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Raoul pressed again on tobacco contributions

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017

* Some background is here. CBS 2 has a story about Sen. Kwame Raoul’s AG campaign taking $100,000 in $10K increments from companies owned by local tobacco mogul Don Levin

“It’s improper because there’s a case pending before the attorney general, and it’s seeking to influence someone who would be attorney general,” said Jesse Ruiz, an attorney general candidate. “I think you have to stand up and show ethical behavior now, even before you ask voters to elect you to that office.”

Illinois’ attorney general is seeking millions from Levin’s company, in a dispute over payments to the state from tobacco settlements. Raoul insists Levin’s donation isn’t a conflict.

“I’ve known him for years. He’s contributed to me before, and all my votes have been anti-tobacco. I’m not for sale,” Raoul said.

* From Maze Jackson’s Facebook page

I often tell the story of when I lobbied in Springfield, about the time heroin was changed from a crime to a sickness. I also talk about that being the turning point for me because at the same time we passed that law, we also passed a bill to ban flavored blunt wraps specifically, which was owned by a pair of Black businessmen.

I thought it was extremely odd that the the bill’s sponsor Senator Kwame Raoul attacked flavored blunts (which contained no tobacco and were essentially wrapping papers) but made a specific carve out to protect menthol flavored wraps. I will never forget the after the bill passed, the two Black men asking me why their business was targeted specifically.

Fast forward a few years and it all comes to light that Raoul was operating in the interests of Don Levin (a billionaire tobacco magnate) who makes his money selling tobacco products in the Black Community, essentially killing us. Additionally, I thought the Attorney General was supposed to fight Big Tobacco not work FOR them. So for ten contributions of $10,000 our potential AG candidate is willing to support Big Tobacco?

Well, at least he didn’t go cheap…


* I remembered when the flavored wraps language was added to the heroin bill, so I Googled it and found this story

An Illinois House committee Tuesday approved a ban on flavored cigar wraps despite concern from lawmakers that it unfairly favors one company over another. […]

Tony Abboud, a lobbyist for National Tobacco, said the two provisions were combined for political convenience, because similar bans on flavored cigar wraps have failed twice already.

Abboud said the bill is anti-competitive. National Tobacco makes chocolate chip and cotton candy flavored cigar wraps, while other flavors, such as menthol and tobacco, are specifically exempted. National Tobacco’s competitor, Republic Tobacco, makes those flavors.

“If you believe it is drug paraphernalia, why in the world would you leave unflavored wraps on the market?” Abboud said. “It is entirely and inherently inconsistent.” […]

Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said the menthol and tobacco-flavor exemptions were requested by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which pointed out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on flavored cigarettes specifically exempts menthol and tobacco flavors.

Emphasis added, because as Greg Hinz reported this week, all ten of the Don Levin contributions to Raoul were companies with the same address as Levin’s holding company, Republic Group. Republic Group owns Republic Tobacco.

* On a side note, when I used the Google, this came up…

Clicking the link takes you to a post I wrote this week about Raoul and the contributions.

Obviously, I’m not running ads attacking Raoul, but somebody sure is. And that somebody is doing it in a way that avoids disclosing who is paying for it. Google shouldn’t allow that to happen, but somebody out there is violating state law.

Whoever it is, please leave me out of your little dirty trick. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - West Wing - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:46 pm:

    This is the last thing Rauol needs right now. Self-inflicted wound that strengthens the hand of Pat Quinn at the top of the ticket.

  2. - Anon221 - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:54 pm:

    Rich- You may already have this, if not, wouldn’t hurt to contact Google about the use of your column for ad purposes by an unauthorized third-party.

  3. - NIU Grad - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:57 pm:

    I’m going to remain in increased denial to the ever-growing odds that Pat Quinn will be the nominee for AG…

  4. - DarkHorse - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 2:28 pm:

    Raoul is finished. The last thing Pritzker needs is to be running with Mr. Tobacco in the general election. Cook County Dems will either unendorse or slow-walk if he doesn’t give the money back.

  5. - So_Ill - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 2:30 pm:

    Not a good look here for Kwame. Ouch indeed.

  6. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 3:14 pm:

    You missed this one:

  7. - Where's the Beef - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 3:52 pm:

    Wow. The AG candidates are outdoing themselves. Raoul is for hire in Illinois. Ruiz sold out school children. Quinn is all about patronage and diverting Neighborhood Recovery money. The one to watch is Drury. These scandals promote his message.

  8. - City Zen - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 3:52 pm:

    Flavored Blunts Menthol…Another great band name.

  9. - Sugar Corn - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 4:09 pm:

    Where’s the Beef - Scott, is that you? Mr. Drury? Reveal yourself.

    Yes, Drury is “the one to watch.” OK.

    What about the outstanding women who are running?

    If you think your summaries of Raoul, Ruiz or Quinn have any resemblance to reality, you are deluded.

  10. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 4:14 pm:

    Where is Kathy Drea today to assure us Kwame’s intentions are pure as the driven snow?

  11. - Thomas Paine - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 4:31 pm:

    === Raoul is finished. The last thing Pritzker needs is to be running with Mr. Tobacco in the general election. ===

    Um, pardon me, but:

    Kwame Raoul is backing Chris Kennedy.

    Raoul is Chris Kennedy’s candidate.

    While I don’t think that JB Pritzker has made an endorsement, it seems that a lot of the same folks who are backing JB are also supporting Jesse Ruiz.

    Has anyone seen any comment from Chris Kennedy on this?

  12. - realworld - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 4:47 pm:

    anyone will be better than Pat Quinn

  13. - OneMan - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 4:48 pm:

    Flavored Blunts Menthol? Sounds like someone has a interesting holiday week plan…

  14. - Responsa - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 6:13 pm:

    Kwame was not well very known statewide. So he was always going to have to introduce himself to voters and stake out his identity and his place in this race. Unfortunately for him he had not yet done that and so, his introduction to voters has been formed and managed by others due to some bad decisions on his part that he can’t escape from. In this crowded field with so many choices there seems to be little reason for Kwame to think he still has a chance, now.

  15. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 9:50 pm:

    In the bag with Big Tobacco and last on the ballot. See ya, Kwame.

  16. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 11:38 pm:

    From the Republic Tobacco Wikipedia link above: “Levin began with a small smoke shop called Adams Apple (which still exists, although it is no longer owned by Levin). He then went into wholesale distribution and grew his company into the largest roll-your-own tobacco company in the world.”

    I knew Levin’s name sounded familiar! Adams Apple is still in business on California near Devon on the northwest side of Chicago, near Mather “High” School, lol. Proprietor is Sheldon “Shelly” Miller, usually found behind the counter with a Buddha type expression on his face. In biz since 1969, according to the stained glass sign out front. Levin used to be his partner back in the early days, I’ve heard Shelly mention his name.

    Far out! Be sure to stop in to the most authentic head shop in Chicago if you go through O’Hare. Re. Raoul, the guy’s a hollow front puffed up as the next Obama from the south side. No loss there if he drops out of the AG race.

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