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Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* The Senate was originally scheduled to return to town on October 6th. But, as I told subscribers earlier today, those plans were changing. And now they’re official

That’s the same day the House is scheduled to be back in town.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* Greg Hinz on the Mark Kirk campaign’s document dump last week

In an extraordinary action, his campaign manager, Kevin Artl, leaked a memo to my colleague Rich Miller at Capitol Fax castigating an upcoming Trib story that is said to allege that the senator harshly treated staff members, with aides “physically and verbally abused,” as Miller put it.

In the memo, which promptly went national, Artl charged that the Trib’s Todd Lighty had even harassed Kirk’s 79-year-old mother with repeated calls in an effort to substantiate the story. At least one staffer involved has given the campaign a sworn affidavit denying any misconduct by his boss. The memo also suggests anti-Kirk bias by Lighty, who has done a series of critical pieces on the senator, including one about charges that the senator put his ex-wife and girlfriend on his campaign payroll. That story appeared just a few months after Kirk suffered a severe stroke.

The Trib hasn’t gone with the story, at least so far. And it released a statement strongly defending it and Lighty.

It’s impossible to know for sure what’s going on without reading the story and talking to those involved. But it would be a brave staffer–at least one who wants to continue to work in politics–who would publicly slam the boss.

I do hear reliably that Kirk can be difficult and demanding. But many pols are. The joke at City Hall used to be that one of the job requirements to be Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff was to come in each morning and be yelled at about what went wrong since the day before.

Assuming the Trib eventually publishes, Kirk will have drawn more attention to its article.

The only point of disagreement I have with Greg is that I think the Tribune story would’ve been a bombshell regardless of whatever Kirk did. Forget about the verbal abuse stuff. A sitting US Senator accused of physically abusing his staff is most definitely a man bites dog moment.

* From the Democratic SuperPAC American Bridge 21st Century…

Vulnerable Senator Mark Kirk has been making a lot of news over the last week — though not for reasons he’d like.

Kirk allegedly bullied staff members, subjecting them to both physical and verbal abuse — or so reports a thus-far-unpublished Tribune investigation, according to the Associated Press.

Predictably unhappy about the story, Kirk’s campaign launched an “unusual” counter-attack — threatening “legal action” against the Tribune in an attempt to suppress the report, the AP reported.

But the Kirk campaign’s effort backfired: The threatened lawsuit became public, and Mark Kirk is now publicly defending himself over the alleged bullying.

Here’re some coverage highlights:

    Associated Press: Kirk campaign launches unusual attack on Chicago Tribune

    Huffington Post: Senator Mark Kirk’s Campaign Pre-Emptively Bashes Chicago Tribune Ahead Of Negative Story

    Sun Times: Mark Kirk’s office launches preemptive strike against reporter

    Politico: Kirk camp goes on offense against upcoming Chicago Tribune story

    Chicago Tribune: Kirk campaign attacks Tribune before any story is published

    The Guardian: Mark Kirk campaign: reporter ‘bullied’ staff with questions about abuse claims

Notice how they gave the AP all the credit for the story. That could be because the AP itself neglected to mention where the info came from.


But I don’t see Kirk yet defending himself against the bullying allegations. So far, the coverage has mainly been about the unusual tactic.

* And just in case you’re wondering, I decided to run the piece because I thought it was a truly unique move with some special circumstances and gave my readers a fascinating look behind the scenes at how stories like these can develop.

In other words, it was most definitely newsworthy, as the national coverage clearly shows. My responsibility isn’t to the Kirk campaign or the Tribune. It’s to my subscribers and my readers. Everyone else can go pound sand, for all I care.

* The Question: While it is arguably too early to judge, at this very moment do you think the Kirk campaign’s preemptive strike at the Tribune will turn out to be a good move or a bad move? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

online survey

- Posted by Rich Miller   65 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** SoS White suspends registration reminder mailers

Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* Press release…

Jesse White Announces Office to Suspend Mailing Vehicle Registration Renewal Reminder Notices Due to the Budget Stalemate

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced today that his office will suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminder notices to the public due to the lack of a state budget.

White noted that by suspending this service, which will save approximately $450,000 per month, his office will be able to prolong the ability to mail vehicle registration renewal stickers, titles and license plates to vehicle owners for a few months longer before the postage account is depleted.

