<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Political News and Chicago Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Sat, 30 Aug 2014 03:15:55 -0500 Sat, 30 Aug 2014 03:15:55 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Con Artist Who Tricked Quinn, Madigan and Durbin Gets Indicted on Fraud Charges]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:49:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/071114gavel.jpg

Anshoo Sethi, the social-climbing young con artist who suckered prominent Illinois politicians into supporting his sham real-estate venture, has been indicted on federal charges of wire fraud and making false statements.

The indictment, handed down Wednesday by Chicago's U.S. Attorney, accuses Sethi of fraudently raising $160 million from 290 Chinese citizens who invested in his much-hyped (and nonexistent) venture to erect a $913 million hotel-and-convention center near O'Hare Airport. The 30-year-old exploited a federal immigration program that issues American visas to foreign investors who contribute $500,000 toward start-up businesses in high-unemployment areas—meanwhile, his development project had no building permits, construction plans or legit franchise deals with hotel chains.

As previously reported, Sethi—eager to hustle support from state government, which he viewed as helpful in legitimizing his over-the-top vision—managed to trick Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and former White House adviser David Axelrod's son with a vow to add 8,495 jobs to the state's imperiled economy.

He'd consulted the expertise of Madigan, who moonlights as a lawyer with a private practice, to win a 50 percent tax break on a three-acre area east of O'Hare. In the fall of 2011, he sweet-talked Quinn into meeting with him for a photo-op while the governor was on a business trip in China.

Acting on a whistleblower's tip, the feds eventually busted Sethi's two-year scam in early 2013 and froze the Chinese money. A settlement was reached in March of this year that mandated he return the $147 million and pay a $3.9 million fine.

According to the indictment, Sethi is alleged to have spent at least $320,000 of that cash on on "luxury goods for himself, his family, and friends."

He faces a max of 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud (he's got eight) and five for each count of making false statements (he's got two).

Sethi's attorney, Patrick Collins, told the Chicago Tribune in a statement, "While Mr. Sethi made serious mistakes in judgment, he was grossly ill-served by certain of the so-called '(visa) experts' and advisers that he engaged. In addition, the evidence will show that there were individuals who used the project to pursue their own private interests to the detriment of Mr. Sethi and the investors."

Photo Credit: File Photo ]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn vs. Rauner: Who Won the Pseudo-Debate?]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:24:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Quinn_Rauner_4_11.jpg

It wasn't a debate-debate, but Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner's Thursday showdown could be classified as such—the first round in a series of public mud-slinging appearances preceding November's Illinois governor election.

Incumbent Democrat Quinn and Republican challenger Rauner didn't share the stage at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park Hotel, where the Metropolitan Planning Council held its annual lunch; instead, each took separate turns taking questions on jobs, housing and the state's financial woes before an audience of hundreds who witnessed the spectacle firsthand. The attacks continued as rivals spoke to the press after the event, ripping one another to shreds.

Who won this round? Let's put it to a letter grade:

Shameless smack talk. Quinn scored big laughs on a question about housing when he referenced multi-millionaire Rauner's luxury real-estate collection, quipping: "I only own one home—I'm running against somebody with nine mansions, but I think it's important to realize that one home (for) everyday people is the No. 1 investment they'll make in their whole life." Doubling down on the income equality issue, Quinn dubbed Rauner "King Midas" for the venture capitalist's proposal to tax services rather than income which would "shift more of the tax burden onto everyday people." Countering, Rauner invoked the unfolding IDOT debacle to paint Quinn as corrupt and full of it: "Unfortunately, Gov. Quinn has a track record of being a phony on reform. He said he was going to reform the patronage at IDOT years ago, and now, as it turns out, patronage hiring under Gov. Quinn has spiked dramatically."

Quinn: C+ because he can do better than "King Midas" ... maybe hire the same folks who wrote President Obama's hilarious Washington Correspondents Dinner speech

Rauner: C because Chris Christie is the master of "Quinn-sults" and Rauner should take lessons in the art of the memorable put-down


Stage presence. Check the video below. Rauner frequently talks out of both sides of his mouth, but he speaks with a lot of authority and projects an aura of decisiveness and competence, as if he's a CEO leading a business meeting. His "smartest guy in the room" schtick enhances his persuasiveness, making some potential voters think "this guy know what he's talking about" even though his pro-business agenda might not be in their best interests. Quinn, meanwhile, looks like a deer caught in headlights. Perpetually. And his blustery awkwardness undermines his message.

Quinn: C for "get thee to a media trainer"

Rauner: A for "confident mansplaining"


Two things you didn't know about Bruce and Pat! Moderator Craig Dellimore introduced the contenders with a "fun fact" submitted by each. Rauner sometimes eats pie for breakfast! Quinn dunked a basketball (twice) back in '68. These are weak, guys. Next time give us something that's actually interesting? (I had pie for breakfast this morning and would never bring that up otherwise. Because it's not conversation-worthy.)

Quinn: B+ for the amusing mental image

Rauner: D for LAME


Composite Score:

Quinn: B-

Rauner: C+

<![CDATA[Opinion: Taking Emanuel’s Money Could Have Political Costs]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:29:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/emanuel-boston.jpg

Imagine this: You live in a ward where feelings against Mayor Rahm Emanuel are high, and you want to run for alderman. Of course, you know running a campaign is hard, and requires a lot of money. 

One day, an email from a PAC called Chicago Forward arrives. It contains a series of questions from a powerful politician you know has a boatload of money. All you have to do, it seems, is agree to back some key positions on some of Chicago’s most pressing issues that are important to this politician, and hopefully, some checks supporting your campaign will start to flow.
What do you do?
Since this is Chicago, what you would likely do is tell the politician you agree and take the money and run. That’s how it’s been done in Chicago for decades, with aldermanic challenger after aldermanic challenger aligning himself or herself with the fifth floor of City Hall and then basking in the glow of photo ops and campaign financing.
But, since this is Rahm Emanuel we’re talking about, such a decision today might not be so easy to make.
After all, this is a mayor with only 35 percent approval rating in the city he rules over. As well, he’s actively disliked across large sections of town, particularly among black and Hispanic voters. Let alone some unions, those affected by crime, public school supporters and who knows what else.
Chicago Forward is raising millions of dollars by touting itself as being “actively engaged in the 2015 municipal elections supporting candidates who demonstrate a shared commitment to policies and priorities that will continue to move our city forward.” Recently, the group sent out an e-mail to potential aldermanic challengers asking them where they stood on topics such as charter school expansion, an elected school board, increasing in the minimum wage and the likelihood of raising city property taxes.
The email promises for the select few, the PAC will launch “a series of targeted communication campaigns ward by ward and city-wide to get our message out to voters through television ads, radio ads, mail, and phone communications.”
Answer how the Emanuel campaign likes for all of these issues, and you could be a part of this largess.
The bad news for anyone filling out the form is that down the road once campaign season really starts, being seen as aligned with an unpopular mayor and taking his money could turn out to become a political liability instead.
If I was an incumbent alderman who’s opposed to the way Emanuel is running the city—say, a member of the eight-member strong Progressive Reform Caucus—or an aldermanic challenger looking to unseat an incumbent who’s cozied up to the mayor in the past, the first part of my campaign platform would be to tar my opponent as someone in the pocket of an increasingly unpopular mayor.
As well, if I was a candidate who suddenly had a well-financed fellow challenger, I’d tie the source of his campaign financing to Emanuel every chance I got.
As 2nd Ward alderman and frequent Rahm critic Bob Fioretti points out, the questionnaire also all but predicts a property tax hike is coming down the pike for already hard-hit Chicago taxpayers. That’s a tough burden to shoulder for a first time candidate to take on as a policy position.
But there’s another potentially steep political cost a candidate could suffer if it comes out he or she is being supported politically or financially by an unpopular mayor.
Most political observers and media types have so far seen Chicago Forward as a tool the Emanuel campaign will use to help elect more “friendly aldermen” in Chicago’s City Council.
But, just for the sake of conversation: what if it’s not?
Assuming the Emanuel campaign is looking to further stack the deck in his favor in City Council somewhat assumes Rahm sees his re-election campaign as a strong bet. Only by betting that you’re likely to win can you start looking down the road to how to make your next administration even easier in City Council than it already is.
We don't know what the Emanuel campaign is seeing these days in terms of internal polling or other methods of gauging his electoral chances. We do know he reads the news, and much of the reporting on his chances these days seems a bit grim.
For all we know, Chicago Forward might not be an attempt to stack the deck as much as it could be to create a bulwark in wards where he could easily lose the popular vote. In that scenario, an unpopular mayor like Emanuel needs well-financed candidates to maintain his control of Council.
Or avoid looking like he got slaughtered in, say, black and brown wards across the city.
Back in the old days, a powerful mayor found potential aldermanic candidates through word of mouth and identifying those who worked hard in a strong political infrastructure made up of precinct captains, committeemen and incumbents. That way, he knew from the start they were on his side and willing to work on his campaign as much as he was willing to work on theirs.
So what does it say about the Emanuel campaign that it has to go out and send an email questionnaire just to rustle up enough candidates willing to sign up to a potentially unpopular agenda before he even agrees to support them? 
<![CDATA[Ald. Bob Fioretti Crowd-Sources Possible Mayoral Run]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:22:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bob_Fioretti_4-14.jpg

With all the buzz about Karen Lewis possibly running for Chicago mayor, it's sometimes easy to overlook 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti—another vocal critic of Rahm Emanuel—as he too considers whether to throw his hat into the ring.

Fioretti has long eyed the mayorship and this election cycle is no different. His antipathy toward Emanuel, whom he accuses of attempting to dismantle the City Council's Progressive Caucus, has reached fever pitch as the mayor's deep-pocketed super PAC stages a campaign to form strategic alliances with aldermanic candidates in an apparent bid to push out progressives—and keep Emanuel in office.

While Lewis, the fiery Chicago Teachers Union boss, pops up all over town participating in get-to-know-Karen Q&As at local restaurants, Fioretti has begun conducting informal focus groups of his own accord. 

"Over the last several months, I've been traveling our city and talking to voters about the future we want to see for Chicago," Fioretti told supporters in an email Tuesday, circulating a petition to crowd-source demand for his candidacy.

"After nearly 200 meetings with community groups, congregations and civic leaders, I am close to a decision on the best role I can play in moving our city forward. But before I make this important decision, I want to hear from you. Should I run for mayor of Chicago?"

Fioretti has since been active on Twitter, bashing Emanuel and retweeting messages of support and news headlines of the "Will He Run?" variety.

He was heartened perhaps by the recent Chicago Tribune poll showing Emanuel's job approval rating at an all-time low and Lewis leading the mayor in voter support. Asked about a potential Emanuel/Fioretti match-up, survey-takers favored the mayor 43 percent to Fioretti's 26 percent. Still, the Trib took the alderman's unexpectedly high numbers as a "sign that there's a sizable contingent of anyone-but-Emanuel voters."

Fioretti's ward, the 2nd, was gutted and rendered unrecognizable in a re-map two years ago amid his protests and allegations of political retribution; the new boundaries won't officially be drawn until 2015.

While Emanuel wants to hike the minimum wage from $8.25 to $13, Fioretti and Lewis are aiming to raise it to $15.

Should both progressives challenge Emanuel, there's a chance the pair—who appeal to different segments of anti-Rahm voters—could together draw down the incumbent Democrat's percentage of the vote, regardless of Emanuel's multi-million-dollar war chest.

"We're looking forward, we're putting the team together, and we're seeing what we need to do," Fioretti recently told the Chicago Reader of his plans, which involve a "listening" tour. "Rahm's base will vote—that 30 percent out there—and of course there are dollars and cents."

<![CDATA[Pro-Rahm Super PAC Schemes to Add More Allies in City Council]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:19:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_emanuelrahmgi.jpg

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's re-election super PAC is targeting 53 alderman candidates with a questionnaire designed to weed out pro-Rahm supporters from potential foes.

