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Tillman speaks

Friday, Aug 11, 2017

* Chicago Magazine interviewed the Illinois Policy Institute’s John Tillman

How did it happen that you lost so many of your people to the state government?

I don’t prefer the term “lost.” I think the state of Illinois is lucky to have these incredibly talented people. These are very difficult jobs, and I think this whole uproar about the staff shakeup is way over the top. Gubernatorial administrations have had turnover from the beginning of time. Perfectly normal. The people who are in there now will one day be out. The governor is advancing his vision and his mission and the staff’s job is to advance the governor’s agenda, not the other way around.

I’ve been covering this state government since 1990 (oy) and I have never once seen such an abrupt staff change that didn’t have anything to do with the end of a term. This is just not normal. The only comparable event was after Rod Blagojevich was arrested.

And as far as the staff advancing the governor’s mission goes, it sure looks like the governor is changing directions with his new staff in place. Like for instance, on school funding reform (click here), refinancing the debt owed to vendors and providers (click here) and food stamp eligibility (click here).

* Back to the interview

The people who left IPI to go to the Rauner administration generally have no government experience. Is that a problem?

The idea that you have to literally work in government as a government employee to have government experience is false. Every one of these people have been involved in the legislative process as advocates, have been involved in negotiating and talking to legislators and promoting legislation. More importantly, those who are experienced in government have driven the state into the ground. And I think it’s time for a change.

All of them were involved in the legislative process? Not according to the lobbying registration records.

* This is a good time to clear the air on some things. I have a ton of respect for what Tillman has been able to accomplish. He took a small wonky group and turned it into one of the most feared organizations in this state. The fact that his group has been able to connect with so many people should be a model for everyone else (although, I’m not at all a fan of their methods, including the way they seem to enjoy ginning up anger and hate).

And while I take strong issue with their insistence that their fantasy state budgets are realistic, or that “right to work” is a good thing, or that the crushing impasse was really no big deal, I do happen to agree with them on several other points, like criminal justice reform or ridiculous over-regulation of food trucks, etc.

That’s really the genius of the group. The Policy Institute completely stays away from traditional social issues and focuses solely on fiscal and economic issues. That confuses the heck out of liberals who don’t pay close attention to this stuff. The Institute isn’t officially pro-gun, or pro-life or anti-gay, so they don’t look like extremists to most eyes. And they hate taxes. Everybody hates taxes, including lots of Cook County liberals screaming about the new pop tax right now. And liberals are overjoyed with conservative support for criminal justice reform.

But now that they’ve linked up so tightly with a hugely unpopular governor, things might change for them, and not for the better. The governor’s new Policy Institute staff is hampering, even hurting him, but the governor’s not so great reputation is also now splashing on the Institute. If he fails, they’re really gonna be hurt by that.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

21 Comments
  1. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 1:39 pm:

    Faustian bargain


  2. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 1:42 pm:

    Ask ILGOP how well their hitching to Rauner has “revitalized” them.


  3. - ArchPundit - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 1:44 pm:

    ===I do happen to agree with them on several other points, like criminal justice reform or ridiculous over-regulation of food trucks, etc.

    Marijuana legalization too.

    An example of how ludicrous their ideas are is their “balanced” budget they proposed cut $3.7 Billion from local governmental units. In one year. Should we maybe shift some of the funding to local sources? I’m not sure, but I can tell you a $3.7 Billion one year cut is going to create chaos–which I tend to believe is their goal so that government looks ineffectual.

    Many of the issues they take on have a decent point. TIF reform. I’m there, but it’s not TIF reform to hit school districts for TIFs when the school boards don’t control TIF creation. They argue it’s the local ‘community’ which is technically true, but doesn’t fix the problem in any way.

    Many big issues need transition time to work without completely disrupting the system–they want to do it all now. Right now. The only way that makes sense is if you don’t want government to work.


  4. - The Dude Abides - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 1:46 pm:

    Lurching an administration to the far right in the state of Illinois isn’t going to go well in November 2018.
    As far as the “experienced people in government have run Illinois into the ground” comment goes, show me any Governor in history who has run up so much debt in so short of time as Rauner has. If you measure a Governor’s worth on how he managed the state’s finances Rauner is the worst Governor in state history.


  5. - Porgy Tirebiter - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 1:47 pm:

    It’s easier to look like a genius when you’re only critiquing the work of other people. It’s a lot harder to look like a genius when you’re responsible for the work.


  6. - Politix - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 1:50 pm:

    Agree on turnover, with 19 years of experience w and three administration changes. I can’t remember a time under another administration where someone was actually fired or where so much internal bitterness ensued.


  7. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 1:53 pm:

    When these IPI staffers smelled a chance to play in the Mansion, they revealed their true colors by racing over. There was practically a trail of pee in front of the YMCA between the Mansion and the IPI Bates Manor-style house. Check its belfries, they are empty.

    IPI wasn’t filled with dedicated researchers. It was filled with wanna-bes as clingy as found in City Hall or under the Dome.

    IPI staffers smelled politics just didn’t care who was governor. They got their break and are going to milk it like a tapeworm.


  8. - ArchPundit - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 1:54 pm:

    ==== I have never once seen such an abrupt staff change that didn’t have anything to do with the end of a term

    Sorry, a second point here. Running the government takes effort in trying to organize the different efforts and there are a lot of things going on beyond the big policy issue and just making proclamations.

    Getting a bunch of people who have worked in a think tank or think tanks and maybe in some financial industry job doesn’t provide any of the knowledge that goes with experience in government.

    Tillman tries to argue that those with experience got us into the current situation, but what that misses is you can’t change what you cannot operate. Besides knowing where the keys are you need people who know who to call and what the rules are which are very different in government than in a think tank. Experience matters especially if you want to transform something.


