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Ives calls Pat Brady a “traitor” for small Durbin contribution

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Proft paper

Former GOP Chairman Pat Brady delivered yet another sucker punch to his own party by donating to far-left Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, former State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) told Prairie State Wire.

Ives, who nearly defeated Bruce Rauner in last Spring’s gubernatorial primary, called Brady a “traitor” for the $500 donation that federal records show he made to Durbin in March for his 2020 primary campaign.

“I am absolutely stunned that anyone would call himself a Republican and give money to Dick Durbin who represents everything our party is opposed to,” Ives said.

I read that and couldn’t help hearing Dave Weigel’s online voice say “She’s running.”

Think she’ll run against Durbin next year?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton today on a tour of Rock River Lumber & Grain with the Whiteside County Farm Bureau

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

One light problem fixed, but a million problems remain

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* As we’ve already discussed, CSL Behring has been trying to get a traffic light added to a three-light intersection for almost a year and a half so it could build a new turn lane for its employees. The company wants to expand its already huge facility in Kankakee County and it’s doing so without any state or local tax breaks or incentives. All it wants is that fourth light, which it will pay for.

IDOT claims it has been cooperating, telling me that an engineering consultant hired by the developer presented IDOT with a feasibility study last June and that IDOT agreed a month later that the new signal was warranted and then asked the consultant for a more detailed plan, which it submitted in late March.

But the company says otherwise, and expressed supreme frustration to the local newspaper.

* Gov. Pritzker toured the plant last week

The Kankakee County government is moving to reduce the shift-change traffic jams at the CSL Behring plant. And the state is vowing to speed up a request to make that happen.

The plan is to convert a three-way light at the Illinois Route 50 intersection at the Lowe’s hardware store to a four-way. CSL, the county’s second largest employer, promised to pay for the change.

On Tuesday, a county board oversight committee approved an agreement with CSL that the county would be the permit holder. The state Department of Transportation has signed a letter of understanding on the permit, which the county board is expected to vote on next month. […]

During the governor’s visit, Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said there “has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes” with the traffic light.

“We are expediting the reviews. I have a team specifically put in charge of that review,” he said.

While it’s great they’re prioritizing this project, I still do not see why it takes so long to get a turn-lane and a fourth traffic light approved. Why does this even require a special team doing “a lot of work”?

I brought up this CSL issue to the governor when I talked to him ahead of his 100-day anniversary. He agreed with me that IDOT needs an online portal to allow people to easily track their permit requests. A Pritzker aide took the idea to IDOT that same day and was told the agency was already working on it.

Illinois is Illinois, so it’ll probably never be a CEO’s favorite place to do business. But at the very least, we can do some things that will help businesses interact with the government, like tracking their stoplight requests. And maybe streamline the bureaucratic process while they’re at it?

* Related…

* Pritzker hails CSL’s ‘amazing growth’

* Editorial: Pritzker’s local visits a positive sign

* Gov. Pritzker Announces Safe Routes to School Grants

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

Meet the new boss…

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Every time somebody floats the idea of skipping or skimping on pension payments, they use the same argument that is ably outlined by Andrew Bodewes in this article. Every. Single. Time

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pension proposal is not sitting well with state lawmakers, an adviser to the Illinois Teachers Retirement System told its board of trustees last week.

The governor’s plan is to reduce payments to the various pension systems by $850 million next year, while extending by seven years the time it will take to pay off $134 billion in unfunded liabilities.

While the plan appears unpopular now, Andrew Bodewes, the board’s legislative liaison, said that could change as the end of the session draws near and lawmakers have to consider the other options.

“I don’t want to suggest that the majority of the General Assembly could ever get to a place where they’re OK with reducing pension payments by $850 million,” Bodewes told the board during its annual retreat Thursday in Springfield. “But when they start looking at, ‘We’re going to cut schools by this, we’re going to close these parks; We’re going to reduce these services to children with learning disabilities,’ it starts to get real. Those conversations get very real. So I’m always sympathetic to the members.”