The Sun-Times reports that Chicago Forward—which has amassed nearly $1.4 million in outside money from business elites—is strategizing to form alliances with aspiring aldermen who could boost Emanuel's power within City Council. In an effort to pinpoint the most hospitable amongst the new blood, the PAC has asked candidates to respond "yes" or "no" to six questions on hot-button issues involving education reform, enforcing tighter gun laws, boosting the minimum wage and raising taxes to cover the city's financial woes.

According to the paper, one question aims to gauge whether they'd back the "tough, but necessary steps, such as increases in property taxes or additional efficiencies throughout city government." Another fields stances on supporting "high-quality school choices for families that include neighborhood, charter, IB, STEM, magnet and selective enrollment schools."

A second education-related question asks candidates to vote yay or nay on electing CPS school board officials, citing concerns that holding elections "would further politicize our city's public education system." (Emanuel's progressive enemies, Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis and 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, each considering a run for mayor, support the idea.)

Fioretti recently accused Emanuel of using Chicago Forward as a means to "destroy" City Council's Progressive Caucus of which the alderman is leader. The mayor cannot legally align his campaign with group, which has no limit on political donations flowing in from Emanuel's wealthy allies.

Earlier this month, Ward Room's Mark Anderson observed a growing progressive movement in City Council and one that may be partly a response to anti-Rahm sentiment.

"There’s little doubt Emanuel and his allies expect to wield a big stick when it comes to potentially influencing aldermanic races in 2015," he wrote. "After all, a super PAC created for that purpose, Chicago Forward, has already raised more than $1 million. Among progressives, there’s a widespread belief much of that money will be used to defeat current members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, as well as try and stop any groundswell of candidates thinking they can come in and change City Council."

Chicago Forward CEO Becky Carroll tells the Sun-Times that the questionnaires will help the group divvy up campaign cash, saying: "We're prepared to invest significant resources in very strategic and targeted ways to advocate for issues we believe will keep moving our city forward."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Judge Throws Out Koschman Lawsuit Against Police]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:22:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Koschman_7596502_722x406_2177124074.jpg

A federal judge on Thursday threw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Nanci Koschman, the mother of 21-year-old David Koschman, who died from a single punch thrown by former Mayor Richard M. Daley's nephew, R.J. Vanecko, in 2004.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said the complaint was filed too late and the statute of limitations ran out.

"I'm certainly disappointed," Koschman said, "but not for me - for David. His death and the investigation into that fateful night was handled so poorly. People were allowed to lie to the police, records were lost and then suddenly found, records were taken home, records were altered to create the illusion that it was David's fault and people hid behind their political connections. They treated my son with absolutely no dignity."

Attorneys for Koschman filed the civil rights lawsuit in Federal District court in March, saying officers of the Chicago Police Department fabricated evidence and covered up facts in order to protect “the entire Daley dynasty."

Defendants included Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, her predecessor Richard Devine, 21 former or current members of the Chicago Police Department and “Daley family members.”

"They say I took too long to file," Koschman said. "I was told I had no recourse due to how famous and wealthy the people where and how they'd keep me tied up in court for years. I had no financial resources to take on people with power. I spent each day trying to figure out how to get thru that day and the next without my only son. I waited until some good people came to help me but I guess it was too late."

Vanecko pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of involuntary manslaughter, only after being charged by Special Prosecutor Dan Webb.
Koschman’s attorneys said the initial 2004 investigation began and ended in a matter of hours, once it became clear Vanecko was involved.
“Higher-ups in the police department were saying, “holy crap, the mayor’s nephew may be involved,” Bowman said.
“From the moment that CPD commanders learned of Vanecko’s involvement” the lawsuit contends, “the Chicago Police Department’s handling of the case, as well as that of other agencies…became an official cover-up.”
According to the lawsuit, video from cameras along Division Street, where the punch was thrown, went unchecked. Detectives “set out fabricating evidence” to make David Koschman appear to be the aggressor, the suit alleges, and police and prosecutors destroyed and altered evidence in “sham investigations” in 2004 and in a 2011 reinvestigation.
“There should be something done so that another person who gets hit somebody famous doesn’t have to suffer like I’ve had to suffer,” Nanci Koschman said.

<![CDATA[Quinn Earmarks $10M for "Safe Passage" ]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:16:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/safe+passage+generic+2.jpg

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday announced the state is earmarking $10 million for Chicago Public Schools' "Safe Passage" program that aims to make kids' school routes more secure.

The money will go toward adding new routes for 93 schools signed up for Safe Passage as well 27 new schools joining the program this year. Started in 2009, the initiative dispatches trained safety monitors to high-crime areas in the city's South and West sides to help children commute to and from class. With an extra $10 million in hand, CPS is expected to bring 600 new staffers into the program.

"Our first priority as a state must be the education and well-being of our children," Quinn said in a statement. "As we kick off a new school year, all students should be focused on their studies - not on their safety - as they walk to and from school. The Safe Passage program has proven to be a successful way to improve attendance, increase safety and boost learning in our classrooms. With this state investment, we can reach even more schools and help ensure safe passage for more students."

Chiming in with his own message, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: "Safe Passage is about more than just building a route to school; it is about building a route to college, career and beyond, so that once our kids get to school, they get the world-class education they deserve."

Emanuel garnered heavy criticism for shuttering close to 50 elementary schools last summer because of low enrollment. Parents and community activists worried that students being transferred to new schools would be further endangered on unfamiliar commutes and exposed to gang-and-gun violence.

"There is no safety plan. There is no transportation plan," Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis said at the time. "The city has already raised CTA fares and now they expect parents to put their five-year-old on a crowded city bus in order for them to get to school, when they used to be able to walk to a school in their neighborhood. The way this is being done is an insult and it is disrespectful."

Responding to concerns, CPS beefed up Safe Passage and touts a 20 percent drop in criminal activity surrounding schools as well as a 7 percent spike in school attendance.

Emanuel, whose job approval rating has slid considerably the past year, is running for re-election in February 2015; Lewis, his biggest foe, is seriously considering a run for mayor.

Quinn, meanwhile, is embroiled in an increasingly brutal showdown with Republican rival Bruce Rauner, who's launched a successful grassroots campaign to unseat the incumbent Democrat and win the governorship for the GOP.

These past few days have been especially rough for the governor as he grapples with a barrage of negative headlines on allegations of patronage hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn's Staffer Resigns Amid IDOT Controversy]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:17:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_pat_quinn16.jpg

Gov. Pat Quinn's deputy chief of staff is stepping down amid controversy alleged improper patronage hiring inside the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Sean O'Shea leaves the Quinn administration on Friday after a three-year tenure that included  supervising IDOT and its recruitment of senior policy brass, reports Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz.

The Quinn camp told Hinz that O'Shea's exit is not related to the unfolding clout scandal and that he is jumping ship to work for a private company, a development "in the works for weeks."

O'Shea previously worked for the Clinton administration and for Hillary Clinton during her stint as a U.S. Senator from New York. According to Capitol Fax, "O’Shea had made a mortal enemy out of House Speaker Michael Madigan over the years," which could have contributed to his departure.

Last week, Illinois Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza issued a report revealing a pervasive pattern within the agency of staffing non-policy jobs with political hires. Meza did not cite Quinn as responsible for the problem. In response, ex-IDOT chief Ann Schneider pointed a finger at Quinn, accusing his office of "pushing the vast majority" of patronage recruits.

"Neither I nor my staff were in a position to reject the recommended individuals for these exempt positions as no additional interview process was required," Schneider said Friday.

Striking back Tuesday, Quinn called a press conference during which he blamed Schneider for not doing her duty in screening job applicants. She stepped down from her position in June.

"The bottom line is all directors, all departments have a duty to make sure that they comply with the rules I've set down, the rules that are set in law, I expect that I and expect accountability from those who are secretaries or directors of department. When that isn't done, there's accountability and I took action," he said.

As a result of Meza's ethics report, IDOT has axed 58 employees and frozen job opportunities for applicants with political clout.

Meanwhile, Quinn is embroiled in a bitter re-election race against Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, who's successfully campaigning on a vow to "shake up Springfield" and unseat "career politicians" on the Democratic side of the aisle. The incumbent faces a tough battle ahead—especially in October, when anti-patronage attorney Michael Shakman heads to federal court as part of his proposal to investigate IDOT hiring practices and recruit a watchdog to keep an eye on anything illegal at every state agency.

Rauner, his eyes on the prize Nov. 4, released a statement saying, "It's time for Pat Quinn to stop misleading voters about his illegal patronage hiring schemes. This scandal goes straight to the top; there's no one left to fire except Quinn himself."

<![CDATA[Opinion: Rauner Cries Poor on the Campaign Trail]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:17:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/bruce+rauner+getty.jpg
The Bruce Rauner campaign must think its supporters are not very observant. Or smart.
How else would you explain reports that the Republican millionaire’s campaign has sent out fundraising emails begging for cash to compete with the Quinn campaign?
Capital Fax is reporting two separate fundraising emails were sent recently to Rauner supporters claiming the campaign needs more than $400,000 to “give our advertising a needed boost to close the gap with Quinn and his special interest machine.”
Right now we’re being outspent by about 2 to 1 by the special interest allies who support Quinn-Madigan.
Will you help us get this ad out far and wide by making an urgent contribution of $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000, or even $2,500?
Quinn-Madigan and their allies are literally spending about a million dollars a week in lies to protect their system.
But you can stop them today, right now, with a donation.
While it’s true that the advertising wars in the governor’s race are starting to heat up of late, it’s pretty rich for the Rauner campaign to claim it doesn't have the resources to compete with Quinn in buying TV ads or getting its message out.
After all, this is a man who has so far pumped more than $21 million into his campaign, much of it from his own pocket and the rest from his billionaire friends.
Heck, just last month Rauner’s good pal and New Jersey governor Chris Christie came by and dropped off a check for a cool $2.5 million.
In fact, the 2014 governor’s race is going to be the most expensive in the state’s history, with spending already skyrocketing 355 percent over the 2010 contest.
To be fair, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn has been raking in the millions himself, much of it from labor and union-related donors.
For Rauner to claim poverty and ask donors for money to catch up on advertising seems, well, just a bit ironic. Rauner was first out of the gate with advertising, flooding the airwaves with a slew of TV ads introducing himself to voters way back in 2013. And he’s earmarked much of that $21 million on a focused strategy that relies heavily on TV. That's what the millions he's raising are for. 
Many people both in and out of professional politics think there’s too much money sloshing around in politics today. For myself, I have to agree. And the amount being spent in this governor’s race is, by almost any objective standard, obscene.
Yet a key part of the email fundraising pitch made it seem like the Rauner campaign was practically a grassroots startup compared to Quinn’s big money machine. From the pitch:
Quinn will spend more money this year than anyone has ever spent to win the Illinois governor’s race. Ever. He’ll spend millions more than even Blago.
That’s pretty much the textbook definition of a pot calling the kettle black. It also requires someone who’s thinking about donating to the Rauner campaign to believe that the self-made millionaire pouring millions of his own money into a campaign is somehow going to let it all fall apart if it doesn't receive a $25 check from an individual donor right away.
Rauner is running as a smart businessman who knows how to get the job done in Springfield better than the career politicians already there. It's kind of hard to believe that suddenly, his campaign is $400,000 short of being able to compete.
I say, once you’ve decided to pour millions of dollars into your own campaign in an effort to buy political office, you should be prohibited from hitting up small donors at $25 or $50 a pop. People writing checks that small very likely need the money way more than you do.
Or, you should be banned from crying poor when you’re clearly one of the richest men in the state.
But, that’s the state of politics in Illinois today. Raise $21 million to campaign for office from wealthy friends and your own bank account, then claim it’s not enough and hit up folks for what they’ve got stashed away in their own pockets.
The next thing you know, the Rauner campaign will be claiming it doesn't have enough gas money for the campaign bus.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rahm Emanuel vs. Karen Lewis: Analyzing Their Twitter Followers]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 11:27:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Lewis_rahm.jpg

Last week we analyzed the demographics of those following Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican rival Bruce Rauner on Twitter. The results were fascinating. This Wednesday, we turn our attention from Illinois' gubernatorial showdown to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's upcoming re-election battle against ... Karen Lewis? The Chicago Teachers Union firebrand (and sworn Rahm enemy) is seriously considering a run for mayor, and her entry into the race could pose a major threat to Emanuel's chances of securing City Hall for a second term.