  9. - Honeybear - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:13 pm:

    I get that I’m jacked up today but I just shriek at adoration of IPI. I don’t believe that we will NOW see IPI in action.

    I believe all the destruction has been IPI all along.

    When the original crew didn’t seem to get it or have the guts to execute the orders to destroy and ruin people’s lives

    They were replaced.
    IPI was calling the shots.
    Only now though will IPI
    Have no ability to disburse blame
    They will be held accountable finally


  10. - My New Handle - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:14 pm:

    ==The Policy Institute completely stays away from traditional social issues and focuses solely on fiscal and economic issues.==
    Yet, like Rauner having no social agenda, those fiscal and economic issues can and do have an enormous impact on social and educational institutions.


  11. - Ace Laredo - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:26 pm:

    It’s good to know that BIMPs aren’t spelled B I M B.


  12. - GMC GENERAL - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:34 pm:

    This is the equivalent of the McCasckey family hiring Dan Bernstein to be the Bears head coach.


  13. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:43 pm:

    Like it or not, the successful Governors of the past 40-50 years have staffed their Executive Offices and Agencies with veterans of State Government with folks from other backgrounds brought in tactically to address specific problems or initiatives. The “run State Government like a business” or similar ideas have largely crashed and burned time and time again. Look at the history of DCCA/DCEO for just one example. The insertion of IPI ideologues with limited Goverment, and frankly, life, experience, into the highest levels of State Government is similarly doomed to fail. Sadly, there is no one around to tell Rauner the gravity of his error, leaving him to learn it the hard way, along with all of us.


  14. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:44 pm:

    To the Post,

    The real genius of IPI is that, like Rich points out, they chose fiscal issues to be their core issues, and along that line, governing and business within the financial and fiscal principles they believe.

    It begins, ends, and surrounds “no taxes”.

    Social agenda? “No taxes”

    School reforms? “No taxes”

    It’s about the financials.

    You make your think tank about the dollar, eventually something they believe or say makes… sense.

    They were the lone type of shop that could strike fear in conservatives, but also get support from Democrats on a different policy they believe.

    To the “purge”, Rauner, Tillman…

    Lest we forget, during the “Superstar” times, Tillman himself sat in to interview GA replacements. Remember that?

    “Locals will decide… and John Tillman too”

    What Diana Rauner and Bruce Rauner have found in IPI is a person in Tillman that will let Bruce be Bruce, but… embrace Bruce being Bruve and be willing to sell it “as is”… and formulate policy, politics, and governing as Bruce wants, not how the actual playing field dictates.

    The downside in that is a Brittany Carl gets hired, but… “that’s fine” as Bruce says.

    The reason they didn’t intro themselves to the press? The new press shop may be use to building narratives and talking points, just not real relationships with the media. That’s a radical change in a Comms shop, but…

    Diana Rauner and Brucd Rauner were tired of hearing “try it this way, we can message that.”

    Diana and Bruce changed 20+ people (their choice or not) to get IPI folks that will respond “You say what YOU want. You propose what YOU want. We will save you from criticism”

    It wasn’t a change of messenging, it was to hear that others will sell the plan so the Winnetkas and Lake Forests are satisfied in the phony message.

    The Superstars had a conscious, and that’s why I had them a hard time, because I knew they had a heart and wanted Bruce to win, but big sink a state.

    The BTIA? Diana Rauner supports Bruce destroying Illinois, just make it pallitable to the wealthy that attend those pesky cocktail parties.

    IPI’s heart and soul is numbers. Taxing numbers, revenue, cost, ROI. People? It’s about the numbers. Don’t need a conscious when a dollar never worries.

    So, Tillman got the governing “heart”, Proft got the political “soul”…

    … and as long as Diana Rauner can go to a cocktail party and enjoy the time away from the unwashed, while the IPI tries to make pain pallitable, this move will be as embraced as it is now.

    It’s not messengers, it’s messaging to clear the conscious of Diana and Bruce Rauner, as the pain of ithers that needs to stop, it’s the pain of Diana and Bruce that needs to end…

    … and Tillman and IPI obliged.


  15. - Anon221 - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:16 pm:

    Tillman, ” The people who are in there now will one day be out.”

    Can’t be soon enough. In the meantime, Republicans need to be Republicans, not Raunerites. The Raunerite Mission and Vision is either his own (Rauner Mr. nobody tells me my policies, nobody), or Rauner is doing as he’s told by the bigger donors of IPI. Either way, the scope of their destructive policies will be felt long after they are gone. And that may well be “Excellent” for them in the end as an accomplishment.


  16. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:20 pm:

    OW, my friend, that is restaurant quality.

    Especially when I slip on my “decoder ring” to read through your typos lol. With respect.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:23 pm:

    - AA -

    Thanks, and to my… typing…

    I’m perfect in my imperfection… beginning here first, with my awful typos. lol


  18. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:24 pm:

    Porgy 1:47-
    ===It’s easier to look like a genius when you’re only critiquing the work of other people. It’s a lot harder to look like a genius when you’re responsible for the work.===

    This sort of thought appeared here often during the last administration, too.


  19. - Reality Check - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:34 pm:

    Be careful giving IPI too much credit. They’re just a cog in the larger far-right machine.

    While influential in Illinois, they’re just one of dozens of state-level groups in a web that exists solely to advance radical policies that reduce government, deregulate business, cut taxes, eliminate unions and wipe out political opponents of these agendas.

    Along with Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money”, this is a good peek behind the curtain: http://billmoyers.com/story/deep-history-radical-right/


  20. - Dome Gnome - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:35 pm:

    I can’t wait for more of my friends and neighbors to notice that IPI isn’t wearing any clothes.


  21. - Norseman - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:42 pm:

    Kudos to AA and OW.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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