“We gotta skip pension payments so we can fund (fill in the blank).” It has always been thus. Always.

And, of course, that $850 million is what the governor claims the skimp would be. It could actually be as high as $1.1 billion per year for seven years. Amanda Kass, who calculated the higher figure, was on Illinois Public Radio the other day. Listen to the interview by clicking here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Congressional study finds Illinois is a regional brainiac hub

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* One Illinois

Reports of “brain drain” in Illinois are greatly exaggerated, according to a new congressional study.

The study, “Losing Our Minds: Brain Drain Across the United States,” from the Joint Economic Committee in Congress, finds that Illinois is outpacing other “Rust Belt” states in attracting top student talent, especially in the 2000s and over the last decade. […]

The study arrives at a “gross brain drain” by comparing the percentage of thirtysomethings who had been in the top third of students and left the state to those who remained in state. For 2017, all states saw more who left than stayed — reflecting a certain restlessness in the population — but the 8.3 difference in percentages in Illinois compared favorably to New York (7.9) and Texas (8.8), while lagging behind California (2.3), which ranked second in lowest “brain drain” behind only Wyoming (a 0.1 percent difference). Neighboring and similar states Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylania all registered differences of more than 15 percent by comparison.

As the study put it: “Americans are a highly mobile people. Roughly a quarter to a third of adults in the United States have moved within the previous five years. While moving rates have declined in the U.S. over the last few decades, they are still higher than in nearly every other country in the world.”

The study also determined a “net’“ figure comparing the percentage of top students who left the state by their 30s against those in their 30s who moved into the state, and in 2017 Illinois proved to be one of the top states, with a 10.4 percentage point difference favoring “entrants.” That trailed only California, Massachusetts, and New York. Meanwhile, every Midwestern state but Minneapolis saw declines, with many of those states suffering double-digit losses by percentage points.

* From the study, here are the five states with the worst “Relative Net Brain Drain” and the best (defined as “the difference between the share of leavers who are highly educated and the share of entrants who are highly educated”)

West Virginia 19.8
Mississippi 17.5
Oklahoma 16.9
Delaware 16.1
North Dakota 15.1


Maryland -9.8
Illinois -12.5
California -16.8
New York -21.8
Massachusetts -21.9

* We are the only “Rust Belt” state (aside from Minnesota) that’s attracting brainy talent

Our research finds that states that are doing the best—low gross brain drain and net brain gain—generally cluster along the Boston-Washington corridor and on the West Coast: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, Oregon, and Washington. Other brain gain states are regional hubs—Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Illinois. … For the most part, these states are home to what Richard Florida would describe as “winner-take-all cities.” […]

Most Rust Belt states—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri—have done poorly on these measures in both 1970 and 2017. Perhaps unsurprisingly, states that defy these regional trends (for example, Illinois in the Rust Belt, and Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia in the Southeast) seem to be attracting highly-educated out-of-staters to their dynamic metropolitan hubs.

Chicago is key.

* Illinois is the most popular destination for “Highly-Educated Leavers” in Iowa, Missouri, Michigan and Indiana. We’re the second most popular destination for brainiacs in Wisconsin and fourth most popular for smart Ohio residents. Illinois is what’s known as a popular “regional hub”

Overall, dynamic states along the Boston-Washington corridor (Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland), on the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington), and in other parts of the country (Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and Hawaii) are the best at retaining and attracting highly-educated adults.


- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Eastern Bloc member posts anti-vaxxer propaganda

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* From Rep. Darren Bailey’s (R-Xenia) Facebook page..

Please make sure you are properly educated about vaccinations.

Posted by Darren Bailey for State Representative 109th District on Saturday, April 27, 2019

OK, first of all, the big highlighted case at his posted link of a death due to vaccination was a 19-month-old who had streptococcus pneumonia and four serious heart problems: Cardiac heterotaxy, dextrocardia, complete atrioventricular septal defect and pulmonary atresia.