Earlier this month, a Chicago Tribune survey revealed that the Windy City boss' job approval rating had slid significantly and that Chicagoans would support Lewis over Emanuel if polling places were open today. The celebrity mayor and A-list power player managed to become an underdog for 2015, and with his political future at stake, one thing is for certain: He's not going down without a fight.

Ward Room asked StatSocial -- a company that analyzes social data -- to give us the scoop on who's reading tweets from @RahmEmanuel and @KarenLewisCTU. (View the infographics below.)

See the infographic for Rahm Emanuel:

See the infographic for Karen Lewis:

Here's how the archnemeses measure up in the Twitter-verse:

Gender: Both have more female than male followers. Lewis' follower count breaks down 65 to 35 percent with Emanuel attracting 60 to 40 percent.

Businesses: Slightly more commercial accounts follow business-friendly Emanuel. The mayor's follower count includes 5 percent businesses to Lewis' 4 percent.

Age: Emanuel bests Lewis in the 25-34 and 35-44 age brackets, while Lewis has more followers in the youngest bracket (18-24) and the oldest brackets (45-54 and 54-plus).

Income: Emanuel's followers make more money, with 15 percent commanding incomes in the $100K range compared with six percent of Lewis' followers. Lewis has more followers within the middle and lowest income ranges than does Emanuel, grabbing 46 percent in the $50-$100K segment and 48 percent $50K and below. Emanuel attracts 40 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Favorite Celebrities: Emanuel followers Anderson Cooper, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. Lewis' like President Obama, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Favorite Athletes: Emanuel followers like Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane, Chicago Bull Joakim Noah and Chicago Bear Matt Forte. Lewis' like Noah too as well as the legendary Magic Johnson.

Favorite Stores: Emanuel's followers shop at Whole Foods, Walgreens and Nordstrom. Lewis' prefer Whole Foods, Target and Walmart. 

Favorite Clothing Stores:

Favorite News Sites: Lewis' followers read HuffPo, Salon and Wikileaks. Emanuel's peruse HuffPo, The Daily Beast and BuzzFeed.

Favorite Magazines: Emanuel followers like The New Yorker, The Economist and The Atlantic. Lewis' embrace The New Yorker too as well as Mother Jones and The Nation.





<![CDATA[Chris Christie's 5 Biggest "Quinn-sults"]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 20:31:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_christie168254493.jpg

If you don't have anything nice to say about Gov. Pat Quinn, well then sit next to Chris Christie!

The mouthy New Jersey governor, Republican Governors Association Chairman and obsessed Springsteen fan returned to Chicago this week to stump for Bruce Rauner, deploying a new batch of "Quinn-sults." Behold, the lowest blows:

1. "He will try every trick in the book. I see the stuff that's going on. Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking. I'm sure it was all based upon public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get."

2. "Now I see that the courts ruled that the Libertarian candidate can be on the ticket but the Green Party can't. Another interesting development. I told some people this morning: 'You people in Illinois make New Jersey people blush, it’s unbelievable, right?' Every obstacle that can be placed in front of Bruce by the establishment in this state will be placed in front of him. The great news is he’s strong enough to overcome those."

3. "[I will make sure] that the people of Illinois are reminded of the miserable, failed nature of the Quinn governship."

4. "This race is the one that looks the most like New Jersey in 2009. You have a state that's typically demographically Democratic. You have a first-time statewide candidate. You have a miserably unpopular governor, with an extraordinarily dispirited citizenry."

5. "I've been now to 29 states since Dec. 1 and almost in every one of those states people ask me about Illinois 'cause they see this [race] and [say], 'We really have a chance in Illinois?'"

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How Bruce Rauner Can Woo Chicago Voters (And Swing the Election)]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:29:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bruce_Rauner_budget.jpg

Bruce Rauner has loads of support in suburban and downstate Illinois, but can he trounce Pat Quinn in Chicago?

Not a chance. But he's going to try.

The multi-millionaire Republican venture capitalist—who's waging a successful grassroots campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Quinn—has shifted attention to Cook County, the largest voting block in the Land of Lincoln and one dominated by diehard Democrats.

"We've got to campaign hard around Chicago," Rauner said over the weekend. "It's critical. If we just take the mindset that Cook County is just, you know, another country, that allows Cook County to be consolidated under the machine. And it's so big that Cook County runs the rest of the state. No more. No more. That ain't right."

Flashing back to 2010, Quinn bested GOP challenger Bill Brady by winning the Windy City with 82.6 percent of the vote to Brady's 17.4 percent. The former also won the Cook County 'burbs, 60.5-39.5. There has not been a Republican governor since George Ryan, who seized an above-average, 31-percent chunk of Chicago votes away from Democratic opponent Glen Poshard back in 1998.

"We're already leading in the polls by a good margin in the Cook County suburbs," touted Rauner, according to The News-Gazette. "We're losing in Chicago and I don't think I can win in Chicago. That's not going to happen. But I think I can do decently well in Chicago. I think the polls showed us at about 20 percent in Chicago. I think if we're in the low 20s we'll be good."

Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, thinks Rauner should aim higher that that if he wants to swing the election.

Simpson tells Ward Room: "If I were his campaign, I would be trying to get more like a third of the votes. The 20-25 percent range is a pretty hazardous range to be in. ... It's not possible that Rauner would carry Chicago or Cook County but it is possible that he can get votes, enough votes, to tip the balance of the election out of Chicago and Cook County."

Simpson says there could be potential Rauner support systems in the Northwest, Southwest and "lakeside" Chicago, "particularly if the Democratic machine isn't able to turn out votes in the usual numbers."

Meanwhile, "Rauner's not likely to win a huge vote in the black community and I see no reason for him to win much of a Latino vote. But the white vote in the city he could win if he can get votes in each of these areas. But his best alternative based on previous elections is to win the white ethnic and maybe the white liberal vote in order [to get] a lot of votes in those areas."

What could sway those Chicagoans to endorse Team Rauner?

"Issues like term limits, 'Let's shake things up in Springfield,' 'I'm the person to bring change,' those'll resonate with the more conservative Democratic voters," says Simpson, adding: "His real hope is to gain the sort of independent voter that lives in Chicago or Cook County. Hardcore Democratic machine voters are not going to be swung to Rauner I don't think by anything that he's doing."

<![CDATA[Rod Blagojevich Sends Wife Anniversary Letter From Prison]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:54:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rod-patti-blagojevich-state.jpg

In what might be the highest level of communication the public has seen from Rod Blagojevich, the convicted former Illinois governor sent his wife, Patti, a letter from prison this week for the couple's 24th wedding anniversary.

Patti Blagojevich posted the letter to her Facebook page Monday night. She wrote that she decided to share the message "because I think it applies to everyone."

"Well here we are," the letter begins. "It is now the third anniversary of me not being home to celebrate our wedding anniversary."

There have been no public communications from Blagojevich in the more than two years he has been in the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado. He was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison on corruption charges.

This isn't the first anniversary letter he wrote to his wife that Patti Blagojevich posted online. Two years ago he sent her an email asking if he could take her out.

In the letter sent Monday, Blagojevich laments the fact that he can't be with his wife on their special day and thanks her for loving him and for "all the good times together."

"It is so unfair, so wrong," he writes, "yet maybe that's what I get for being so cavalier about things like this when I could have properly celebrated our special day when I had the chance. I have learned my lesson. Never again will I treat our wedding anniversary as anything less than a national holiday."

He doesn't directly mention his case, which is on appeal, except for a single line: "The end of this nightmare must surely be near."

Here's the full letter Patti Blagojevich posted to Facebook:

Happy Anniversary
Aug 25, 2014, 1:06 PM
Dear Patti,
Well here we are. It is now the third anniversary of me not being home to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It is so unfair, so wrong, yet maybe that's what I get for being so cavalier about things like this when I could have properly celebrated our special day when I had the chance. I have learned my lesson. Never again will I treat our wedding anniversary as anything less than a national holiday. A day off; a day to celebrate; a day to make a big deal about. And why shouldn't I. After all, next to the birth of our children, marrying you and the day it occurred, is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Thank you for walking through life with me. I'm sorry the journey has been so bad for so long. The end of this nightmare must surely be near. And I intend to use our new beginning to devote the same attention and energy I used in other things to making our world together more meaningful, especially by paying attention to the so called "little things"--- the things I have learned are, in a real sense, things that truly mean the most in the world. Like the love, respect, and high regard I have for you. I hope this day brings you some measure of joy. God willing, and it all goes as we believe and as it should, I am determined to make your happiness as much a priority as working to build a better life for our family. Maybe this long, dark nightmare is a blessing in disguise. Among the many lessons to be learned from it all is that life is so fragile. Without warning and with no apparent reason, what you thought would always be available suddenly disappears. The lesson therefore, is seize the moment when it's there, and don't put off the happy things for later because there may not be there later. I love you Honey. I miss you. Thank you for being my wife. Thank you for being the mother to our children Thank you for all the good times together. Thank you for the love you've given me. Please kiss my babies for me. Love, Rod xxooxxooxxooxxoo

<![CDATA[Opinion: Chris Christie Doesn't Like Democracy]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 15:10:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_christie168254493.jpg

Something not all that unusual happened in Illinois politics on Monday: New Jersey governor Chris Christie showed up in Chicago to campaign for his friend, Bruce Rauner.

As something of a star in conservative circles, campaigning for other Republican gubernatorial candidates is something Christie loves to do. He showed up in Birmingham, Ala., for Republican governor Robert Bentley earlier this month. In July, he traveled to Iowa for Gov. Terry Branstad. He’s been invited to visit with Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin. And he chowed down on hot dogs with Rauner in Chicago not too long ago.
On these trips, Christie seems to have two primary goals: raise millions of dollars for Republican candidates, and blame every evil in the world on Democrats. And he’s good at both. In July, for example, he raised $2.5 million for Rauner. And on Monday he called the administration of incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn a “miserable failure”.
In his most recent visit to Chicago, however, Christie also showed something else he believes in: a fundamental disdain for the basic rules of democracy.
In his remarks, Christie suggested that a law recently passed allowing Illinois residents to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day was nothing more than a partisan effort designed to make it harder for voters to elect Republican Rauner in the November elections.
“He will try every trick in the book,” Christie said of Quinn. “I see the stuff that’s going on. Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking,” he added sarcastically. “I’m sure it was all based upon public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.”
He also took issue with recent court rulings allowing Libertarian Party candidates but not Green Party or Constitution Party candidates on the November ballot.
“Now I see that the court’s ruled that the Libertarian candidate can be on the ticket but the Green Party can’t. Another interesting development. … Every obstacle that can be placed in front of Bruce by the establishment in this state will be placed in front of him.
In stumping for Rauner, Christie is engaging in a long-held belief among Republicans that any attempts to expand the pool of eligible voters anywhere is basically an effort to tip the electoral scales on behalf of Democrats. To back up this argument, Republicans regularly rely on unproven claims of voter fraud in their attempts to block states' efforts to expand voter registration.
It’s a battle that’s being played out in state after state. Activists in North Carolina are fighting back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. Recently expanded voter registrations laws are under attack by Republicans in Montana. The Colorado GOP wants to undo a new elections law that allows same-day registration. Republicans in Nevada have made opposition to same-day registration part of their platform.
In all, nine states have passed measures of one kind or another making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013.
Right here in Illinois, however, the tide appears to be turning. Besides the recently-enacted law making it easier to register, vote while at college and cast an early ballot, a number of pro-democracy groups are working to expand the pool of eligible voters in advance of both the November state-wide elections and the 2015 Chicago municipal races.
Recently, the Grassroots Collaborative announced it has registered more than 25,000 new voters this year, which is halfway to their goal of 50,000. Other groups, such as Chicago Votes, Common Cause Illinois, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and others are actively engaged in efforts to get more voters active and involved.
That’s because same-day voter registration works. Study after study shows states that allow same-day voter registration had higher turnout than states that do not. Four of the top five states for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election all offered same-day registration, while average voter turnout is over 10 percentage points higher in states that allow the practice.
You can’t tell any of that to Chris Christie, though. In his world, any new voter brought into the process of democracy must be a Democrat and nothing more than a political “trick”. While Christie may think such an argument might help Bruce Rauner politically down the road, it's a stance that’s so opposed to the basic rules of democracy that even Rauner, to his credit, has rejected it.
That’s saying something. Maybe the next time Christie comes to town, he can check with the candidate he’s supporting to make sure they've got their stories straight on whether basic democracy is a good idea or not. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Biden Stumps for Quinn Amid GOP's Christie Offensive]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:12:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Decision2014Segment182414_1200x675_321161795637.jpg

Joe Biden and Chris Christie, two regular-guy politicians with big mouths and even bigger Oval Office dreams, descended upon Chicago Monday to raise money for the hotly contested Illinois governor race on both sides of the aisle.