“The lack of a Fiscal Year 2016 budget is adversely impacting the Secretary of State’s office, and threatens to jeopardize the services we provide to the public,” said White. “Without a state budget in place, we are doing what we can to manage so that we may serve the people of Illinois for as long as possible. As a result, difficult decisions like suspending renewal reminder notice mailings are decisions we are being forced to make.”

White also noted if the office’s postage account runs out before January, he will be unable to mail the annual license to auto dealers, which they need to operate in Illinois legally, as well as critical incorporation paperwork needed for businesses in Illinois.

Last week, White issued a letter to the governor and legislative leaders outlining concerns on how the budget stalemate is negatively impacting his office. Some of the concerns included critical computer maintenance and data security issues as well as Driver and Vehicle Services facility operations. White is determined to prioritize difficult cuts to ensure his office can provide core services to the public for as long as possible.

White encouraged vehicle owners to be mindful of their vehicle registration status to ensure they renew in a timely manner and avoid driving on expired vehicle stickers. He also emphasized that more vehicle owners will be forced to visit facilities to renew their vehicle registration stickers because without a reminder notice they will not have a pin number needed to renew online. However, people who have signed up to receive electronic reminder notices will continue to receive them by email. To sign up for this service, please visit

“I urge the governor and the legislature to come together and solve this budget crisis so that my office, and all of state government, can continue providing services to the people of Illinois without interruption,” said White.

*** UPDATE *** From comments…

without those renewal notices to mail in everyone will have to visit the SoS Office because you can’t even renew online without the PIN that comes on the renewal notice

Not necessarily. There’s a work-around. You can renew via e-mail by using the PIN that’s printed on the registration card in your glove box.

- Posted by Rich Miller   74 Comments      

Mystery solved

Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* Remember last week’s Illinois Times story?

Illinois Times [yesterday] sued Gov. Bruce Rauner after Attorney General Lisa Madigan ruled that the governor must turn over his appointment calendar in response to the paper’s request made under the state Freedom of Information Act.

The newspaper asked for Rauner’s appointment calendar last spring after the governor walked out of a Holocaust remembrance ceremony. The newspaper’s request came after the governor’s press office ignored an emailed query asking where the governor had gone while a Holocaust survivor spoke at the annual ceremony held at the Old State Capitol.

* Bernie followed up…

LYNDSEY WALTERS, a Rauner spokeswoman, told me this week: “Gov. Rauner left the Holocaust Memorial Service early to hold a four-leaders meeting at a time in which all were available. Since May, the governor has invited the four leaders to meet as a group, and members of the majority party have declined. Despite their unwillingness to meet as a group, the governor has held individual meetings with the leaders whenever and wherever they’ve agreed to meet.”

RIKEESHA PHELON, spokeswoman for Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, said there was an hourlong meeting with the governor and leaders starting at 11:30 a.m. April 16, and Cullerton attended.

Phelon also said there have been no such meetings with all four leaders and the governor since May, and she denied that Cullerton has turned down any meetings since the last one took place.

“At this point, we’re ready to work with the governor to resolve the budget issues in whatever forum that works,” Phelon said.


- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

Union fund loses state pension business

Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* Sun-Times

Minutes after supporters of Gov. Bruce Rauner assumed leadership of one of the biggest government pension funds in Illinois, they shook up the way hundreds of millions of dollars are invested — in the process ousting a union-run money manager.

The Republican governor’s appointees to the Illinois State Board of Investment voted to shift $697 million into investments designed to mimic the financial markets’ performance — a move the board’s new chairman says will benefit taxpayers by slashing multimillion-dollar money-management fees.

In line with Rauner’s anti-organized labor stance, one of the managers the board dumped was Ullico, a union-owned investment firm that lends money to construction projects that agree to hire union labor.

The board’s vote to pull its $65.4 million investment in Ullico’s “J for Jobs” fund was along political lines. The four Rauner appointees and two Republicans who are on the board because of other offices they hold voted to dump Ullico. Two Democratic elected officials and a union leader voted “no.”

Marc Levine, the Rauner appointee elected board chairman at the start of the Sept. 17 meeting, says the governor’s battle with organized labor had “absolutely” nothing to do with the decision.

Says Rauner spokesman Lance Trover: “The governor’s office does not, and did not, instruct the Illinois State Board of Investment on how to invest taxpayer dollars.”