Second, the article uses a chart from an ad clickbait website which supposedly shows the measles mortality rate dating back to 1900 and how it dropped years before the vaccine was introduced in 1963. But measles wasn’t even a reportable disease until 1919 and the numbers weren’t accurate when they were reported. From the CDC

Before measles vaccine was licensed in 1963, an average of 400,000 measles cases were reported each year in the United States. However, because virtually all children acquired measles, the number of cases probably approached 3.5 million per year (i.e., an entire birth cohort).

* Rep. Bailey also posted this comment in his thread…

Earlier this year, with the help of others, I introduced HB 342. It did not make it out of committee because of the misinformation and the money funneled from pharmaceutical companies to many politicians. The bill simply requires whoever is administering a vaccine to inform the patient if the vaccine contained aborted baby tissue.

Yeah, right. Big Pharma killed his bill. Okeedokee. More like common sense killed that turkey.

There is no “aborted baby tissue” in any vaccine. From the National Catholic Bioethics Center

Cell lines such as WI-38, MRC-5, HEK-293, PER C6, WI-26 VA4, and Walvax-2 are derived from tissue from aborted fetuses. Any product grown in these or other cell lines derived from abortions, therefore, has a distant association with abortion. The cells in these lines have gone through multiple divisions before they are used in vaccine manufacture. After manufacture, the vaccines are removed from the cell lines and purified. One cannot accurately say that the vaccines contain any of the cells from the original abortion.

And the Vatican says preventing the spread of deadly disease, particularly to children and pregnant women, must take precedence, so get your kids vaccinated.

Also, the US Supreme Court upheld a state’s right to enforce compulsory vaccination laws way back in 1905.

Rep. Bailey’s bill has two co-sponsors: Fellow Eastern Bloc member Chris Miller and Metro East Democrat Monica Bristow.

I cannot believe I had to waste two hours of my day doing research to debunk this nonsense.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

Hard cases make bad law

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* When Gov. JB Pritzker announced that Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, which is a combination of a think tank and a policy implementation consultant, would take a look at DCFS’ problems, the organization sent out a press release containing this passage

With the lowest foster care entry rate in the nation, Illinois has a high threshold for child removal. Safe implementation of this threshold depends upon the use of accurate and sensitive tools for detecting safety threats and risk, as well as the availability of preventive services to stabilize and support families as they work toward meeting the needs of their children.

* This is again coming to light in the wake of the death of yet another child, AJ Freund, who had been under DCFS oversight

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which on Friday revealed new details about the case, has limited legal authority to remove a child from a parent’s custody and does so only if it finds an “imminent and immediate” risk of harm. Even its harshest critics concede that not all deaths are preventable, as the overburdened state agency is tasked with the difficult job of trying to predict future human behavior.

* But, I mean, what the heck?

• [AJ’s mother JoAnn Cunningham] was investigated for child neglect even before AJ was born, when she herself was a foster parent.

• AJ spent the first 18 months of his life in the care of his cousin after being born with opiates in his system.

• Back in his parents’ home on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake in June 2015, AJ’s family had 17 unannounced visits from DCFS workers and nine scheduled visits, according to DCFS records.

He remained in the home, even after a doctor expressed concern to a DCFS investigator about a large bruise AJ had on his hip that his mom said was caused by the family dog. AJ agreed to that account but commented to the doctor, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”


* More

Rep. Tom Weber, a Lake Villa Republican whose district includes the area where AJ lived, focused on the last contact DCFS had with the child before he was reported missing. After initially blaming bruises on the family dog, AJ told emergency room staff, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me,” according to agency records. A DCFS investigator allowed AJ to leave the hospital with his father.

“That sounds like a red flag to me,” Weber said.

“And you are correct,” said Anne Gold, DCFS associate deputy for child protection, acknowledging the agency’s “missed opportunity.”

“We should be getting a second opinion from one of our child abuse experts,” Gold said. “So that piece was missed.”

