiar argues against pension reform law

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* Via the Senate Democrats comes this op-ed by their chief legal counsel Eric Madiar

Anyone following the pension reform debate knows that Illinois has long diverted the moneys needed to properly fund its pension systems to avoid tax increases, cuts in public services or both. Some may not admit it, but they know it. They also know this practice is the primary reason why the systems are underwater.

Since much of my time over the last three years has been spent on our State’s pension problem, I wanted to find out how long it’s been that way and how long we have known about it. Well, as chronicled in an article I wrote now published by Chicago-Kent College of Law, I have an answer.

1917. No, that’s not a typo.

In 1917, the Illinois Pension Laws Commission warned State leaders in a report that the retirement systems were nearing “insolvency” and “moving toward crisis” because of the State’s failure to properly fund the systems. This nearly century old report also recommended action so that the pension obligations of that generation would not be passed on to future generations.

The 1917 report’s warning and funding recommendation went unheeded, as were similar warnings and funding recommendations found in decades of public pension reports issued before and after the Pension Clause was added to the Illinois Constitution in 1970.

These reports have consistently warned the public and lawmakers for decades of the dire consequences of the State’s continued underfunding, and of the significant burden that unfunded pension liabilities posed for taxpayers. They have also been advised that the Pension Clause bars the legislature from unilaterally cutting pension benefits of retirees and current employees.

Indeed, one of the Clause’s purposes is to prevent the State from reneging on its pension obligations during a fiscal crisis due to the burden imposed by the State’s unfunded liabilities. The Clause was added at a time when the pension systems were no better than they are today.

These reports also reveal that, as early as 1979, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s advised the State that it would lose its AAA bond rating if the State did not begin tackling its increasing unfunded pension liabilities. Also, in 1982, Governor Jim Thompson succeeded in passing legislation making pension funding far more dependent upon stock market returns to stave off higher State pension contributions. Interestingly, that legislation resulted from a report commissioned by Governor Thompson, which highlighted how the pension systems should consider investing in mortgage-backed securities to obtain higher stock market returns.

Further, a 1985 task force report noted that Standard and Poor’s reduced its bond rating for Illinois from AAA to AA+ due to the State’s “deferral of pension obligations,” and that another rating agency viewed the State’s pension funding as a future financial “time bomb.” Finally, the much heralded 1995 pension funding plan was designed to increase the State’s unfunded liabilities and postpone the State’s actuarially-sound pension contributions until 2034.

Given this well-documented history, it’s extremely hard to legitimately believe that our State’s current situation is so surprising that the Illinois Constitution can be ignored and pension benefits unilaterally cut. As noted in my previous legal research, the Pension Clause does not support such a result.

The likelihood of that result occurring seems even more remote given the Illinois Supreme Court’s July decision. In that decision, the court explained that the Clause was intended to “insulate” benefits from “diminishment or impairment by the General Assembly”, and that the court could not rewrite the Clause “to include restrictions and limitations that the drafters did not express and the citizens of Illinois did not approve.”

Make no mistake about it, the court’s July decision strongly signals doom for the argument that the 2013 pension reform bill is constitutional because the legislature can trump the Pension Clause when it declares a fiscal necessity. So too does the State’s sordid history of failing to properly fund the State’s pension system.

When it comes to Illinois’ pension funding problem “what’s past is prologue.” Addressing this problem, however, requires the acceptance of this history as well as the obligations and boundaries imposed by the Pension Clause.

Madiar’s Chicago-Kent article is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


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Open thread

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* Man, it never fails. Wake up late and everything then seems to take twice as long to finish. Sorry about the lack of posts this morning.

So, while I continue trying to catch up, how about a local elections open thread? Let us know what’s going on in your neck of the woods.

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Good morning, everybody!

Friday, Sep 26, 2014

* It’s better than sunshine. It’s better than moonshine. It’s damned sure better than the rain

And when your world seems cold
You got to let your spirit take control

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


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