* Yesterday in Politico…
State Sens. Jacqueline Collins and Melinda Bush are endorsing Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford to follow Cullerton as Senate president when he retires next month.
“I’ve found her to be a master negotiator and accomplished legislator,” Collins told Playbook, pointing to Lightford’s dogged efforts to raise the state’s minimum wage. […]
“I’m not committed to anyone,” Sen. Julie Morrison said, adding other senators “are in the same place… We’re being really thoughtful.”
Sens. Cristina Castro, Laura Fine and Ram Villivalam are also waiting to see which candidates emerge for the Jan. 19 vote. […]
(O)ther senators want to know why Senate leadership isn’t backing Harmon.
Um, Lightford is the Senate Majority Leader, so why wouldn’t members of leadership be backing her? Subscribers knew about Sen. Bush’s endorsement on Monday. Bush was floating her name as a Senate President candidate, so that was a significant get.
Also, that endorsement from Sen. Collins is interesting considering that Sen. Harmon was touting his petition-gathering work for Collins, who was having some trouble and didn’t file until the last day possible…
(O)n Saturday morning, [Democratic Party of Oak Park] volunteers were urged to go to the far South Side of Chicago to gather signatures for the nominating petitions for state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) to put her on the ballot for the March primary. DPOP volunteers helping Collins get on the ballot could influence Collins to vote for Harmon as Senate president in January.
DPOP volunteers, guided by Harmon, have been sent to help out many Democrats across the state over the years.
“My colleagues recognize my track record and experience in helping others,” Harmon said. “That’s what a good Senate president would do, help 40 Democrats get re-elected. And as we go into redistricting and the 2022 election when all the senators will be on the ballot, that’s a critical skill.”
* Politico today…
RICKEY HENDON SPOUTS OFF: The former state senator says divisions within the Black Caucus could keep Sen. Kimberly Lightford from becoming president of the state Senate, in a Facebook Live post after leaving a fundraiser for Lightford’s new Leadership PAC.
Hendon said South Side black senators are not joining West Side black senators to support Lightford, who would be the first African American woman to hold the position, and specifically calls out Sens. Elgie Sims Jr. and Napoleon Harris III. Hendon also questions why Sen. Don Harmon just loaned himself $100,000. “Because he wants to give senators money to vote for him,” claims Hendon, a senator from 1992 to 2011.
A filing with the state Board of Elections shows Harmon gave $100,001 to his campaign fund Wednesday — and that more than $675,000 was moved into that account (by other donations and consolidating money from other accounts). Harmon’s big donation broke the $100,000 cap and can now he can operate as a self-funder. During the last cycle, he gave come $800,000 to support fellow lawmakers.
Harmon’s fundraising moves came the same day Lightford kicked off her Leadership PAC fundraiser. No dollar totals yet, but a source close to Lightford’s camp says the event raised six figures.
Only about half the money Harmon raised came from others.
* Jim Dey…
That’s relevant to the ongoing deliberations, because Lightford’s conduct has been publicly questioned on three separate occasions since 2016 — two government reports involving improper hiring and an Illinois Times investigation into misuse of campaign funds.
Although unmentioned — both in the news media and apparently among Lightford’s colleagues — the record is clear.
Earlier this year, the state Executive Inspector General issued a 35-page report demonstrating how Eric McKennie was improperly hired by the Chicago Transit Authority because of Lightford’s political influence. The report identified McKennie as an individual who “holds himself out as being married” to Lightford and claimed to live with her.
The report said McKennie was hired as an $81,000-a-year diversity consultant “because of his wife’s position as a state legislator.”
However, the investigation turned up no evidence that Sen. Lightford was in any way involved in the hiring. The guy just kept using her name. The Lightford camp pointed that out to me and issued this response…
The findings of the IG report speak for themselves. And to quote a wise woman, “When they go low we go high.”
* The Illinois Times story is relevant…
Twice since 2013, Lightford has used campaign funds to stay at the Ritz-Carlton in the Cayman Islands, racking up hotel bills of $3,931 during her two stays. In 2012, she reported spending $553 for lodging at the Desert Longevity Institute in Palm Desert, California, a holistic health clinic that offers such services as hyperbaric oxygen treatments and colon cleansings but does not rent rooms.
Lightford said that the reported payment to the health clinic was in error – after Illinois Times brought it to her attention, she said that she corrected it. She makes no apologies for the Cayman Islands.
Loretto Hospital in Chicago was in danger of losing its insurance, which could have forced closure, explains Lightford, who is on the hospital board. After exhausting other possibilities, she said that the hospital set up a captive insurance company, essentially a form of self insurance, in the Cayman Islands.
“We cannot convene in the United Sates because it’s a captive in the Cayman Islands,” Lightford says. “Our meeting every fall is in the Caymans so that our auditors can come in, and we have our yearly meeting there. That’s (the Ritz-Carlton) the location that we stay when we’re there.”
Members will want to know that the money she raises as the caucus leader will be spent wisely.
* Speaking of money…
In an unusual transaction, retiring Illinois Senate President John Cullerton obtained a personal loan from a politically connected Chicago bank by using money from his campaign fund as collateral, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
The deal allowed Cullerton to sidestep campaign finance disclosure requirements that would have been triggered if he had borrowed or withdrawn the money directly from his campaign fund.
While Cullerton answered some questions from the Sun-Times about the deal, he declined to make available records of the transaction. The maneuver does not appear to violate Illinois ethics laws, based on the information provided by Cullerton.
In response to questions, Cullerton confirmed by email he took out a personal line of credit for $75,000 on Oct. 20, 2014, from Belmont Bank & Trust Co., where Cullerton’s friend and business partner, former state Sen. James DeLeo, is a member of the board of directors.
Six months earlier, Cullerton had deposited $100,000 in campaign money held by his Citizens for John Cullerton fund into a certificate of deposit with the bank.