* Greg Hinz…
A leading contender in the race for Illinois attorney general has received $100,000 in donations in recent weeks from companies controlled by a tobacco mogul, companies that are directly regulated by the attorney general’s office under the national tobacco master settlement agreement.
Campaign disclosure records indicate that state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago, who has been endorsed by the Cook County Democratic Organization in the race to succeed retiring Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has received 10 contributions of $10,000 each from companies operated by Don Levin.
Levin’s Top Tobacco is one of the parties to the national pact that Madigan enforces and oversees here in Illinois. Madigan’s office confirms that it has opposed Top Tobacco in a series of arbitrations—one pending—in which it is seeking tens of millions of dollars from that company and others in a dispute over payments to the state from the tobacco settlement.
Levin is best known locally as the owner of the Chicago Wolves professional hockey team. But, professionally, he’s more prominent as the head of an empire of tobacco and tobacco-related products, including Job rolling papers, which Reuters in 2012 estimated as being worth as much as $2.3 billion. […]
Also at issue is the appearance that, if he’s elected with Levin’s money—Levin’s companies have provided roughly a third of the funds Raoul has reported receiving so far for the primary campaign—Raoul would be in a position to immediately provide millions of dollars of regulatory relief in exchange. […]
Raoul spokesman Holmes said none of this makes a difference, since “Raoul is not attorney general.”
* From rival AG candidate Jesse Ruiz…
It is deeply disturbing that Kwame Raoul has accepted $100,000 in campaign donations from ten companies controlled by a single tobacco mogul – even though that mogul’s company is currently in direct conflict with the Illinois Attorney General through a multimillion-dollar tobacco arbitration.
The statement from his campaign that ‘Raoul is not Attorney General’ demonstrates a profound ethical indifference incompatible with the responsibilities of the Illinois Attorney General. This indifference can further be seen in the fact that Senator Raoul has seemingly encouraged a contributor to do an end run around the legal limits on campaign contributions.
When candidates take huge amounts of money from contributors who have a very obvious financial interest in the outcome of an election and a pending case, it undermines public trust in our democratic system of government. I call on Kwame Raoul to do the right and ethical thing and return the $100,000 in tobacco money.
*** UPDATE *** Raoul campaign…
Sen. Raoul has the strongest drug reform record in this race. He’s eager to talk about what he’s done for Illinois children as a legislator and what he will do for them when he’s attorney general over the course of the campaign.
However, since Mr. Ruiz brought it up, let’s examine Sen. Raoul’s record side-by-side with Mr. Ruiz. While Jesse was supposed to be looking out for our children he:
awarded a multi-million dollar no-bid contract to the SUPES Academy - a training group where then-CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had once worked - which led to an eventual 4 and ½ year prison sentence for bribery charges
closed 50 schools in Chicago’s neighborhoods
Had to borrow $1 billion just to cover budget gaps created by his board’s mismanagement
Meanwhile, Sen. Raoul:
Passed a law to establish penalties for knowingly manufacturing, delivering or possessing fentanyl.
Passed a bill out of the Senate which makes it illegal to distribute or sell a product containing or delivering nicotine that is not a tobacco product unless the product has been approved or otherwise certified for legal sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a tobacco use cessation product, or for other medical purposes, and is being marketed and sold solely for that approved purpose.
Passed a bill out of the Senate which bans flavored tobacco wraps which were manufactured and marketed to minors.
Passed a law to amend the Illinois Controlled Substances Act to include certain synthetic cannabinoids under the list of Schedule I controlled substances.
Was the chief co-sponsor of a law to provide that treatment under the supervision of a licensed program designated by the Department of Human Services is not available to: a first-time offender charged or convicted of possession of 15 grams or more of methamphetamine; or a person who is otherwise ineligible for probation under specified provisions of the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act.
Sponsored a law to provide that the offense of knowingly manufacturing or delivering heroin, or possessing heroin with intent to manufacture or deliver, is not eligible for probation, conditional discharge, or periodic imprisonment if the amount of the heroin is 3 grams or more.
Sponsored a law to provide that a person who falsely advertises a synthetic drug product is guilty of a Class 3 felony and may be fined an amount not to exceed $100,000. That law also amended the Illinois Controlled Substances Act to include 5-methoxy-diallyltryptamine as a Schedule I Controlled Substance.
Sponsored a bill to gives DHS the ability to schedule entire structural classes of synthetic drugs as controlled substances. The bill also expanded the definition of “controlled substance” to specifically include synthetic drugs. It also defined “synthetic drug” to include references to the three most common classes of synthetic drugs: synthetic cannabinoids (”Spice”), synthetic cathinones (”Bath Salts”), and synthetic piperazines (”Fake Ecstasy”).
And he voted for SB 500, the Smoke Free Illinois Act. He was a co-sponsor of and voted for HB0556, the proposed 90 cent per pack cigarette tax hike, in ‘07 and co-sponsored resolutions recognizing our Smoke Free Illinois law.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Former Gov. Pat Quinn…
“If you’re running for Attorney General, you shouldn’t be taking $100,000 from Big Tobacco. That’s the wrong way to go. Pay-to-play has no place in the Attorney General’s office, which directly oversees the tobacco settlement agreement. Senator Raoul should return the $100,000 campaign contribution from Big Tobacco immediately.”
Rep. Scott Drury…
Raoul has a long history of taking the side of special interests to the detriment of consumers and children. Whether the issue is promoting underage gambling, the proliferation of guns and, now, tobacco - Raoul is the enemy of consumer protection.
Illinois deserves an Attorney General committed to cleaning up Illinois. I have demonstrated that commitment as a federal prosecutor and legislator, and, as Attorney General, I will continue this fight.
* Sharon Fairley…
Senator Raoul is becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate special interests that cause the most damage in our communities – energy companies, casinos, alcohol distributors, and now big tobacco. These companies have so much to gain, and Illinoisans have so much to lose, by having an attorney general under their influence.
Raoul’s most recent contributions from a tobacco magnate have obviously been structured in a manner to circumvent campaign finance rules, and are a clear reflection of the Senator’s lack of concern for the African-American community of Illinois, which is disproportionately affected by the harms of smoking.
This does not reflect the kind of integrity and independence we should expect from our next Attorney General.
*** UPDATE 3 *** Jesse Ruiz…
It’s not surprising that Kwame Raoul is trying to change the subject and shift attention away from his unethical decision to accept $100,000 in tobacco money from someone with litigation pending before the Office of the Attorney General.
So will Kwame Raoul return the tainted contribution or is he going to hide behind his statement that it doesn’t matter since he’s not currently the Attorney General? Will he stand for honesty and integrity in government or will he continue the same unethical ways of Springfield that voters are so sick of?
My father always told me that the best test of a person’s character is the way you behave when you think no one is looking. Senator Raoul is failing that test.
*** UPDATE 4 *** Mayor Nancy Rotering…
“Revelations that Kwame Raoul circumvented campaign finance laws to accept one hundred thousand dollars from ten different companies associated with Tobacco Mogul Dan Levin is deeply troubling. It was the Illinois Attorney General who, in 1998, sued Big Tobacco for the millions in compensation the state pays for tobacco-related medical expenses each year. Kwame Raoul can not be trusted to continue to hold Big Tobacco accountable. He has already demonstrated he lacks the political backbone to stand up to powerful special interests such as the NRA. In 2013, Kwame Raoul compromised with the NRA by writing a bill that made it now illegal in Illinois to ban assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips. His compromises with the NRA are no less outrageous than his willingness to enlist Big Tobacco as a partner in his campaign for Attorney General. He should immediately donate this cash to non-profits such as the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association.”