Deployed by the White House, which is eager to keep Illinois blue, Biden cleared the whole day to stump for embattled Gov. Pat Quinn and other state Democrats in Chicago, charging up the diehard base here. The veep's charm offensive included headlining a $15,000-per-plate dinner event to pad Quinn's campaign war chest amid a neck-and-neck race against multi-millionaire GOP nominee Bruce Rauner.

Helping out his former Obama Administration colleague, Biden also penciled in a photo-op with former Chief-of-Staff-turned-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to address City Hall's progressive-minded proposal to boost the minimum wage from $8.25 to $13.

Meanwhile, the GOP dispatched New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, head of the Republican Governors Association, to the Windy City in an apparent effort to overshadow Biden's star power. Drowning in controversy but oozing Everyman charisma, Christie has made several trips here in the last few months to rustle up cash for Rauner now that some of the Bridge-Gate taint has lifted (and his peers are open to being seen with him again). Several weeks ago, he gobbled Portillo's hot dogs with the Winnetka governor and presented the candidate with a $2.5 million check.

With less than three months until November's election, national pollsters are pivoting predictions to favor Rauner as the contender gains growing support among voters outside of Chicago. Republicans view Rauner as one of the biggest opportunities to pick up a governorship—and flip the state.

"It's an incredibly important race. Especially for somebody like me as the chairman of the RGA who is a blue state governor," Christie told reporters Monday, when asked about Biden's counter-fundraising efforts. "If I'm not out here supporting the efforts of Republicans in states like this, where they've really worked hard and they've got this race in a position where they can win it, I gotta be there to support it."

While Rauner was dropping off his son to college in Maine, Christie hit the stump as his surrogate. He swung by Rauner's campaign center and squeezed in a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, who's running for re-election against Democrat Ann Callis in the 13th congressional district.  

Said Christie, "As far as the vice president is concerned, I've known him for a long time. He'll be doing his work, I'll be doing mine."


<![CDATA[Opinion: Entire Aldermanic Oversight Process Shrouded in Secrecy]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:04:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-city-council1.jpg

If there’s one thing that can be taken away from the latest release of the Office of Legislative Inspector General’s semi-annual report, it’s this:

If you didn't know any better, you might think every aspect of City Council oversight in this town is intended to be kept secret from the public.
Want proof? Take a look at the report itself. While there’s been much discussion of late about what the OLIG should and shouldn't be investigating, whether Inspector General Faisal Khan is doing a good job or whether there should even be a legislative IG office at all, the report lays bare the very kinds of restraints OLIG and its sister agency, the Board of Ethics, currently operate under.
The latest report lists 57 complaints of wrongdoing by Council members or employees the OLIG received in the first six months of this year, comprised of 229 separate allegations. It also indicates 57 investigations were undertaken during the period, of which 19 were referred to other agencies, such as the U.S. Attorney’s office, and 4 were considered “completed” by being sent to the Board of Ethics for further action.
What it doesn't list, however, is the name of any alderman or employee accused of wrongdoing, under investigation or whose case has been turned over to a higher authority for further investigation or a ruling.
Talk to most alderman, and they’ll tell you that’s how it should be. No one, they argue, should have their name made public simply because there’s an investigation under way. Or because someone felt strongly enough about possible wrongdoing to sign a sworn complaint.  
And while that argument may have some merit, it makes less sense once you realize that the rules for almost every other aspect of Council oversight are designed in such a way that even if someone is found guilty of wrongdoing by a city watchdog, the public is unlikely to ever know about it.
Let’s start with the OLIG itself. By statute, it’s prohibited from ever releasing the name of any alderman or employee with a compaint filed against them, who's under investigation or whose case has been referred to another agency. That’s because when it created the office, aldermen wrote the law explicitly prohibiting the OLIG from telling the public what it was doing in those regards.
What the OLIG does do, however, is refer cases with merit to the Board of Ethics for further review. And the Board, by ordinance, must either find the case has no grounds or rule on the charges of wrongdoing by levying a fine or discipline.
Yet, since the OLIG was created in 2011, only one case referred to the BOE by the OLIG has ever come back with a ruling, one way or the other.
Actually, much like the City Council’s Rules Committee—which is often called the place where good legislation goes to die—the BOE could be considered the place where charges of Council wrongdoing go to disappear.
Consider this: over the past 25 years, 31 alderman have served jail time, yet not once has the Board of Ethics found an alderman guilty of breaking the law, despite Mayor Emanuel’s highly-publicized efforts at “reforming” the Board.
Even worse, the Board of Ethics operates under a veil of secrecy that runs at odds with its stated mission as an ethics watchdog. The only mention of the BOE’s ability or responsibility to inform the public of charges of Council wrongdoing in the most recently published Rules and Regulations is a general paragraph requiring confidentiality of Board investigations and vague promises to make opinions and rulings “publicly available in the manner it determines.”
There’s only one problem: the Board hasn't issued a public report since 2009. So there’s no way for the public to know what the Board’s been doing since then. Or if its ruled one way or the other on any cases of potential wrongdoing.
The Board also serves as a place where aldermen, employees, lobbyists, attorneys and others can phone up and receive “informal advisory opinions” on how the BOE works and the laws governing aldermanic wrongdoing from BOE staff members (Section 3-2 of the BOE Rules). Such an opportunity not only allows someone to better understand the law, but also conceivably offers information on a “hypothetical” situation an individual could use to avoid investigation.
These informal advisory opinions are, of course, kept confidential.
So, to sum up: the OLIG can investigate, but can't rule on wrongdoing or name anyone accused or investigated. The Board of Ethics is responsible for resolving qualified cases, but doesn't follow up—and if it did, doesn't feel it has to tell the public what happened. And, as part of it’s mission, the Board believes its job is to provide confidential advice to alderman on how to interpret the laws on such topics as campaign finance, abuse of power, conflicts of interest and more. 
The truth is, according to the way the system is set up, a sitting alderman could conceivably be accused of wrongdoing, investigated, kicked upstairs to another agency, found guilty, fined or disciplined, and yet nothing would ever have to be said in public about the matter.
Worse, an alderman could have violated ethical standards or broken the law, and nothing might ever be done about it.
That’s what passes for transparency and accountability when it comes to the Chicago City Council. 
<![CDATA[Quinn Vetoes Uber Bill In a Win for Ride-Share Companies]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:14:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Uber-Car-Rentals.jpg

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed a bill targeting Uber and other ride-share companies with stiff state-wide regulations including mandatory commercial insurance and chaffeur's licenses for drivers.

"The principle of home rule is an important one," he said Monday morning in a statement. "I am vetoing this legislation because it would have mandated a one-size-fits-all approach to a service that is best regulated at the local level.”

House Bill 4075 had been sitting on Quinn's desk for weeks amid calls for the re-election-seeking governor not to cave to the taxi industry and instead allow fast-rising start-ups like Uber to plow undisrupted into the Illinois market, especially here in Chicago. Last month, Bruce Rauner -- who's running against Quinn on the Repubican ticket -- professed his love for Uber, declaring: "Pat Quinn shouldn’t sign this bill – it sends another signal that Illinois is closed to innovation."

In announcing the veto Monday, the Quinn Administration scrubbed away any Rauner-esque references to "innovation" as part of an apparent effort to distance the Democrat's decision from his rival's attempts to influence it. The governor instead opted to emphasize a less-government, localized approach to ride-share restriction laws.

"While transportation services are traditionally regulated at the local government level, House Bill 4075 would have limited the ability of home rule units of government to adopt alternative approaches that best fit local needs," said the statement, citing as an example a new ordinance taking effect in Chicago that bars ride-sharing apps from picking up passengers at taxi zones like local airports and McCormick Place.

(The loophole: City transportation brass reserve the power to approve O'Hare and Midway as ride-share territory, thereby permitting Uber to bust into cabbies' monopoly there.)

Quinn also vetoed House Bill 5331, which would tweak the Illinois Vehicle Code to impose further restrictions on Uber and its ilk.

"I want to thank Governor Quinn for his thoughtful approach to regulating an emerging industry so that new transportation options can flourish in Chicago while consumers are ensured a safe and reliable experience," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday in response to Quinn killing that provision. "Beginning next week, the City will implement the commonsense ordinance that passed City Council in May so that rideshare is no longer operating in a regulatory vacuum."

The politics of Illinois and Uber are messy and complicated as lawmakers attempt to toe a tricky line between playing nice with a consumer-friendly business and satisfying labor interests threatened by Uber's global domination goals (which include wiping out traditional taxi companies).

"HB 4075 was intended to limit competition and protect the profits of taxi company owners," Chris Taylor, general manager of Uber's Chicago branch. "It would have done nothing to improve the safety of Illinois’ streets and would have limited the growth of transportation alternatives across the state."

Continued Taylor, "Governor Quinn’s embrace of innovation adds to a growing chorus of leaders who understand the benefits of this new industry: higher incomes for drivers, choices for residents and visitors who need a ride, lower DUI rates, service in neighborhoods that have been ignored by taxi companies for decades, and economic opportunities in cities of all sizes."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Karen Lewis Stops Dropping Rahm's Name in Public]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:08:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Lewis_rahm.jpg

Karen Lewis is getting serious about running for mayor.

Besides buzz that her supporters are setting up a Super PAC in her name, the fiery Chicago Teachers Union boss has popped up at two public panels in the last few days. On Tuesday she headlined "A Conversation With Karen Lewis" in Beverly, announcing that she'd laid groundwork for a potential run by submitting documents to the Board of Elections that give her clearance to collect political donations.

At an event in Little Village last night, Lewis did not mention Rahm Emanuel by name. Not once.

 It's another sign that she may be ready to make things official a week after the Tribune published a poll revealing that if the mayoral election were held this month, most Chicagoans would back Lewis over Emanuel, whose approval ratings have slid since he took office there years ago.

Though Emanuel's an underdog for 2015 in terms of popularity, no viable candidate has stepped up to challenge a celebrity mayor whose name recognition, A-list political connections and wealthy allies would intimidate anyone from entering the race.

Not Lewis. The will-she-or-won't-she chatter has reached fever pitch, the polls are in her favor, and now it's a question of not if but when she'll make an announcement. After Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle decided against running in July, Lewis was pushed to the forefront of possible Emanuel contenders amid concerns over whether she could survive the inevitably brutal smear campaign by City Hall.

In the event of a Lewis-Emanuel showdown, Ward Room's Mark Anderson predicted she'd be painted as "a political neophyte who’s not ready to run a big city. Or worse, a dangerous radical out of touch with the needs of everyday Chicagoans. ... Next come the political operators and ideologues who find the idea of a powerful black woman completely unacceptable, ready to call Lewis a communist, race-baiter, un-American."

