* John Kamis has been planning to roll this thing out for well over a year…
Leading Illinois liberals are forming a well-endowed new think tank here, hoping to offset the influence of Gov. Bruce Rauner and resurgent conservative Republicans.
The new Innovation Illinois will be led by former aides to ex-Gov. Pat Quinn with a board chaired by Christopher Kennedy, who recently stepped down as chair of the University of Illinois board. Focusing on research and public commentary, it is designed to serve as a sort of counterweight to the Illinois Policy Institute, a libertarian group that has rolled out policy papers on pensions and other items and helped staff Rauner’s administration.
“Too often in Springfield, the debates leave out the poor and the working class,” said co-founder John Kamis, a former city staffer and attorney who oversaw Quinn’s performance-based budgeting panel. “Good policy moves from the inside out. We want to provide a voice.” […]
The message the group really wants to get out is that “sometimes, government does things that are good,” Saddler said. That means talking about issues such as education, labor, health care and entrepreneurism—and most particularly about big budget cuts that Rauner has proposed in most of those areas, he said. […]
The group already has received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in financial backing, with the source of some but not all of it eventually to be disclosed, Kamis said. The group will not formally lobby or endorse candidates.
Whatever you think of the Illinois Policy Institute, you have to admit that it’s PR blitz over the past few years has been amazingly effective. Not only is the group regularly quoted in news stories and its top dogs invited onto TV and radio programs, but its free “news service” has been lapped up by papers across the state. It’s also placed a new emphasis this year on bipartisan legislation. Kamis, et al will have a lot of catching up to do.