Go read the whole thing for more of the board’s reasoning, which makes some sense. But also keep in mind that Ullico’s president and CEO is Ed Smith, a former bigtime labor union leader from southern Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

This Is Illinois

Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* So, the museum and the shooting complex will both close, but workers will stay on the job. Wonderful

Despite a court case blocking him from laying off workers, Gov. Bruce Rauner is moving forward with the closure of the Illinois State Museum and the World Shooting and Recreation Complex near Sparta.

In an announcement issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the administration said the two facilities will remain closed while the legal proceedings regarding the layoffs of more than 100 workers are underway.

The three-paragraph missive noted employees are expected to stay on the job even though the facilities won’t be open to the public. […]

“It’s beyond disappointing, especially with the fact that the employees will still be there,” said state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield. “I’m not sure what the employees will be doing.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

I just don’t see this happening

Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* Carol Marin

It’s time for the governor to call a special session of the General Assembly and not let anyone go home until something gets done.

Do the people’s business.

Put everything up for a vote.

Win some. Lose some.

But pass a budget.

Don’t darken our door until you do.

The governor doesn’t want a vote on the state budget yet. He wants his Turnaround Agenda passed first. Then and only then will he talk about the budget.

* Senate President John Cullerton’s told his side of things to Amanda Vinicky yesterday. Cullerton said the budget could get done in a weekend, but also pointed out how he had passed a property tax freeze bill through the Senate which was then rejected by the governor because, Rauner said “it’s not enough because it doesn’t have enough of this anti-union stuff that I insist on.”

More from Cullerton

“I mean, it’s amazing. The whole concept that we have problems in the state because municipal employees are making too much money, it’s not true. OK? It’s just not causing the crisis that the governor would propose. And it’s just so ironic that a guy who’s so wealthy, to insist on having people who are just working class people make less money. It’s almost an obsession and I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s a problem.”

And if Rauner brings legislators to town by fiat, they’re gonna make that clear to reporters every single day.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t see any upside for the governor, particularly since his own pollster says he’s currently “winning.”

* Meanwhile

Some of Sauk Valley’s top education officials say unfunded mandates are a problem that needs fixed, but they fear the governor’s solution could be an even bigger problem.

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to eliminate the more than 100 mandates as part of a larger proposal to freeze property taxes. In a letter to legislators, he said mandate relief could save districts statewide more than $200 million annually.

While Sauk Valley school officials would welcome relief from unfunded mandates, they say the property tax freeze would be an even bigger burden.

Officials also say it’s hard to put a price tag on the cost of the unfunded mandates, since they change each year.

“Rauner wants legislatures to freeze property taxes for 2 straight years,” said Tad Everett, superintendent of the Sterling Public School District. “That would be a killer for us financially. We would have no new revenue or increases in anything budgetary for 2 straight years.”

Your own thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      

Roads to nowhere

Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

A poll and a speech may have hardened positions even further on both sides of the highly partisan and bitter state government impasse.

The speech, by Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, you likely already know about. The survey, taken by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pollster, you probably don’t. So, let’s start with the poll.

Basswood Research, which has done extensive work for the Rauner campaign, surveyed 800 likely Illinois general election voters September 14-15 and found quite a bit of support for Rauner and a whole lot of opposition to House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The poll, which had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent, found that 45.5 percent approve of Gov. Rauner’s job performance, while 40 percent disapprove and 14 percent don’t know. Not great.

But a whopping 71 percent agreed with the statement: “Bruce Rauner is trying to shake things up in Springfield, but the career politicians are standing in his way,” while just 21 percent said that wasn’t true.

Another 55 percent agreed that “Bruce Rauner is working to find bipartisan solutions that will help fix Illinois’s budget mess and improve the struggling state economy,” while 34.5 percent said it wasn’t true.

President Obama’s favorables (50 percent) were higher than Gov. Rauner’s (47 percent) in the poll, but Obama’s unfavorables (45 percent) were higher than Rauner’s (40 percent).

Only 11 percent approve of the job being done by the General Assembly, while 73 percent disapprove. House Speaker Michael Madigan’s favorable rating was only 21 percent, while his unfavorable was 60 percent. Only 19 percent had no opinion of Madigan either way, which means that Madigan is quite well known to voters.

An overwhelming 76 percent agreed that “Mike Madigan controls the Democratic legislators in Springfield,” while a mere 10 percent disagreed and 14 percent weren’t sure.