Lewis, who led the headline-making teachers strike in 2012, and on whom Emanuel famously dropped an F-bomb, has been candid about her disdain for the mayor and his education policies. A progressive folk heroine here in Chicago, she's created a veritable stand-up comedy routine out of mocking Emanuel in earshot of the media. Back in May, she joked that Bozo the Clown could defeat Emanuel at the ballot box this February. (She has previously dubbed him the "Murder Mayor.")

Fast-forward to August, and her rhetoric has changed. She's toned down the anti-Rahm insults (those were getting tired anyway) and redirected the conversation to her pro-community agenda, without directly mentioning He Who Shall Not Be Named.

"The current administration gives those who need the least, the most, and keeps disadvantaged and marginalized students and other people at arm's length. We don't have a voice," she said Thursday, according to the Trib.

"Closing mental health clinics. Closing libraries. Closing schools. If you take the institutions out of the neighborhood what are you left with? This has got to stop, and it will not stop if we continue to have the same top-down, autocratic leadership that does not listen to the people," she told the crowd at El Pollo Real Restaurant, on the city's South Side.

Lewis, low on concrete policy solutions but high on neighborhood goodwill, declared: "The first thing is we have to raise enough money to run a credible campaign. That's No. 1. That's going to be one of the big asks in the next few weeks."

It's clear she was (smartly) advised to focus on defining herself to voters and reduce the noisy Emanuel smack-talk. Conversely, the mayor refuses to acknowledge Lewis in public, opting to promote himself as leader who will move Chicago forward rather than sling mud at his his soundbite-spewing archnemesis.

If these two ever get in the ring for a debate, however, all bets will be off -- and all eyes will be on Lewis as she struggles to unseat an incumbent whose deep-pocketed power network, personal fortune and national celeb-status exceeds her own.


<![CDATA[Report Finds IDOT Broke Hiring Rules For Years]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:55:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_pat_quinn16.jpg

Governor Pat Quinn’s administration not only failed to rein-in political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, the practice seems to have gone into high gear after Quinn took over from disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich. 

A new report from the Office of the Executive Inspector General found that scores of employees were hired into what were supposed to be non-political positions, many referred by influential legislators, often with no qualifications for the jobs they were given.

“There’s no indication governor Quinn approved every one of these hires,” said Executive Inspector General Riccardo Meza. “We did not find that Governor Quinn himself recommended anyone.”

But Meza said for 10 years, the rules at IDOT should have been clear, and were openly flaunted.

“The duration and pervasiveness of IDOT’s improper acts have undoubtedly denied countless qualified candidates the opportunity to lawfully obtain state employment on the basis of merit,” the report states, charging that in some cases, individuals were hired into slots reserved for political hires, then moved into what should have been jobs reserved for the most qualified applicants.

Investigators said they found that employees hired for what were described as policy positions, were actually engaged in jobs like secretarial work, mowing lawns at state rest stops, or power washing trucks.

The investigation found that the improper hiring practices “exploded” in 2003 under Blagojevich, but seemed to go into high gear in 2010 and 2011 under Quinn’s tenure, dropping significantly after the probe was revealed. And while the report finds no evidence that Quinn had any knowledge of the rampant political hires, investigators seemed to suggest that in some cases, the practice may have been one of expediency more than politics.

Still, there is evidence that qualified employees were speaking up.

“I consider this constant stream of new, unqualified, and sometimes useless individuals offensive, as both a taxpayer, and a professional employee,” one employee of the Division of Aeronautics wrote Schneider in late 2011. “The current staff is being told to ‘train’ them, or find things for them to do.”

“The positions filled by political people were not expected to play by the same rules as those who came in the front door,” another employee said.  

“It was understood that people who were employed because of their political connections may be doing less or different duties for the same pay as others employed in the same title, and who had to compete for their jobs.”

The clout-heavy list of political sponsors or referrals, ranged from House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, to various committeemen and state legislators.  The report listed the daughter of former 47th ward alderman Eugene Schulter as among the beneficiaries, along with State Senator Kimberly Lightford’s husband.  

On Thursday, anticipating the report’s release, IDOT said various hiring reforms had been implemented, and that 58 workers had been laid off.  Schneider, the former director, resigned last month, but in a stinging response to the report, suggested she had only taken orders from the top.

“It is my recollection that the vast majority…were chosen from those recommended to me or my staff by the governor’s office,” Schneider wrote. “Neither I, nor my staff, were in a position to reject the recommended individuals for these exempt positions, because no additional interviews were required.”

Schneider did not return a phone call seeking comment, but a source close to the former director said she had been “thrown under the bus,” and that she was receiving support from throughout the state.

The state’s new transportation chief, says reforms demanded by the governor are already in place.

“This is a problem more than five decades in the making, but one we are taking steps to address,” said acting secretary Erica Borggren. “My concern is with the known issues inside the agency, and what we’re doing to fix them.”

The IDOT affair quickly became fodder for the campaign trail. Republican Bruce Rauner said it was proof positive that political patronage is alive and well on Quinn’s watch.

“Even back in 2010 Pat Quinn made statements that he was dealing with patronage inside his administration and ending patronage inside his administration,” Rauner said. “Patronage looks like it’s accelerating from the information that is coming forth now.”

But the Quinn campaign seized on the report’s finding that Quinn himself had no direct involvement in the hires.

“The governor inherited those problems from the previous administration,” said campaign spokesman Brooke Anderson. “The report makes clear that the governor was not aware of those problems.”

<![CDATA[Perry in NH: Charges All Politics]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:03:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/edtAP259994489655.jpg

New Hampshire wasn't kind to Texas Governor Rick Perry back in 2012. He's hoping voters in the granite state will give him a fresh start as he considers another presidential bid in 2016.

On Friday, Governor Perry returned to New Hampshire for a series of GOP sponsored events.

He met with business leaders in Portsmouth and focused many of his remarks on border concerns and the growing threat of ISIS, even connecting the two by speculating members of ISIS could enter the U.S. through unsecured borders.

"ISIS has said we are coming to America and they are going to attack us, I take them at their word," said Gov. Rick Perry.

Governor Perry also addressed his recent indictment on coercion charges by a Texas grand jury. He called the charges politically motivated and said he will fight them with every fiber of his being.

He also acknowledged making mistakes in New Hampshire back in 2012, saying he didn't spend enough time in the state and wasn't as prepared as he would have liked.

Governor Perry will make several more stops in New Hampshire through Saturday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Rauner Once Called Quinn an 'Extraordinary' Leader]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:18:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bruce_Rauner_budget.jpg

Wait, what? Bruce Rauner called Pat Quinn an "extraordinary" leader?

Excuse me, I just spit out my coffee.

At first I thought the Sun-Times' headline was an Onion-style parody. Then I watched the video. The paper unearthed old footage of Rauner singing Democrats' praises during a November 2010 speech on the National Restaurant Association's decision to keep its annual trade show at McCormick Place. At the time, Rauner was founding partner at the private equity firm GTCR and also leader of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Board.

Rauner commended Illinois politicians including former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and Quinn, his 2014 arch-nemesis.

Taking the stage, Rauner told the crew that "on behalf of the business community I want to say that you have shown extraordinary teamwork, dedication and leadership on behalf of our convention and visitor industry. The reality is, here in Chicago, in Illinois, there is no more important industry for our future economic growth and job creation than our visitor industry. Our leaders recognize that and we in the business community thank them and applaud their hard work and dedication."

Watch Quinn nod his head in agreement while Rauner stresses the importance of Chicago tourism, one of current Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pet platforms. It's surreal.

<![CDATA[Romney and Ryan Reunite in Chicago Thursday]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:03:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_062412_cierre_pena_nieto1.jpg

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, are reuniting publicly for the first time since their unsuccessful bid for the White House two years ago.

Romney is interviewing Ryan on stage in Chicago Thursday night. The subject is Ryan's new book, "The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea."
The Wisconsin congressman is weighing a presidential campaign of his own. His book includes an account of how, at 15, he found his alcoholic father dead in bed from an apparent heart attack.
Ryan has said that event shaped him as a politician and family man, and figures heavily into whether he'll seek the presidency in 2016.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Feds Indict Chicago Defense Attorney]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:36:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Beau_bridley.jpg

Rising star defense attorney Beau Brindley has been charged in Wisconsin federal court with perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice. 

Federal authorities Thursday charged Brindley, 36, with five counts relating to the 2009 trial of Alexander Vasquez, according to the indictment. 

Brindley is accused of instructing Vasquez's wife Marina Collazo to lie on the stand about his drug stash, the indictment reads. The indictment also says that Brindley wrote testimony for Vasquez and practiced with him about how to deliver it. 

FBI agents raided Brindley's office in Chicago's Loop in late July and notified the courts shortly after the raid that Brindley was the target of an investigation. 

“The United States is requesting, in matters involving Mr. Brindley still pending before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, that the district court address with Mr. Brindle’s clients any potential conflict of interest,” the motion continues. “The United States brings this matter to the Court’s attention in the exercise of its duty of candor to the court.”

Brindley is a well-known attorney who has represented numerous high profile clients, including escaped bank robber Joseph Banks and convicted mob bomber Samuel Volpendesto.

He currently has dozens of cases pending at the district and appellate level, and court insiders say all of those clients will be advised of his current legal woes.

If convicted, Brindley could serve up to 25 years in prison. 

<![CDATA[Can Joe Biden's Charm Help Quinn Defeat Rauner?]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:40:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP364891250690.jpg

The White House will deploy Joe Biden to Chicago on Monday, where the veep will stump for Gov. Pat Quinn and other Illinois Democrats up for re-election this November.

Biden will be the marquee guest at a $15,000-per-plate dinner that evening to raise money for Quinn's neck-and-neck race against multi-millionaire Republican rival Bruce Rauner, who's running a successful grassroots grab for the governorship.

"Gov. Quinn deeply appreciates the leadership of Vice President Joe Biden, who has always been a partner and crusader for working families," says his spokesperon. "The Vice President understands what's at stake in this election and we're looking forward to welcoming him in Chicago."

Biden will also gather for lunch fundraiser with Reps. Robin Kelly, Jan Schakowsky and Tammy Duckworth at the home of CouponCabin CEO Scott Kluth, according to the Tribune. Attendees must write checks for at least $5,000 to get in the door.

With his salt-of-the-earth charm, goofy streak and populist politics, the vice president is a no-brainer choice to send to Chicago. This is a proudly Democratic city and Quinn -- who's losing a state-wide popularity contest to Rauner, the shiny new alternative  -- cannot afford to alienate his voter base here.

The Obama Administration, eager to keep Quinn in office, earlier this summer dispatched First Lady Michelle Obama to headline a Democratic National Committee event at the Waldorf-Astoria, where she urged donors to open their wallets and ensure Quinn "gets over the finish line." Back in May, President Obama -- in Chicago to fund-raise for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin -- met with Quinn for a meal.

Earlier this month, former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican, told Politico he thinks that while Obama could collect lots of cash for Quinn and help bring African-American voters, that may not be enough to make an impact on the state as a whole.

"It's not like he was governor and he had his own organization put together or anything," said Edgar, noting Obama's quick transition from Springfield to Washington has left the president without a strong-enough political support system in Illinois.

Nearing the end of his presidency, Obama still remains a highly popular figure in his adopted hometown. His vice president, a valuable fundraising asset for the Democrats despite being prone to bouts of "Uncle Joe Syndrome," plays well here, too. He's the kind of guy people want to grab a beer with, and Quinn -- who seems to be in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight -- could probably use one right about now.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Chicago Looks Ready For Its ‘Progressive Moment’]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:33:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/chicago+city+hall.jpg

Look out, Bill de Blasio—here we come! 

