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Liberal “think tank” formed here

Thursday, Apr 30, 2015

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

49 Comments
  1. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:15 am:

    As a conservative, I applaud this move. I hope to see some enlightened conversations based on more than heartfelt emotions. Competition is good.


  2. - Peanut Butter - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:18 am:

    I hope they don’t start out by defining the upper middle class “wealthy” and working endlessly to preserve public sector pensions without even discussing ways to improve private sector retirement security.


  3. - Upon Further Review - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:20 am:

    Rauner is a conservative? Illinois has resurgent conservatives?

    That sounds like Bizarro World.


  4. - Ray del Camino - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:20 am:

    About time. We’ll see if it lasts. I fear it may go the way of liberal talk radio. Progressives’ unwillingness to lie (Rush) and make stuff up (Fox) hampered that effort.


  5. - The Dude Abides - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:21 am:

    I am not a Liberal but I think this is sorely needed in Illinois. The IPI is an organization that advocates the goals of the wealthy and our new Governor. We need an organization to broadcast the viewpoint and concerns of the working class. In the last decade or so we have seen the gap between the wealthy and the working class widen at a large rate. Rauner has publicly stated that the middle class is being overpaid for their work. Working class people in this state are in the crosshairs and they need an advocate in the media to express their views.


  6. - Downstate Illinois - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:21 am:

    Good policy ideas from the Quinn Administration? Really?


  7. - OneMan - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:26 am:

    About time. We’ll see if it lasts. I fear it may go the way of liberal talk radio. Progressives’ unwillingness to lie (Rush) and make stuff up (Fox) hampered that effort.

    Yeah, that’s the reason, because progressives are just so gosh darn ethical and honest, that is why the ratings sucked… Stick with that…


  8. - A guy - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:27 am:

    There is room for such a group. I’ll withhold judgement until the work product makes it’s way to the public discussion. Independent voters (and those who self identify themselves as such) tend to look for research from legitimate groups like these. While I doubt I’ll agree with them too often, a rational, intelligent discussion and debate benefit everyone.


  9. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:27 am:

    IPI’s free news service was a brilliant move, leveraging the hand-in-hand declines of newsroom budgets and journalistic standards.

    Nothing gives propaganda more credibility than when it’s presented by an allegedly “objective” third party.


  10. - Chicago Hack - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:29 am:

    It will be interesting to see the positions they take. Government does do some good things, that’s true, but some things are gooder than others.


  11. - 999exodus - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:35 am:

    Yes, when self-serving lobby firms such as the Illinois Policy Institute have access to millions of dollard in unlimited right-wing cash they can fool some of the people some of the time…


  12. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:44 am:

    - IPI’s free news service was a brilliant move -

    No kidding. I’ve often been perplexed by small newspapers slanted “news” until seeing the byline.

    This should be priority number one for these folks; sadly I don’t know if Saddler and Kamis are up to the task.


  13. - Food4Thought - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:46 am:

    This is going to help the IPI in their fundraising; it’s always easier to fundraise when you have a clear opposition to point at.


  14. - Liberty - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:01 am:

    Someone has to replace all the laid off journalists.


  15. - St. Louis Bob - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:04 am:

    -because progressives are just so gosh darn ethical and honest-
    I think of Teddy Roosevelt when I hear the word “progressive.” Roosevelt believed the federal government had a role, even an obligation, to ensure a level of equality in Americans’ daily lives and used government regulations and policies to bring about social and economic justice. Sounds good to me.


  16. - walker - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:05 am:

    The IPI has been harmful to a democracy hopefully driven by well-informed voters.

    Another “think tank” could just add muck to the morass, regardless of what “side” they are on.


  17. - Anonymice - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:08 am:

    For their sake I hope they’re more effective at messaging and lobbying than they are at interneting. Searching for “Innovation Illinois” on Google their website doesn’t even hit the first page, let alone the first result. Instead I get a bunch of stuff about Illinois Innovation Network.


  18. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:12 am:

    Anonymice, they’re “thinkers”, not “doers”. As a liberal this is what worries me.


  19. - Soccermom - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:20 am:

    Ray — keep in mind that reality has a decidedly liberal bias….


  20. - nixit71 - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:22 am:

    Everyone dissing IPI again, yet when the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) releases yet another finding calling for progressive (ie higher) taxes, many folks praise it as a “bi-partisan” solution. Yet CTBA has just as many public sector conflicts of interest on the other side of the spectrum as IPI does.

    For Innovation Illinois to succeed, they need to remember the working class includes private sector folks in the mid/upper tier ($75K and up). Otherwise, they’ll be viewed as another public sector PR firm.


  21. - JI - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:24 am:

    I guess Ralph just wasn’t cutting it.


  22. - Hey wait a minute - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:28 am:

    “The new group is “a progressive think tank” designed to “look at the best policies and practices in other states,” said interim CEO Michelle Saddler, who was secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services and briefly served as Quinn’s chief of staff. The state can’t just “cater to the job creators and the rich,” she said.”

    This just feeds into this whole myth that jobs are created by rich people. That’s simply not true.

    Jobs are created by customers who buy stuff. When they buy more stuff than companies can make, the companies hire people to meet the demand.

    It’s true that companies are started by people with ideas. But those ideas can’t be monetized until those companies hire people who make things and provide services that are brought to market and sold to people. Consumers. Folks like you and me.

    We are all job creators — sometimes directly, but more often indirectly. And if this think tank starts out by accepting the plutocrats’ mythology that they’re the only ones who create jobs — well, they’ve lost before they even get started.


  23. - Dubious - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:30 am:

    Anon 1012:

    “Anonymice, they’re “thinkers”, not “doers”. As a liberal this is what worries me.”