The “piece was missed” and a child was murdered. Inexcusable.

* Family fights are often the worst fights. DCFS often has to sift through claims and counter-claims made by parents and their relatives during heated custody battles

Court records show a lengthy and often volatile legal fight between mother and daughter for custody of the boy. The boy’s grandmother outlines her daughter’s history of drug addiction and mental illness as well as her grandson’s own pleas to stay in the grandmother’s home.

Cunningham claims she ran away from her mother’s home at age 15 because of her mother’s “erratic and demeaning treatment” of her. The legal fight lingered for years, but ultimately the grandmother prevailed and retained custody of Cunningham’s oldest son.

You’d think the grandmother’s legal victory would make it easier for DCFS to remove the other two children from the home, but that didn’t happen. AJ was allegedly murdered by his parents and the third child wasn’t removed until after he was reported missing.

Was that due to incompetence (bureaucratic or individual), or restrictive state laws or a combination of both? Probably both.

* More

Representatives on the Illinois house appropriations human services committee blasted that finding on Friday, questioning DCFS leaders as to why the case wasn’t referred to the judicial system, especially given the family’s long history of contact with the agency.

“Wouldn’t this raise red flags immediately?” said Rep. Anna Moeller. “There was no court involved here, DCFS never went to the court to ask he be taken out of that environment. It was allowed to persist.”

* We tend to swing back and forth on the law. For instance, do you remember this case from less than three years ago?

In a case that challenges racial disparities in the child welfare system, the Family Defense Center on Thursday filed a petition asking the Illinois Supreme Court to review a lower court decision to terminate all parental rights of a 23-year-old Peoria mother. The mother, who is biracial and identifies as lesbian, was found to be “unfit” and her rights to raise her 6-year-old son were terminated primarily because she used marijuana during a nine-month period in 2013 and 2014.

Torie I. and her lawyers at the Family Defense Center are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to determine that the strict legal requirements for the final and permanent severance of the parent-child relationship have not been satisfied. The Center argues that the State presented no evidence as to how Torie’s marijuana use affected her ability to care for her son or had harmed her son. Torie has admitted to smoking cannabis to calm herself, but never in front of her child.

Racial and sexual orientation bias may have played a significant role in the state’s decision to pursue a termination of parental rights, the petition suggests. The Center cites the child removal rate in Peoria County, which is nearly 8 times greater for African American than for families of other races. Torie’s child was placed in foster care with an unrelated, white pre-adoptive family, even though she had a strong bond with the child.

Chapin Hall’s initial report on DCFS is due soon. A legislative rush to judgment would not be advisable.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Another allegation hurled at Lewis & Clark president

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Our old pal Brian Brueggemann has been freelancing since the Belleville News-Democrat’s mass layoffs. Here is his latest

A Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that has a $500,000-per-year, no-bid contract with Lewis & Clark Community College employs a son of the college’s president, Dale Chapman.

But Chapman says the firm does important work for the two-year college, and that his son’s employment there is not a factor in the college’s awarding of the contract.

The son’s LinkedIn page shows he started working for the company in 2008, the same year the college awarded the no-bid contract.

* It would be much easier to believe President Chapman’s claims if he didn’t have a history of these sorts of issues

Until now, the younger Chapman’s work connection to the college has not been publicly reported. But Dale Chapman and his wife, Linda Chapman, who serves as a vice president at the college, have previously drawn criticism for their pay. The Chapmans earn salaries that, combined, top $550,000 annually. Dale Chapman noted, however that his wife holds a doctorate degree from Harvard and that she was hired by a previous president. […]

In 2010, Dale Chapman retired from Lewis & Clark so that he could get access to his pension, then was rehired after two months. He had financial trouble at the time, due in part to a real estate deal that went bad. Chapman said he took a lump-sum payment of “about a million” for his pension. According to the State Universities Retirement System, the lump-sum payout was about $1.8 million.

Chapman in 2010 said he had to start over with his pension after he was rehired, but that he was “probably close” to being eligible for another pension.


Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Congressman Kinzinger touts himself for Air Force Secretary

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Congressman Kinzinger has done a remarkably good job of getting himself on cable TV news programs over the years. So, I’m not quite sure what to make of this yet

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger all but threw his hat in the ring for Air Force secretary on Saturday, saying he would “strongly consider” it if President Donald Trump made the offer.

“If the president would determine I would be the candidate, the person that he wanted to lead the Air Force, I would certainly strongly consider it,” Kinzinger, R-Ill., said in a Fox News interview on Saturday. Kinzinger was asked about a rumor that he was a candidate.

That story is from Defense News, which also threw a bit of cold water on the idea

Yet the five-term congressman’s prospects are unclear, at least in part because Trump has yet to nominate a defense secretary to lead the department and because Air Force Undersecretary Matthew Donovan is also seen as a contender for the job, at least in an acting capacity. […]

Aerospace analyst Rebecca Grant, of IRIS Independent Research, said it’s probable that the White House boosts Donovan, the service’s No. 2 civilian, to the acting Air Force Secretary role. […]

“To me, Matt Donovan looks like an easy choice given the number of acting officials that are there [at the Pentagon], and I get the sense that we have a holdup on nominations from the Senate side, and the White House is even less efficient than usual in getting people through. So I’d say, 60-40, they’ll keep Donovan,” Grant said. “He’s a shrewd leader and would be a very sound choice.”

Kinzinger is serving Illinois’ 16th District, which he won by 14 percentage points in last year’s election. Before selecting Kinzinger, the White House would have to weigh the political cost, with Republicans already in the minority in the House, of leaving his seat unfilled or of a special election to fill it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Our sorry state

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Fred Giertz, who’s with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, penned a recent op-ed on the all-too-predictable downfall of College Illinois, the state’s prepaid college tuition program

Unfortunately, the program was seriously flawed from the very beginning. The program was predicated on a number of highly questionable assumptions that should have been addressed at the onset.

The following is excerpted from an Institute of Government and Public Affairs report that I co-authored March 7, 1997. It was released and presented in testimony to the Illinois General Assembly when the prepaid tuition plan was being drafted:

“Prepaid tuition plans are very similar to defined benefit pension plans. If they are well planned and well administered, there is no particular reason why they should fail. There is one additional complication, however, in comparison to pension plans. Pension plans are based on various actuarial assumptions about future life expectancy, inflation rates, rates of return, etc. With prepaid tuition plans, there is an additional factor in that it is necessary to project future tuition costs. At public institutions, these costs are based on political, as well as economic, factors since the increase in tuition costs results not only from inflation, but also from changing levels of state support. As with public pension plans, there are obviously political incentives that may result in underfunding. It may be attractive politically to offer unreasonably low prices for prepaid tuition knowing that these costs will come due far in the future.

“… Many of the objections to early proposals were based on their wildly optimistic estimates of investment returns and tuition inflation rates that left the state bearing an unreasonable degree of risk which, in turn, might be passed on to the universities.”

These cautions raised in the report became a virtual roadmap leading to the current problems. Tuition growth rates were consistently underestimated because of diminishing levels of state support that led to increases that far outpaced inflation. These past underfunding problems cannot be addressed now by raising the costs for new entrants in the program. Since participation is voluntary, new buyers cannot be expected to pay to reduce the unfunded liability associated with earlier enrollees.

* A legislative fix is underway. From the status of Amendment 1 to SB2137

Provides for an irrevocable and continuing appropriation from the General Revenue Fund to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission if moneys in the Illinois Prepaid Tuition Trust Fund are insufficient to cover contractual obligations

The amendment passed the Higher Education Committee on a unanimous roll call. The committee later adopted a second amendment to stop any new prepaid contracts as soon as the bill becomes law. The bill’s 3rd Reading deadline was also extended to May 2nd.

