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*** UPDATED x2 *** A brand new approach to lobbying

Friday, Aug 14, 2020

* From a July 17th Tribune profile of a Canadian company called Red, White and Bloom that operates a huge hemp growing facility in Illinois and wants to get into the cannabis growing business here

In addition, one full-scale growing license remains from the original 21 medical marijuana licenses that Illinois awarded in 2015. One license was given for each of the state police districts in the state, but the last license was for the district that patrols the tollways. State regulators said they would not give it out because it lies on tollway land, and would be impossible to use. Red White and Bloom pushed for legislation to force the state to award that license, but the measure was never voted on and is seen as a long shot.

At the same time, the company has applied for new craft grower licenses in Illinois. But those licenses are limited to 10,000 square feet. Competition is fierce, with 455 applications for only 40 available. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has indefinitely delayed awarding those licenses, citing the coronavirus.

State regulators may also create licenses for new full-scale recreational pot growers after July 1, 2021, based on supply and demand.

That tollway land bill was originally sponsored last year by Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), but she eventually handed sponsorship over to Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago). You’ll recall that Van Pelt was running a “marijuana millionaires” company which attracted some unwanted attention. The bill, which would’ve allowed the state to open a grow facility outside the tollway area, never moved out of the Assignments Committee and never picked up another co-sponsor.

According to the governor’s office, the tollway land was on federal property, making it impossible to use as a grow center. And because of the pandemic, only very limited cannabis legislation advanced out of the GA in May. Even a tiebreaker provision wasn’t dealt with, which resulted in a new rule that finally took effect this week to allow licensing of 75 new dispensaries.

* Anyway, that brings us to this somewhat bizarre Sun-Times story today

A former celebrity publicist for R. Kelly and confidante of Kanye West has jumped into Illinois politics, lobbying for a major Canadian cannabis firm that wants to start growing weed here.

But Trevian Kutti has already ruffled feathers in just a short time in the fray, lodging a series of incendiary and profanity-laden attacks against Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top adviser on cannabis issues. While both women are Black, Kutti has vowed to “keep my knee on Toi W. Hutchinson’s neck” and has referred to her as a “slave.”

Kutti says she is furious over the state’s delays in awarding the next round of licenses prioritized for so-called social equity applicants, saying “those in greatest need are being screwed with again.”

* OK, one thing at a time. First, here’s Kutti’s full statement on Hutchinson…

Charity Greene with the Pritzker administration handled the response…

As the nation continues to reckon with the tragic murder of George Floyd and countless other black lives lost to police violence, comments regarding kneeling on someone’s neck are especially insensitive and abhorrent. Invoking violence and hurling insults and profanities at a State of Illinois employee is the antithesis of everything this administration stands for. Governor Pritzker remains committed to ensuring the cannabis industry in Illinois is equitable and will continue working towards that goal in spite of these misinformed, callous remarks.

* Red, White and Bloom is a publicly traded company with an all-white board of directors.

The angle here, supposedly, is that Red, White and Bloom wants to sell reasonably priced product to social equity retailers. But it can’t do that without a grow license.

* Ms. Kutti has a truly different concept of lobbying than most. Back to the Sun-Times

“I’m sure that like most lobbyists, I have my share of allies and my share of disparagers,” she said in an interview. “Those who fall in the latter camp quiver hearing my unapologetic truths.”

That’s… a novel approach. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.

* The Sun-Times story veers all over the place, even touching on Kutti’s support for President Trump. Meh. It’s a free country.

But the bottom line here is a person with no apparent lobbying experience is setting off rhetorical bombs after failing to move her bill forward an inch and, according to the story, her employer believes the approach can actually work. Again, it’s a free country, but that lack of experience may show in her state disclosure reports. Note the dollar amounts reported on these filings…

The Illinois Gift Ban Act bars lobbyists from spending more than $75 on food or refreshments on a legislator during a single calendar day.

She probably submitted the entire amount for everyone at the table. I mean, spending $260 at Springfield’s Wyndham hotel restaurant on only one person would be really tough. Still…

*** UPDATE 1 *** From the Secretary of State’s website

All lobbyists must refrain from harassment, sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination of any person. “Harassment” means, as set out in the Illinois Human Rights Act, any unwelcome conduct on the basis of an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, order of protection status, disability, military status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, unfavorable discharge from military service, or citizenship status that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with the individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, a hostile, or an offensive working environment.

A working environment “Does not require an ‘employment’ relationship between the alleged harasser and victim.”

After an investigation, the offenses can be referred to a circuit court by the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission. Violations are treated as a business offense “and subject to fines of up to $10,000 for each violation.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** A spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White told me that this matter has been referred to the inspector general.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

38 Comments
  1. - Chatham Resident - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:23 am:

    Isn’t Ms. Kutti’s tweet considered a threat? Where’s the State Police or even FBI on this threat?