    Precisely!


  24. - Hey wait a minute - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:33 am:

    Why does the article have a link to Innovation Ohio’s website, but not Innovation Illinois?


  25. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:34 am:

    Its about time! You need a snappy name, & some people with deep pockets & deep thinkers to back your Think Tank.


  26. - Anotherretiree - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:49 am:

    ==Leading Illinois liberals are forming a well-endowed new think tank here==
    uh……what will be the hiring criteria ? Will Chippendale help on their resume ??


  27. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:49 am:

    Good to see that Illinois is continuing its never-ending race to become more and more like The Swamp.


  28. - A guy - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:51 am:

    == Soccermom - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:20 am:

    Ray — keep in mind that reality has a decidedly liberal bias….===

    Dear Mom, Smitten or not, this one overshoots the runway by more than a few yards.


  29. - Johnny Pyle Driver - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:00 am:

    Well they’re sure off to a good start! I searched for their website for 10 minutes and only found Illinois Innovation Network, which is focused on technology. They couldn’t even pick a unique name? Maybe they’re building excitement…


  30. - Soccermom - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:08 am:

    Rob Corddry said it and Colbert quoted it, so it must be true:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/on-the-liberal-bias-of-facts/?_r=0


  31. - OneMan - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:26 am:

    – a well-endowed think tank–
    Is going to be my new rap name…


  32. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:31 am:

    oneman, I was wondering who was going to go there.


  33. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:33 am:

    OneMan - now I wanna make a “Dewey Cox” reference, but I can’t because Rich would ban me for life.


  34. - Federalist - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:41 am:

    Besides the predictable need for higher taxes and increased welfare programs I am genuinely interested in seeing what they propose.


  35. - Federalist - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:47 am:

    “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.”

    Why not ALL of the sources?


  36. - LizPhairTax - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:49 am:

    Federalist,
    Good question. Let’s ask the BGA the same. Seriously. All y’all. Whose bread you eating? Whose song you singing?


  37. - RNUG - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:53 am:

    == Yet CTBA has just as many public sector conflicts of interest on the other side of the spectrum as IPI does.==

    With one difference. The CTBA numbers are fact based and add up.


  38. - nixit71 - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:01 pm:

    ==The CTBA numbers are fact based and add up.==

    Yes, higher taxes for all equals more revenue. I don’t need a think tank to tell me that, let alone one funded by the public sector unions.

    Each sides’ numbers add up, but only tell part of the story.


  39. - From the 'Dale to HP - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:35 pm:

    @nixit71, IPI’s numbers often don’t add up.


  40. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:50 pm:

    ===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.===

    And that’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to match by this new group, however large their endowment is. The same business interests that fund IPI also fund newspaper and television advertising. They belong to the same clubs and live in the same suburbs. In short, they run in the same circles, so to speak.

    This is why IPI gets picked up by the so-called “major media.” We live in a “who-you-know” world, and the IPI’s donors know who owns the TV, radio and newspapers in this state. Good luck trying to match that success.

    Innovation Illinois and it’s large endowment better pick its spots carefully or this will be a short-lived experiment. They are fighting against business interests and hoping the news media businesses take their side? If they are truly innovative, they’ll find a way to create an alternative to corporate news programming that is viable, sustainable and useful.

    You can’t counter IPI by mimicking them.


  41. - Federalist - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:52 pm:

    @Lizfair tax,

    Yes, I agree all should have their sources revealed. I have stated that many times in the past for many other groyups on both sides of the fence. But this issue dealt with this group. Do you understand that?


  42. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:28 pm:

    – higher taxes for all equals more revenue–

    Nix, I think you’ve had a breakthrough. I commend you for abandoning the Laffer sideshow grifter con that lower taxes lead to higher revenue.

    Now that the fever has broken, you can rejoin us in reality in a good faith discussion on how much revenue is necessary.


  43. - Dan Walker's Mane - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:38 pm:

    Kamis is very talented, there is a huge need for this and having Chris Kennedy on top gives it the credibility it needs. I think it will be a real success - I was at the kickoff and some hitters were in attendance and contributing.


  44. - nixit71 - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:26 pm:

    == you can rejoin us in reality in a good faith discussion on how much revenue is necessary.==

    I keep asking the retirees that very question. They keep telling me zero additional revenue is necessary.


  45. - Federalist - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 4:21 pm:

    “I keep asking the retirees that very question. They keep telling me zero additional revenue is necessary.”

    The tax rate will have to be increased back to the 5% for five years and 1.25% of that extra revenue will have to be specifically designated for paying back bills.

    The question is, will the Governor have the courage to adopt such legislation and will the GA actually be honest in using that additional resources to pay off the back bills.

    No easy answers but that is what I will put forward. And for full disclosure, I am a retiree and I paid $3712 in state income tax this last year.


  46. - Roskammed - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 4:30 pm:

    The website right now (http://innovationillinois.org/) doesn’t even accept emails of people that want to sign up for update. For individuals coming from a campaign background, that’s a pretty amateurish mistake for a launch.


  47. - LizPhairTax - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 4:33 pm:

    Federalist,

    Got it. My point is that all these groups should reveal all their funders. We are agreeing with each other. Even revealing “some” is more than other groups do.


  48. - Federalist - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 6:15 pm:

    @LizPhairTax,

    I am certain we probably have many differences of opinion but this is not one of them.

    All such organizations/PACs, whatever, should provide full disclosure. And I don’t like bundling either unless along with it comes the individual names attached to the list.


  49. - CookGuy - Friday, May 1, 15 @ 9:44 am:

    If they plan to compete with IPI they need to find some people with media chops. As far as I can tell none of the staff/board have a media background that will translate into their ideas actually getting coverage.


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