* Some recent history…

* College Illinois bailout now tops $500 million - Permanently halting the college-savings program and honoring existing contracts will end up costing taxpayers more than $6,800 for every student who has gone or will go to college using it.

* It’s time to put College Illinois to pasture for good

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Shaw out, BFC in

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Bernie

MARK SHAW, president of the Republican County Chairmen’s Association of Illinois, was removed last week by Democratic Gov. J.B. PRITZKER as a trustee of the Teachers’ Retirement System.

Shaw, who is also Lake County Republican chairman, was named to the expenses-only post by then-Gov. BRUCE RAUNER in August 2018. Shaw had been serving in a term that was supposed to last until July 2022, but he never got Senate confirmation. Pritzker has also removed or replaced four others named by Rauner. One Rauner appointee, LAURA PEARL of Glenview, was confirmed by the Senate and remains on the board. […]

“It was disappointing to be removed precipitously like this,” Shaw said. He said in his 8 ½ months there, “I’ve served with a bunch of fine people” on the board and staff. “I think we accomplished quite a bit.” He noted that the board had all 13 members in recent months, until recent changes reduced membership to 10. […]

Shaw made some news last spring when, after the March primary, he challenged TIM SCHNEIDER for the chairmanship of the state GOP. Shaw had the support of then-state Rep. JEANNE IVES, who nearly defeated Rauner in the primary.

Ultimately, with agreement from Rauner and Schneider, a deal was reached to keep Schneider as chairman, but to also to have Shaw become a co-chair of the GOP and the president of the county chairs’ group.

* Petrella

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday named a former longtime Democratic leader in the Illinois House to a $117,000-per-year job on the state’s Pollution Control Board.

Former House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a South Side Democrat who served 40 years in the General Assembly, announced in September 2017 that she wouldn’t seek another term. Currie was the first woman to be named majority leader in the House and served as Speaker Michael Madigan’s top deputy for more than 20 years.

In a news release announcing a batch of nearly two dozen appointments, the Democratic governor’s office praised Currie as “a champion for clean air and water.” […]

Currie, whose Pollution Control Board term ends June 30, 2021, replaces board member U-Jung Choe, whom then-Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed in April 2018.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

How will we pay for a capital bill?

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* From the Tribune

Beyond a once-a-decade mega-transportation bill, lawmakers are looking for ongoing road and transit related funding sources. One possibility is an increase in the state’s 19-cent-per-gallon motor fuel tax, a levy that has not been increased since 1990, when it was 16 cents per gallon. Lawmakers also are looking at tying the gas tax rate to inflation, allowing it to grow over time.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has backed a motor fuel tax hike in exchange for eliminating the state’s sales tax on gasoline, a move that could provide cover for some Republicans. But others say that instead of eliminating the sales tax on gas, which goes to overall state spending, the state should slowly transfer its revenues to transportation-related spending. […]

There have been talks about funding building projects, known as “vertical infrastructure,” through taxes on legalized marijuana and sports betting. That, however, would take away money that Pritzker has dedicated to other parts of his budget. […]

Already there appears to be a general reluctance among some Senate Democrats to vote on a capital bill until the General Assembly addresses the income tax change.

1) Indexing the MFT to inflation is a no-brainer and should’ve been done decades ago;

2) Redirecting the state sales tax on gas and diesel to capital projects isn’t a bad idea, but only if the budget can sustain the hit;

3) Pritzker has only tapped into cannabis/sports betting licensing fees in his proposed budget, leaving open the possibility that usage revenue could be spent on something else down the road;

4) Vegetables before dessert, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Never a dull moment

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

There’s probably never a good time for a news story about how a source claims you, your wife and your brother-in-law are under federal investigation. But when that report is aired just days before what is likely the most consequential five weeks of your entire governorship, that’s definitely not an opportune moment.

Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ reported on April 24 that a single law enforcement source claimed Gov. J.B. Pritzker, his wife MK and his brother-in-law Thomas Muenster “are under federal criminal investigation.”