While no one can predict the outcome of the 2015 city elections this far in advance, it seems clear something unusual is brewing in Chicago politics.
For the first time in a long time, the political power structure in Chicago appears to be gaining some serious opposition. And that opposition isn't coming from an established political party like the Republicans.
Instead, it’s coming from what’s essentially a loose coalition of candidates, community groups, activists and citizens searching for a viable alternative to the direction the city has been going in for more than a few decades.
Even more important, it’s being powered by a political philosophy that runs counter to national trends and the wishes of those who’ve held office on the 5th Floor of City Hall for more than 25 years. A political philosophy that runs to the left of what’s supposed to be a big-city, liberal Democratic base.
And while it goes too far to say this movement represents an actual political party, all of the pieces are falling into place for what looks like the most serious challenge to politics as usual in this town since Harold Washington won in 1983.
For example, it looks like two different progressive candidates—Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti—are getting ready to throw their hats into the ring.
As well, the groundwork is being laid for a potential sea change in the makeup of City Council, with the majority of challengers calling themselves progressives or open to progressive ideals.
Further, donors big and small—from the head of the American Federation of Teachers to individual, grassroots donors—appear ready to open their checkbooks to make donations to progressive candidates.
For the right candidate, there’s a 30,000-strong army of foot soldiers lurking in the weeds, battle-tested and ready to work for someone able to take on Rahm Emanuel and the policies he represents.
And speaking of Rahm, as polls show there’s little doubt a significant chunk of Chicago voters are ready for a change. And are willing to consider more progressive approaches to solving the city’s problems.  
All in all, it adds up to what political scientists and others like to call a “Progressive Moment”: a time when voters, faced with failing, middle-of-the-road policies and politicians, are ready to embrace more populist and progressive candidates, programs and solutions.
In Chicago, those policies include items like an elected school board, responsible pension reform, new and progressive tax strategies and a different approach to policing the city’s crime problem.
In fact, it’s a little-told story in big-city and national politics across the country. Increasingly, opposition to existing power structures in big cities is coming not from the political right, but from the left. For proof, just look at New York’s de Blasio, Newark’s Ras Baraka, Seattle’s Kshama Sawant or Minneapolis’ Betsy Hodges, to name a few.
Undoubtedly, there are a whole host of reasons why the potential for progressive political movement in Chicago could pass by, unrealized. Or that progressives could take on the existing power structure and lose.
Take the millions of dollars in Rahm’s campaign war chest, for starters.
But what’s clear is that as far as progressives go in Chicago, the opportunity for a historic moment is upon them.
And, whether progressives win or lose, Chicago looks like it’s not ready to let the moment pass.
<![CDATA[Appeals Court Rules Against Term Limits on the Ballot]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:47:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bruce+and+diana+rauner.jpg

Proponents of term limits for Illinois lawmakers were preparing a last-minute appeal to the state Supreme Court after an appeals court ruled Wednesday that a measure asking voters to approve such a measure could not appear on the November ballot.

Mark Campbell, director of The Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits, said the group's legal team was "working feverishly" and planned to submit its appeal to the high court late Wednesday or early Thursday. The group hopes the justices will intervene before a state Board of Elections meeting Friday in which the ballot will be finalized.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Supreme Court spokesman Joe Tybor said the group had not filed a required petition with the court. "There has to be a ... motion to expedite the matter," he said.
The pro-term limits group, chaired by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, also could request that the court direct the elections board to suspend the ballot certification process.
Rauner's group insists the measure would be overwhelmingly approved by voters. It would limit legislators to eight years in office, increase the size of the Illinois House, reduce the size of the Senate and make it tougher for the Legislature to override a governor's veto.
But on Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Appellate Court in Chicago affirmed a Cook County judge's June decision that the measure is unconstitutional, noting in its 15-page decision that the initiative violated specific provisions of the Illinois Constitution.
The initiative, the court says, does not adequately satisfy a constitutional requirement that changes to the Legislature be "structural and procedural."
The court noted that it also violates a clause of the constitution by combining "separate and unrelated questions in one referendum," noting there isn't an adequate relationship between limiting the terms of lawmakers and setting a threshold to override the governor's veto.
The committee gathered about 600,000 signatures for the proposed ballot measure. Rauner has seized on the measure as part of his attacks on "career politicians." Critics see it as an attempt to drive up friendly turnout in his campaign against incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
Attorneys with ties to top Democrats, including longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, sued this spring to keep the question off the ballot. Arguing on behalf of several business groups, they say taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on a measure that is clearly unconstitutional.
Cook County Judge Mary Mikva agreed in late June, saying the question didn't meet the "structural and procedural" requirement. The Supreme Court refused a request at that time to directly take up the issue, bypassing the appellate court.
Rauner said in a statement Thursday that he remained "hopeful" the Supreme Court would rule in the committee's favor. He argued that the amendment was "carefully crafted to meet all the requirements that the Illinois Supreme Court very clearly laid out" in a 1994 decision rejecting a term-limits initiative that year.
That measure was advocated by Quinn, who has criticized Rauner for being a late-comer to those advocating term limits. Quinn says he doesn't support Rauner's measure because of the changes it would make to the size of the House. Quinn led a voter initiative in 1980 that reduced the number of state representatives.
Advocates also point to the geographic diversity of the Supreme Court as a potential reason why the court might rule in its favor. They have noted that both earlier decisions were made by judges in heavily Democratic Cook County.
"The only court that is capable of modifying a decision they made in 1994 is the Supreme Court," Campbell said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rahm to Ed Kelly: Don't Feel Sorry for Me]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:23:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-emanuel-juvenile.jpg

Memo to Ed Kelly: Rahm Emanuel doesn't want your pity.

The embattled Chicago boss -- struggling to regain Chicagoans' approval before February's mayoral election -- defends his hometown cred after the 90-year-old former Park District Superintendent said he feels sorry for Emanuel and called him a "suburbanite" in a Sun-Times interview.

"I appreciate his sentiments of feeling sorry (for me). I don't," responded Emanuel, according to the Sun-Times. "I think public service is an incredible responsibility, and it’s a great job. The city of Chicago, the children here, the teachers here — we have an incredibly bright future if we face up to our challenges and do the right thing."

When asked about Emanuel, Kelly -- a once-notorious political power broker and Daley loyalist -- told the paper: "I feel sorry for Rahm, I really do. Rahm had no idea what he was getting into. Rahm's not a Chicago guy. He'll never be a Chicago guy. He's not a street guy. He's trying to be, but he's not. He's a suburbanite. He's not a Chicagoan, he really isn't. He's smart, very smart. I think what he inherited is going to continue on, he's going to find out more problems, money problems and things."

Dismissing the remark, Emanuel reiterated his Windy City credentials:  "My grandfather came to Chicago in 1917 fleeing the pogroms. My uncle was a police officer here in the city of Chicago representing the 17th District. My father had a practice here. I was a congressman from Chicago."

<![CDATA[Rauner Agrees to Only 3 Debates]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:13:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Quinn_Rauner_4_11.jpg

Illinois' gubernatorial candidates will appear together at three traditional debates before November.

They are Oct. 9 in Peoria, hosted by PBS and the League of Women Voters; Oct. 14, hosted by the Chicago Urban League; and another in Chicago later in October, hosted by the League of Women Voters and WLS-TV.
Republican Bruce Rauner's campaign released a list Wednesday of eight debates and forums ahead of Nov. 4.
That list includes a joint live-streamed Sept. 9 Chicago Tribune endorsement session and an Aug. 28 Metropolitan Planning Council event where organizers say the two candidates won't appear jointly.
Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign criticized Rauner for "hiding," saying Wednesday that Quinn confirmed for 11 events.
Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf says Rauner's list is diverse and more than the U.S. president does.
<![CDATA[Karen Lewis' Mayoral Committee Files With Board of Elections]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:46:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Karen_Lewis_8-13.jpg

Karen Lewis is one step closer to entering the race for Chicago mayor.

The Chicago Teachers Union president's mayoral committee filed "statement of organization" papers Tuesday with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The form states the committee will be created for supporting a candidate running for mayor.

The move comes after Lewis spoke to potential voters at a "Conversations With Karen" event Tuesday at the Beverly Woods Banquet Hall in the 19th Ward. During the third event in her "listening tour" series, she said she's still deciding whether to run in next year's election.

"I will decide when I have certain things in place," Lewis said, "and those things are, primarily, the three things you need to run a campaign. You've got to have money, you've got to have people and you've got to have time, so I want to run things on my timeline."

Still she continues to sound more like a potential mayoral candidate.

Lewis acknowledged she can't compete with incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $8 million war chest and figures it will climb even higher.

"The good news is the majority of people who have the money who will be voting for him won't be able to vote because they won't live here," Lewis said.

She confirmed she filed the necessary paperwork Tuesday in order to comply with campaign finance laws in Illinois.

<![CDATA[The Messy Politics of Illinois and Uber]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:21:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Uber-Car-Rentals.jpg

As Uber plows into the taxi industry in Illinois with its eye on dominating Chicago, the fast-growing ride-share start-up has recruited a powerful ally to handle the messy political side of things.

The news that President Barack Obama's former adviser and campaign strategist David Plouffe has joined the company as senior VP of policy and strategy delivers a strong message to its enemies: Uber means business. How dare you disrupt our disruption? You're going down.

Here in the Land of Lincoln, Plouffe's hiring adds another layer of awkward personal politics to the Great Uber Debate. It's an increasingly tangled web: Plouffe worked in the White House alongside Rahm Emanuel when the Chicago mayor was Chief of Staff. Emanuel, trying to strike a balance between Uber-friendly and cabbie-considerate, recently passed a bill that restricts Uber drivers from picking up passengers at O'Hare, Midway and McCormick Place. (Ay, but there's a loophole: City transportation brass reserve power to open the commuter centers to ride-share disrupters, thereby cutting into the traditional cab territory.)

Further complicating matters, Emanuel's brother, Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, has invested in Uber. The Democratic mayor, up for re-election in February, is a long-time friend of Bruce Rauner, an ex-venture capitalist running a successful grassroots campaign for Illinois governor on the Republican ticket. Despite their history -- the two are vacation buddies -- Emanuel is toeing the party line to support incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in what's shaping up to be a close race on Nov. 4.

So is Obama. And Quinn, threatened by Rauner's momentum, has tapped the president's election team to help him hold onto his Democratic base in Chicago -- a crucial, make-or-break voting bloc for the Machine.

"Mr. Quinn is hiring lots of Obama campaign vets and stretching to motivate Chicago voters, especially African-Americans. That's almost certainly why you'll see Mr. Obama here sometime in the fall campaigning for Mr. Quinn," wrote Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz in his Monday column.

As for Rauner, he's pulling a Rand Paul and making a play for the youthful, pro-innovation, libertarian-leaning, testosterone-heavy techie vote. The Winnetka businessman declared his love for Uber in late July, calling for Quinn to veto the General Assembly's ride-share regulation bill which would mandate commercial insurance and background checks for drivers -- restrictions that Uber desperately wants to prevent.

"Ride-share drivers should have insurance and background checks. But Pat Quinn shouldn’t sign this bill – it sends another signal that Illinois is closed to innovation," said Rauner, talking out of both sides of his mouth in a wishy-washy statement. 

Following the Plouffe bombshell, Rauner issued another messsage of Uber-solidarity urging Quinn to squash the legislation without offering solutions for how to improve it.

"David Plouffe’s first order of business should be to encourage Governor Pat Quinn to veto the anti-ride sharing bill pending right here in President Obama’s home state," he said. "Ride-sharing companies like Uber are exactly the type of innovative companies Illinois should be welcoming and recruiting - I know it and the President’s top people know it. Pat Quinn should know it too."

Unlike Quinn and Emanuel, Rauner's in a position where he can publicly cozy up to Uber -- and its tech bro fans -- without worrying about backlash from taxi interests and supporters.