  2. - Derek Smalls - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:26 am:

    A masterpiece on how not to lobby.


  3. - West Sider - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:37 am:

    Ummm- I thought the goal was to become a “lobster”- who could get phone calls returned, and action on bills- Guess not.


  4. - cover - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:38 am:

    Easy fix - based on her own filings that show she violated the Gift Ban Act, the Secretary of State should revoke her lobbyist registration.


  5. - Rudy’s teeth - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:38 am:

    Wow. The Peninsula Hotel. Anything else I would write would certainly get me banned.


  6. - Bruce( no not him) - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:39 am:

    yep, that will make Toi want to help them out. Interesting tactic.


  7. - Howard - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:40 am:

    So Ms Kutt’s idea of promoting social equity is to give the 22nd license with a street value of at least $100 million to an all white Canadian owned company that happens to have a facility in Putnam County which is 96.6% white without a competitive procurement process.


  8. - Anonish - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:43 am:

    Trying to tear down black women seems to be her stock in trade.


  9. - Shytown - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:49 am:

    First, she should be barred form being able to lobby after making outright threats to Toi Hutchinson. Her choice of words are outright offensive. Unacceptable under any circumstance.

    Second, she should be fined for not following the lobbying rules.

    Third, shame on the sun times for even greenlighting this story. They say her comments are abhorrent but at the same time she gets credit for her “tenacity”? Is that what you call it? I guess they are desperate for the click bait.

    Kutti’s white cannabis clients aren’t even doing anything around equity - they’re in a white part of the state and are white owned/operated and Canadian - and their stock price is .63 cents so I wonder if they can even pay the bills.

    And here’s Toi who helped pass the most comprehensive equity and criminal justice reform cannabis bill in the nation. Does Kutti really want to compare who’s doing more to support black and brown communities?

    Do I sound upset? I sure am. We can’t accept these kinds of attacks on women and women of color in particular no matter who the messenger is.


  10. - Altgelds Ghost - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:50 am:

    Ms. Kutti’s tactics do not seem to be aligned with her objective.

    However, she did file her expense report.

    Most of the “magic list” lobbyists don’t bother.

    Look Foer yourself.

    All of 2019.

    Some of the most connected lobbyists report ZERO expenses for the entire year.

    The Contract Lobbyist directing the Exelon/ComEd response reported Zero expenses in 2019.

    The lobbying act is a complete joke!


  11. - Back to the Future - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:52 am:

    I did not know you could get dinner for one person for $154 at the Peninsula Hotel. A lot of people would say this is the best Hotel in the city. I could see $175 maybe, but $154 seems very low to me.
    Always great info on Cap Fax.


  12. - BigLou - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:57 am:

    Is anyone asking Mattie Hunter what she got at this dinner that exceed the limit? But me thinks that they answer will be that is the combined total of the bill and oh look when divided by 2 its just below the $75 limit.


  13. - West Side the Best Side - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:58 am:

    When I think of lobsters words like “Gladhand” and “Schmooze” come to mind, not keeping a knee on someone’s neck. Blame it on Canada I suppose. But on a more serious side, agree with the Gov’s office that it is abhorrent. But maybe look at the company she keeps.


  14. - Centennial - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:03 pm:

    Toi cares deeply about equity in the cannabis market. Have one conversation with her and you would know that. This blowhard doesn’t deserve the ink. She does deserve a talking to by the state police for threatening a state official though.


  15. - Commisar Gritty - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:06 pm:

    I know Senator Hutchinson, she is a tireless defender of the African American community and this is incredibly offensive. Don’t sweat the haters Toi, we’re behind you!

    My dog I was stunned reading that tweet, and I didn’t think that was possible after 45. I have no idea what was going through Ms. Kutti’s head, but I’m guessing that’s not SOP for lobbyists.


  16. - Franklin - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:12 pm:

    Not sure this is really a new approach. Lots of activists come to Springfield every year and try to employ the scorched earth approach. What’s unusual is that anyone would pay for those services.


  17. - Universal DH - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:15 pm:

    Client: Do we have enough votes.
    Lobbyist: No, but the no votes quiver hearing my unapologetic truths.
    Client: Is that good?
    Lobbyist: That which is understood need not be mentioned.


  18. - Soccermom - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:24 pm:

    I am very proud to announce the opening of my new lobbying practice, Soccermom’s Unapologetic Truths. Please DM me if you would like me to hurl public insults at a powerful member of government. F-bombs may cost a bit more.


  19. - JoanP - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:26 pm:

    =A former celebrity publicist for R. Kelly and confidante of Kanye West=

    That tells me pretty much all I need to know right there.