According to the story, the federal probe started last October and appears to be focused on the now-infamous toilet scandal. The Cook County Independent Inspector General claimed after an investigation that the removal of toilets from an unoccupied mansion next door to the governor’s principal Chicago residence, in an apparent attempt to lower its property tax bill, was a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers of over $300,000. Pritzker himself did not appear to be personally implicated.

Interestingly enough, WBEZ also pointedly mentioned that Mrs. Pritzker’s personal assistant Christine Lovely has retained former federal prosecutor Reid Schar as her attorney, but the article does not claim that she is under investigation. Lovely and Muenster each signed affidavits claiming the property in question had been uninhabitable and vacant since 2012. The governor’s office confirmed to me that Lovely is still Mrs. Pritzker’s assistant.

“There are no signs that criminal charges are imminent,” the WBEZ article claimed.

Indeed, the former Cook County assessor, who reduced the Pritzkers’ property tax bill, and the reformer who defeated him last year both told the Chicago Tribune that they were unaware of any federal investigation, which seems a bit odd.

And I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the county inspector general last week, asking for copies of any federal subpoenas relating to the issue and was told, six months after the federal investigation supposedly started, they had no such documents.

As we all have seen over the years, federal investigations can take lots of time and sometimes only result in the reputational damage of being investigated. The feds have high conviction rates, but that’s partly because they carefully choose whom to indict.

For instance, the Sun-Times reported last week that testimony in the criminal trial of a former employee of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown revealed the feds started investigating Brown in 2014. Five years later, she’s still under a cloud with no end in sight.

A federal investigation of Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino was first reported in 2016, when grand jury subpoenas of his former legislative campaign workers were revealed. Three years hence, no public statements have been issued about where the investigation stands.

Setting aside the potential (if any) legal consequences, this story could obviously damage the governor’s ambitious spring legislative agenda. Republicans will have a new rallying cry to oppose his plans. Pritzker is counting on bipartisan agreements on a capital bill and on legalization of both recreational cannabis and sports betting.

The governor also needs every single Democrat he can get on his graduated income tax proposal, but some Democrats could become even more skittish than they already are about standing with him on votes that could hurt their reelection chances.

The piling-on began almost immediately. Ideas Illinois, the dark money group formed to oppose Pritzker’s graduated income tax plan, released a statement the morning the story was broadcast that read in part: “Governor Pritzker should immediately abandon his push for this massive Jobs Tax on middle class families because he can’t expect people to pay more when he is reportedly under criminal investigation for gaming the system to pay less.”

But, really, it’s just too early to tell what will happen to his overall agenda. Legislative leaders are usually not quick to make up their minds about how to deal with these sorts of things. It could all depend on how Pritzker reacts in the coming days. So far, they’re issuing the standard statement about how they haven’t been contacted about any investigation, but potential targets are only rarely whistled in by the G. Pritzker repeated his line from the campaign that all rules were followed.

Even so, all this has to be making the governor’s people sick to the very pits of their stomachs right now. Everything, and I do mean everything, is riding on what happens in the General Assembly during May. Significant failure would devastate not only Pritzker’s budget, but the other big things Pritzker wants to accomplish as governor.

Nothing like a little drama to spice things up, I suppose.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Mid-October oral arguments for Bailey v. Pritzker
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day
* Lawyers try to block ComEd $200 million fine payment, claiming it should go to victims instead
* Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Jefferson, Kane, LaSalle, Moultrie, Perry, Union and Will counties put on warning list
* 2,264 new cases, 25 additional deaths, 4.1 percent positivity rates
* Formerly defiant Hutsonville school board bows to reality of mask-related lawsuits
* *** UPDATED x2 *** A brand new approach to lobbying
* How the McCormick Place hospital quickly came together as the pandemic raged
* Gaming analyst to Chicago: Time to get moving
* Pritzker warns against Missouri travel
* Open thread
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* *** UPDATED x3 *** Sen. Link charged with income tax evasion
* Yesterday's stories

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