If he prevails in November, Gov. Rauner will have to tone down his rhetoric -- at least in public. But he'll have plenty of allies to help Uber on its path to world domination.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Who Wins Twitter: Quinn vs. Rauner]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:44:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/162211003.jpg

The Illinois governor race is growing more intense by the millisecond as Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn fends off formidable foe Bruce Rauner on the Republican side. Rauner, a multi-millionaire venture capitalist from Winnetka, has gained considerable momentum since winning the GOP state primary in March and this summer has seen pollsters tip the election his direction. While Rauner campaigns on a vow to "Shake Up Springfield," Team Quinn is playing the wealth card, knocking the candidate for diverting part of his fortune to the Cayman Islands and using a corporate loophole to save millions in tax money.

Rauner, who rode his Harley to the Illnois State Fair last week, has made an effort to present himself as as a regular guy (who also happens to own nine homes). Quinn has tried to persuade government-fatigued Illinoisians to give him another chance.

Both men are using Twitter to get out the vote. Curious about their followers' demographics, Ward Room asked StatSocial -- a company that analyzes social data -- to give us the lowdown on who's reading tweets from @GovernorQuinn and @BruceRauner. (View the infographics below.)

See the Infographic for Bruce Rauner:

See the Infographic for Governor Pat Quinn:



Here's how the political enemies stack up on the micro-blogging platform:

Gender: Quinn attracts more female than male followers, 55 to 45 percent. By contrast, Rauner has more male than female followers, 63 to 37 percent.

Businesses: Oddly, more commercial accounts follow Quinn than Rauner. Quinn's follower count includes 7 percent businesses to Rauner's 5 percent.

Age: Quinn has the most youthful followers, besting Rauner in the 18-24 and 25-34 age brackets. Rauner bests Quinn in the 35-44, 45-54 and 54-plus brackets.

Income: Rauner's followers are wealthier than Quinn's, with 24.06 percent boasting incomes in the ballpark of $100K. Thirteen percent of Quinn followers fall within the same range. Quinn has more followers in the lowest income segment (42 percent) than does Rauner (34.47 percent).

Favorite Nonprofits: Rauner followers like the NRA, TED Talks and Red Cross. Quinn's like the Gates Foundation, ACLU National and United Way.

Favorite News Sites: Rauner's followers read Drudge, the HuffPo and the conservative-skewing The Daily Caller. Quinn's check HuffPo, The Daily Beast and the liberal blog ThinkProgress.

Favorite TV Shows: Both candidates' followers love Comedy Central's The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. Quinn's also like NBC's Today show. Rauner's like NBC's Late Night With Seth Meyers (formerly hosted by Jimmy Fallon).

Favorite Magazines: Quinn's followers like TIME, The New Yorker and The Economist. Rauner's like The Economist too as well as Forbes and National Review.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Karen Lewis Slams Rahm's 'Meaningless' Firefighter Jobs Plan in Sun-Times Op-Ed]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:55:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Karen_Lewis_8-13.jpg

Chicago Teachers Union boss and human megaphone Karen Lewis is attacking Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the pages of the Sun-Times, dismissing his new initiative to give CPS grads a leg up in city firefighter jobs as an election-season PR stunt.

"The mayor’s policy should be rejected for what it really is — a meaningless stunt that does nothing whatsoever to raise CPS graduation rates and has zero impact on the quality of public safety in Chicago," Lewis writes. "It does, however, foster religious and racial divisiveness and invites significant legal challenges that could cost taxpayers millions."

The CTU leader, currently considering a run for mayor, argues that Emanuel's plan -- which proposes the preferential hiring of former public school students over others -- would offer an "unfair advantage above students enrolled in private or religious schools," most of whom are "classified as 'Caucasian' for racial statistics purposes," she adds.

Outlining an intriguing counter-proposal, Lewis calls instead for Emanuel to "work toward giving students the educational resources they need to become successful firefighters." One solution is to introduce firefighting and fire science into school curricula as a real-world, vocational course of study -- a move she says could curb high school dropout rates since Career and Technical Education programs keep more kids in the classroom than other tracks.

A progressive symbol here in Chicago, Lewis was irked by Emanuel's trip to New York City last week for an income inequality summit led by Big Apple Mayor Bill De Blasio, another left-wing icon and proponent of public school education and teachers. Like Lewis, De Blasio has clashed with charter schools and supporters; like Emanuel, he's attempting to get universal pre-K for every urban student.

Lewis accused Emanuel of affecting a liberal image to snag more votes following three years of "closing schools, demoralizing the police department and creating a mess." Emanuel denied allegations that he sought to puff up his progressive track record and blamed his poor reviews on Chicagoans' "economic stress."

His political future at stake, Emanuel -- now the underdog for 2015 -- is trying on a De Blasio-esque progressive persona amid a sharp decline in his approval rating. Last week the Chicago Tribune published a survey revealing that if the election were held today, a majority of Chicagoans would back Lewis over Emanuel.

A spokesperson for the mayor did not immediately respond to Ward Room's request for comment on Lewis' op-ed.


<![CDATA[GOP Staffer in Chicken Suit Faces Charges After Clucking at NH Governor, Senator]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:25:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/zona+chicken+suit.jpg

A GOP state committee staff member has been charged with disorderly conduct after heckling New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan at this past Saturday's Old Home Day parade.

Michael Zona, of Manchester, was dressed in a chicken suit when he began to interfere with the parade, reports The Eagle-Tribune.

The 23-year-old allegedly ran out into the parade route toward Shaheen and Hassan, clucking at them.
"I believe Senator Jeanne Shaheen should be holding town halls and I have a First Amendment right to express that point of view. I wasn't bothering anyone. I wasn't disturbing anyone. In fact, I got a good deal of encouragement from people along the parade route," said Zona in response to the incident.
Zona was escorted from the parade after failing to comply with numerous requests to stop. 
“At one point, the governor had to take a few steps back toward her security staff,” Detective Christopher Olson told The Eagle-Tribune.
Julia McClain of the New Hampshire Democratic Party used the incident to blast the state Republicans, saying the party "wastes taxpayer resources and local law enforcement time with these juvenile antics when we should be discussing critical issues that matter--like raising the minimum wage, creating good paying jobs, and protecting social security and Medicare for our state's seniors."

Photo Credit: Twitter: John DiStaso]]>
<![CDATA[A Year After Closures, CPS Schools Remain Empty (and on the Market)]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:56:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_cps1.jpg

Now that CPS closed all those schools, what's the district going to do with the extra space?

The Chicago Tribune reports that three out of 47 elementary schools shuttered last year due to below-average student enrollment are being shopped to possible bidders for commercial use. The fates of another seven will be up for debate at aldermen-led community meetings. Most facilities stand dormant, prone to vandalism.

Per CPS' request, City Council members whose wards had school closings are leading a bottom-up effort to meet with constituents and let them decide a building's new purpose. Twenty-seventh Ward Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., who has six buildings on his roster, is none too pleased with the progress.

"I think it's moving slow," Burnett Jr. told Trib. "For me to have all these meetings, my schedule doesn't allow me to do it immediately. It should be (CPS) doing this, but they're asking us to do it because they're trying to be sensitive to the community and the aldermen. That type of sensitivity takes time."

CPS, meanwhile, has agreed not to hand over the properties to alternative charter schools, which are privately run and publicly funded and a sore subject in Chicago. (Many Chicagoans felt slighted by public school closings in their parts of town, and also by the district's increased funding for alt-education. Charters, sniffing an opportunity, have expressed interest in taking over the schools.)

According to the paper, the district is reportedly OK with how things are progressing and is looking at flipping the space into neighborhood-centric facilities as well as affordable housing.

Meanwhile, CPS is shelling out an annual sum of $1.8 million to maintain boarded-up vandal bait. Pending commercial and community interest -- if any -- CPS will need to "figure out something that the community would support and that CPS would not have to fund because at the end of the day we have to get these buildings off our books," said CPS exec Tom Tyrrell.

<![CDATA[Appeals Court Reinstates Casino Lawsuit Tied to Blagojevich ]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 23:01:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blago-crowd-P1.jpg

Judges at the Court of Appeals say there is adequate evidence to support an allegation that in 2008, Rod Blagojevich agreed to sign a bill benefiting the Illinois racing industry in exchange for a bribe.

The ruling did not come in Blagojevich’s actual appeal, which is currently before the court. Rather, it was in an ongoing case, between several casinos and John Johnston, the owner of Balmoral Racecourse.

That suit was previously dismissed by a lower court. But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it this week, saying the casinos should be allowed to prove their claim.

At issue is an allegation that Blagojevich maneuvered to receive a $100,000 campaign contribution in exchange for his signature on a bill which designated 3 percent of casino revenues for the state’s beleaguered racing industry.

“We conclude that there was enough to survive summary judgment on the claim that the governor agreed to sign the ’08 Act, in exchange for a bribe,” the judges wrote. “A reasonable juror could conclude that the race tracks agreed to pay $100,000 to Blagojevich’s campaign fund in exchange for his signature…”

During the former governor’s second trial, jurors heard undercover tapes, where Johnston told former Blagojevich aide Lon Monk how badly he needed the bill signed.

“How much is it a day that you’re losing right now by him not signing it?” Monk asked. 

“Our group is nine thousand a day,” Johnston replied.

The very next day, Blagojevich was heard on the FBI wire, discussing strategy with Monk about the best way to secure the Johnston donation.

“You could just say, ‘He could sign the bill right after the first of the year,’ I think you just say that,” Blagojevich said. “’He’s going to sign all his bills, he’s doing all his bills,’ right?”

“No,” Monk replied, “I want to go with him without crossing the line and say, ‘Give us the f***ing money!  Give us the money, and one has nothing to do with the other!”

The court noted that despite his promise, Johnston never actually delivered the money, and Blagojevich signed the bill after his arrest, which came just a few days after the taped conversations. The ruling notes that “Johnston signed an immunity agreement which represented that he ‘may have information relevant to the [Blagojevich] investigation,’ and acknowledged ‘that such information may tend to incriminate [himself].’”

Blagojevich and his attorneys always insisted that the racing bill and campaign contribution were never linked, and that the discussions taped by the FBI were merely strategy sessions on how best to make sure the two events were separated to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Concealed Carry Makes Chicagoans Feel "Less Safe": Poll]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:11:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/illinois+concealed+carry+permit.jpg

A new poll reveals that Illinois' new concealed carry law, introduced in January, makes a majority of Chicagoans feel unsafe.

According to the Chicago Tribune, 55 percent of poll-takers said they felt "less safe" with the law permitting licensed gun owners to bear hidden weapons in public. Meanwhile, 15 percent said they felt "more safe" and 30 percent said they were indifferent.

The numbers coincide with a rise in Chicago shootings this summer -- headline-making cases include the tragic death of 11-year-old Shamiya Adams -- and a decline in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's job approval rating. The Trib reported last week that his rating slipped from 50 percent around this time last year to a current low of 35 percent, revealing significant dissatisfaction with how the incumbent Democrat -- up for re-election this February -- is handling the city's myriad problems, crime being one of them. The mayor blames "economic stress" for his poor reviews.

"Concern about crime was represented by an increase in the percentage of voters who said they consider their neighborhood less safe since Emanuel became mayor," wrote the Trib. "A total of 27 percent of voters said they considered themselves to be less safe where they live, compared with 20 percent a year earlier. The percentage of those who said their neighborhood was the same as before Emanuel dropped from 68 percent to 61 percent."

Dogged by criticism that he's ignored the city's most crime- and poverty-ridden neighborhoods, Emanuel has nonetheless pushed for tighter gun control here in Chicago, moving to keep firearm shops away from schools and parks and calling gun violence the city's "most urgent problem."

City Hall has said most illegal guns are coming from nearby states with looser laws, and that 60 percent of crimes committed between 2009 and 2013 were used with weapons purchased primarily in Indiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi.

Meanwhile, it was reported Monday that 22 states have recognized Illinois' concealed carry weapons permit since the law took effect earlier this year. But Illinois doesn't have a reciprocity agreement with any states, meaning it doesn't acknowledge other state permits.