If you trust these poll results, then the public is largely siding with Rauner and views the General Assembly as unlikeable obstructionists tools of the House Speaker. So, a well-crafted, well-funded message which ties legislators or legislative candidates to Madigan could be disastrous.

There are caveats here. This is Rauner’s pollster, so the Democrats will likely be dismissive. Also, the group which commissioned the poll, the Illinois Business and Industry Council, is an unknown quantity with a vague website that was created this past July.

But Rauner’s pollster was almost alone in accurately predicting the governor’s win last year. So, keep that in mind when the naysaying starts.

And the point isn’t what the Democrats or even you or I think of the poll anyway. The point is that the Rauner people trust that pollster and are convinced of the poll’s results. So they truly believe they are winning and can make Madigan pay a steep price for losing.

But on the other side of the equation, we now have some very powerful folks who believe they have God – or at least the Pope – firmly on their side.

Archbishop Cupich’s September 17th speech to the Chicago Federation of Labor was perhaps the most profound rallying cry for the importance of organized labor that I’ve ever seen. Without mentioning the anti-union governor’s name, he made it clear that he and Pope Francis stand firmly with unions – both public and private sector – and against those who would exploit or weaken them.

Two years ago, Speaker Madigan specifically credited Pope Francis’ words of inclusion for his change of heart about gay marriage. You could argue that Madigan was simply using his Pope to justify a popular position change, but this time around he has a pretty clear mandate from his church’s leadership. “The Archbishop has said the same thing that we’ve been saying in Springfield,” Madigan told reporters after Cupich’s address.

The problem with mixing religion too deeply with politics, of course, is that religious beliefs can’t easily be negotiated away. So Cupich may have complicated matters.

Both the poll and the speech came during a period when folks with ties to both sides were attempting to get the top dogs to talk. Some are saying that the governor will further narrow his economic demands to a far more politically doable list before he’ll agree to finally deal with the state budget.

But the poll numbers could easily harden the governor’s position, and the Archbishop’s timing might very well end up hurting many of the neediest people served by his church’s charities if we don’t get a budget deal anytime soon.

I never seem to have any good news.

- Posted by Rich Miller   109 Comments      

Today’s quotable

Monday, Sep 28, 2015

* From the SJ-R

“I challenge you to find a more stupid and pig-headed way to deal with the mentally ill.” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on people with mental illness who end up in local jails because they can’t get proper treatment as a result of state budget cuts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

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Monday, Sep 28, 2015

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Tribune responds to Kirk campaign

Saturday, Sep 26, 2015

[Comments are now open.]

* Lynn Sweet has the Tribune’s full response to Friday’s post here about the Mark Kirk campaign’s preemptive strike against one of the paper’s reporters

Tribune Editor Gerould Kern said in a statement Friday, Kirk’s “campaign and the conduct of his office are subjects of legitimate inquiry, and the Chicago Tribune stands fully behind our reporter, Todd Lighty.”

“We will not comment on unpublished reporting, but we can say that the Kirk campaign has wholly mischaracterized Lighty’s diligence and thoroughness.

“Lighty has been direct, open and honest at all times with the Kirk staff in his reporting. He is a meticulous and professional journalist. Good reporters ask tough questions.

“We will not allow the Kirk campaign to attack unchallenged the professionalism and integrity of Lighty and the Tribune.”

It’s routine for campaigns to dispute negative stories. It’s rare to do it before anything has been published.

* Also, at least one commenter claimed yesterday that Kirk’s campaign sent out a fundraising e-mail about the story. From Kevin Artl…

I noticed some commenters said we pushed out an email on this issue. That’s not true. We did no email or social on it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Partisan breakdown of newly proposed congressional map
* *** UPDATED *** Democrats release new congressional map - More Latino strength - Newman, Casten in same district - Kinzinger, LaHood mapped together - Miller, Bost mapped together
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Question of the day
* The debate continues over the labor force participation rate
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Pritzker expands vax/test mandate to workers at licensed day care centers
* COVID-19 roundup
* Despite pleas and even threats, IDOC worker vax rate remains about the same
* Can't somebody at the state step in and help Dixmoor with its water problem?
* Giannoulias hit for accepting campaign money from his brothers, others
* Illinois: Tell Congress To Count All Copays
* Open thread
* Yesterday's stories

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