  20. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:28 pm:

    ===That tells me pretty much all I need to know===

    I think the editor said the same thing.


  21. - Streator Curmudgeon - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:29 pm:

    I’m sure one of Ms. Kutti’s goals was to get mentioned on as many blogs as possible. People building reputations on tasteless insults is getting really tiresome.


  22. - OneMan - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:38 pm:

    quiver hearing my unapologetic truths

    That should be the name of Rod’s podcast.


  23. - Chatham Resident - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:38 pm:

    ==You’ll recall that Van Pelt was running a “marijuana millionaires” company which attracted some unwanted attention. ==

    Sounds like one of those companies that has those late-night infomercials on cable.


  24. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:46 pm:

    One of my favorite stories about expenditures reports involves a university administrator at a Jesuit University interrupting an informal meeting that was part of an interview process to ask about how their colleague spent $800 on dinner alarmed at the expense, and the reply of “The priests ordered wine” resulted in an “Oh, okay” and ended the issue.

    Because of this story when I review expenses I try to identify other reasonable explanations. It’s possible for 1 person to rack up a $260 tab if they “order the wine.” Either way the expenses do not appear to have been reported correctly or pose a serious violation and I have so many questions about the compliance side of things.

    Please don’t dwell on the fact that I have a favorite story about expenditure reports.


  25. - Been There - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:53 pm:

    Altgeld’s Ghost. I hardly buy a dinner or lunch for a legislator so I mainly file zero on my reports. Believe it or not a lot of legislators don’t want you to pick up their tab and pay their part. On the other hand I go to plenty of fundraisers but that money gets reported differently.


  26. - Back to the Future - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:56 pm:

    I did not pick up on the “dividend by two” idea to get under $75.
    Planning on going to the Peninsula soon and ordering the under $75 special. I bet the food will be great and, of course, the service will be excellent.


  27. - Arock - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:56 pm:

    She went about it all wrong, offer a board position to the right person with the right connections and hire some contractors that you can pay top dollar for very little work. That is how to do ethical business with Illinois politicians with the clout to get you the things you want.


  28. - Chatham Resident - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:59 pm:

    They could have ate at Saputo’s instead, probably for a lot cheaper.


  29. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 1:07 pm:

    ===Peninsula soon and ordering the under $75 special===

    Black coffee and water, no lemon.


  30. - Shytown - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 1:33 pm:

    So…who’s going to raise their hand to file the complaint with the SOS’s office? Let’s flood it.


  31. - Rich Hill - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 1:58 pm:

    Thank you for providing some truly unexpected news as we enter the weekend.


  32. - Joe Bidenopolous - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 2:06 pm:

    Altgeld’s Ghost-

    I also almost never buy drinks or dinner for members. In fact, I’d wager the vast majority of lobbyists never do. And Been There is right - in the last decade or so, most of the new members won’t let people buy them anything while some of the old timers have moved in that direction as well.


  33. - Johnny Tractor - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 2:11 pm:

    From the “World Wrestling Federation School of Lobbying” … visions of Hulk Hogan kept popping into my head as I read this.


  34. - Only in 2020 - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 2:20 pm:

    Did Ms. Kutti graduate from the Sandoval School of Lobbying?


  35. - Altgelds Ghost - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 2:40 pm:

    Joe B,

    Not one lobbyist has ever been held accountable under the lobbyist registration act.

    I see the lobbyists on the magic list out. I ask others at the table who paid.

    Whether you buy drinks or not is not the point.
    The point is some do buy drinks.
    Many of those buying the drinks do not file the proper disclosures.

    I have been to Springfield many, many nights and still regularly see lobbyists buying dinner and drinks.

    So some of the newbies don’t let them pay.

    Back in the day, Doug Scott didn’t let them pay.

    But many do. And it is not reported

    No one is held accountable to the law, but the solution is to pass more laws.

    What a joke.


  36. - cover - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 3:01 pm:

    To the update 2, this could set a record for the shortest lobbying career in Illinois history.


  37. - Centennial - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 3:04 pm:

    Altgeld — you’re making a whole lot of assumptions. Do you have any personal knowledge of lobbyists not reporting expenditures properly? If so, why didn’t you report it?

    If you have no personal knowledge, you’re just saying words and none of those words have to do with a lobbyist verbally attacking a state official or said lobbyist filing a report with blatant violations.


  38. - Derek Smalls - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 3:36 pm:

    cover, the Bladerunner principle in effect:

    The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly Roy


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* Open thread
* House investigative committee coverage roundup
* Question of the day
* Hang in there, Maggie!
* Pritzker to sit down with stakeholders after uproar over cannabis lottery process
* Rep. Mason claims she received a "rather threatening note" on her car
* Federal judge rules against Cook County GOP lawsuit to block new vote by mail program
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