The Land of Lincoln, a blue state, was the last in America to allow concealed carry. The bill lawmakers passed in 2013 was due to a federal court order, and the legislation was battled hard by those who wanted Illinois to retain its ban on concealed weapons. 

<![CDATA[NYC Council Speaker Tweets About HPV Diagnosis, Urges Annual Check-Ups]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:34:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/MarkViverito.jpg

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced via Twitter Sunday that she had "high-risk HPV" in an effort to boost awareness about the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the country and encourage women to have regular gynecological exams.

In a series of tweets, Mark-Viverito divulged that she learned Friday she had the infection, and that she hadn't been to a gynecologist in two years prior to her most recent visit.

"At recent #GYN visit alarmed to find out last one, 2yrs ago. Friday got call re: results. Told have "high risk HPV". #Biopsy needed #ASAP," she tweeted.

"Tuesday I'm there. To say I'm not wee bit worried = lie. "High risk HPV" can POTENTIALLY but NOT definitively lead to cervical #cancer."

Mark-Viverito, 45, tweeted that she is "an extremely private person," but that her position has given her a platform -- and a responsibility to use it.

"Our health should never be compromised," she tweeted. "Annual physicals have to be sacred. Yet our health care system doesn't lend itself to this for many."

Mayor de Blasio called Mark-Viverito's decision to share her experience "brave" and "exemplary."

About 79 million people in the United States have HPV, and another 14 million contract it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can get it once they become sexually active, and nearly half of the new infections each year occur among people ages 15 to 24, according to the New York City Health Department.

Most people who get HPV have no symptoms of infection. Each year, about 12,000 women diagnosed with HPV nationwide develop cervical cancer, the most common cancer associated with the infection, and about 4,000 of them die from it.

To learn more about HPV treatment and prevention, including a vaccine, click here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: McMullan/Sipa USA]]>
<![CDATA[Former Vt. U.S. Sen. Jeffords Dead at 80]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 16:57:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/James+Jeffords.jpg

Former Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., died Monday at Knollwood, a military retirement home in Washington, D.C., a former aide said. He was 80.

A navy veteran, Jeffords made a name in politics as a state senator and attorney general before he was elected to seven terms in the U.S. House, once splitting with his fellow Republicans in opposing a President Reagan tax cut plan. Vermonters voted him into the Senate in 1988, where he was a champion for environmental causes.

The moderate, even liberal, Republican shocked Washington in 2001 when he said the GOP had drifted too far to the right for him. He quit the party, became an independent, and caucused with democrats.

“I am confident it is the right decision,” Jeffords said upon making his famous “jump.” “I hope that the people of Vermont will understand it.”

Jeffords announced in 2005 he would not seek re-election the next year, citing declining health.

"I think we have to bring back people like Jim Jeffords, who say running for office is really a form of public service," former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin said Monday.

Kunin remembered Jeffords as a good-hearted guy who just wanted to do what he thought was right; not tow some party line. "The comparison is rather painful, where we now have a Congress that prides itself on doing nothing, where in those days, people really went there to get things done and to improve the lives of the public," Kunin said.

"He's going to be very sorely missed," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who was in the U.S. House when Jeffords was in the Senate. "He was a guy who, I think, much preferred to be around Vermonters here in Vermont than among the big shots in Washington. It wasn't who he was."

Tom Vogelmann, the University of Vermont's agriculture and life sciences dean, told New England Cable News he thinks of Jeffords as "one of the giants." The University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is housed in the building that bears Jeffords' name.

"He was a very strong supporter of education, a very strong supporter of environmental legislation, and that's the curriculum that's basically taught in this building," Vogelmann told NECN. "So we have thousands of young people who are training here and that's all adding to his legacy."

Reflections on the life and legacy of Jim Jeffords poured in Monday. Here are several of those:

President Barack Obama:

Michelle and I send our deepest sympathies to the family of Senator James M. Jeffords on his passing. Jim devoted his life to service - as a Naval officer, a local leader in his hometown of Shrewsbury, and eventually as a U.S. Senator representing his beloved Vermont. During his more than 30 years in Washington, Jim never lost the fiercely independent spirit that made Vermonters, and people across America, trust and respect him. Whatever the issue - whether it was protecting the environment, supporting Americans with disabilities, or whether to authorize the war in Iraq - Jim voted his principles, even if it sometimes meant taking a lonely or unpopular stance. Vermonters sent him to Washington to follow his conscience, and he did them proud.

Our prayers are with the Jeffords family, including his son Leonard and daughter Laura. And we're grateful to Jim for his legacy of service to Vermont and the United States of America.

Vice President Joe Biden:

Jim Jeffords was a personal friend, a great senator, and a good man. He was not only beloved by the people of Vermont, but by anyone who ever worked with him. For the nearly four decades I served in the United States Senate, nearly half were spent with Jim as a colleague. Jim knew that with a country as diverse as ours, there is a need for consensus to move the country forward. He was a man who dealt with his colleagues without pretext and with complete honesty. And he always knew what he was talking about—and his colleagues and constituents always knew where he stood on an issue. Jim was a reflection of Vermont—independent and non-ideological and always about solving problems. Jill and I are saddened by his passing and join his family, friends, and his former staff in remembering all that he stood for: basic fairness and principled independence.

Former President Bill Clinton:

Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of our friend Senator Jim Jeffords, who served the people of Vermont and the United States for more than 30 years. Jim was one of our strongest advocates for better health and education, a cleaner environment, and increased opportunities for people with disabilities. I will always be especially grateful for his support of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill, and our 1993 health care reform effort. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends across the country.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.:

He was a partner in our work for Vermont, and he was a friend. He was a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation. Part of his legacy will also stand as an enduring chapter of the Senate's history.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.:

I know I share the view of all Vermonters today in expressing condolences to the family of Senator Jim Jeffords on his passing, and our gratitude to him for his life of service.

While Jim would certainly wave away the notion, he was indeed a legend in Vermont and the nation. With characteristic decency, humility and civility, and a dogged persistence, he made his mark in Congress. Millions of children with disabilities are better off today because he lead the charge for their equal access to education. Americans are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water because of his fierce advocacy for the environment and clean energy. And budding artists across the nation receive the boost of his encouragement every year thanks to his legacy as the founder of the annual Congressional Arts Competition.

And, in 2001, the world saw what his fellow Vermonters already knew: Jim Jeffords, above all, had the courage of his convictions.

Jim and his wife, Liz Daley Jeffords, were mentors to me in my early days in the House of Representatives. I am deeply grateful to them both for their friendship, their support and their contributions to Vermont and our country.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt.:

I join Vermonters and citizens nationwide today in celebrating the life of Jim Jeffords, a true gentleman and an independent-minded maverick in the best tradition of our state. Jim followed in the footsteps of Senators Bob Stafford and George Aiken, always putting the interests of Vermonters and the nation ahead of partisan politics. He followed his sense of right in all that he did, and was never afraid to seek compromise by reaching across the aisle for the good of our country. Jim’s contribution to Vermont spanned his service in the Vermont House, as Attorney General, and as Vermont’s Representative in the U.S. House, where he developed his passion for high quality public education that forged his policy work on behalf of our kids and continued throughout his career. The passing of Senator Jim Jeffords will be felt throughout Vermont and our country. We need more like Senator Jeffords. My heart goes out to his children and extended family.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt.:

The story of Vermont politics cannot be told without Jim Jeffords. He served in the most honorable way a person can serve: Selflessly, and always with the best interests of others at heart. He did what he felt was right, not what he felt would make him popular. Whether it was during his time in the Vermont Senate, or as Attorney General, or in the United States House of Representatives, or in the United States Senate, Jim valued the voices of Vermonters and leaves a legacy we can all learn from: Respect over rhetoric, pragmatism over pandering, and love for Vermonters overall.

In our large, and largely faceless, system of government, he demonstrated the power that one person speaking for their constituents can have. His example of moderation and independence is what I’ve tried to model my own career off of. My sincere condolences go out to Laura, Leonard, and the entire Jeffords family.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: How Rahm Became an Underdog ]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:08:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_emanuelrahmgi.jpg

For a politician about to enter a tough campaign season, poor polling numbers can usually mean one of three things.

One, they can mean the candidate’s personality isn't resonating very well with voters.
Two it can mean that the campaign’s message isn't working very well, or isn't really being heard.
Finally, it can mean the candidate has done something or many things as an incumbent that people, really, really don't like.
Even though it’s early in the campaign season for the 2015 Chicago Mayoral election, it looks like Rahm Emanuel is currently hitting the trifecta on all three.
Following a recent string of poor poll results showing Emanuel has lost the faith of a large range of voters across the city, a new Chicago Tribune poll has put the number of ways Rahm is struggling into perspective.
For one, poll respondents find the mayor isn't doing a very good job:
Facing concerns over crime, education and the economy, Emanuel now holds a 35 percent job approval rating — down from 50 percent a little more than a year ago. In addition, more than half of city voters now disapprove of how Emanuel has handled his first term, up from 40 percent.
For another, many different kinds of potential voters don't like him, including members of his perceived voter base:
During the past year, the mayor's approval rating has dropped across all major racial, income, age and gender lines. Perhaps most troubling to Emanuel's re-election: crumbling support among white voters and an accelerating decline of support among African-American ones.
Even worse, it appears from the poll a lot of people are angry about specific policies he has enacted:
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed disapprove of the mayor's handling of the public school system. And about the same number sided with the Chicago Teachers Union over Emanuel in the ongoing debate about how to improve CPS. Around a quarter of city voters polled back the mayor.
That’s a particularly bad situation for someone who’s primary potential challenger, Karen Lewis, runs the CTU, one of the most powerful unions in the state and seen by many as a champion for public education policies.
Perhaps even worse, Rahm’s vaunted political skills and campaign messaging don't seem to be hitting on all cylinders these days.
Take, for example, his tone-deaf attempt to blame his bad polling on “the economy”.
Or his attempt to basically shrug his shoulders and say bad polls today don't matter. Emanuel told the Trib:
Asked today why he was failing to connect with voters and what he’d do to turn his numbers around, Emanuel said it’s not yet election season and he won’t concern himself with a poll.
“When the time comes, we’ll deal with all types of different things, and I’ll tell the story of what we’ve done and what more work we have to do and what we have to focus on and what the policies are for the opportunities and challenges that face the people of Chicago.”
That didn't stop him, however, from possibly dropping a dime on his two biggest potential challengers earlier this week. The Chicago Sun-Times reported stories on Karen Lewis’ income and real estate holdings and problems for Bob Fioretti paying campaign staffers. Under the radar, both stories are seen by many political observers as coming directly or indirectly from Rahm’s campaign team.
You could consider Rahm’s attempts at hijacking positive buzz over Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West going to the Little League World Series as a heavy-handed attempt to gain votes in the black community.
Or view his recent touting of “progressive” policies and friends such as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as a transparent attempt to burnish his liberal credentials.
Or his failing to get out ahead of the ongoing red light camera ticket scandal as the mark of a politician basically washing his hands on an issue that matters greatly to taxpayer’s pocketbooks.
Much has been made of Emanuel’s daunting campaign war chest, currently pegged at over $8 million. Many observers feel that should be enough to hold off anyone who might dare to challenge him for a second term.
Once, that group even included me.
But, the truth is, even this far out from Election Day, Emanuel’s not facing a traditional set of campaign problems that can be easily fixed with better messaging or more campaign money.
Instead, he’s facing a city that’s angry at him, and upset about the specific policies he’s been enacting. That’s what the Trib poll really tells us.
That’s a hard hurdle to get over for any politician. Throw in a challenger like Lewis that can attack him on a already-perceived weakness, or Fioretti who can run well to his left on progressive issues, and you’ve got an incumbent facing a whole new set of campaign problems.
And when a candidate's approval rating starts off a campaign at 35 percent or lower, he has to be seen by at least some voters and political observers as the underdog.
Or in the kind of trouble that loses elections. No matter how many other advantages he might have.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>