<![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 Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:27:33 -0500 Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:27:33 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Quinn vs. Rauner: Rasmussen Gives Incumbent the Edge in Stark Turnaround]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:16:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Rauner_Quinn_9-19.jpg

In a significant turnaround, the political pollster Rasmussen Reports has updated its projection for Illinois' governor election to give Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn the edge over Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.

As recently as July, Rasmussen's polling favored Rauner by a margin of five percentage points, showing the wealthy Winnetka investor leading Gov. Quinn 44-39 percent. Flash forward to the first week of October, and the tables have turned with Quinn two percentage points above his rival for a 44-42 percent lead.

The latest survey, targeting 750 likely voters over Sept. 24-25, echoes other recent polls revealing a shift in this uber-competitive race from Rauner toward Quinn. The former, campaigning on a vow to "shake up Springfield" and remove government corruption therein, has seen his stock drop of late amid a string of public gaffes which include an eye-popping confession to having once proposed to wipe out the minimum wage at a time when outrage over the widening wealth gap is gaining traction across the nation and around the world.

No saint himself, Quinn has bounced back with late-stage verve, casting his foe as too out of touch to relate to the average Illinoisian. He's wrangled splashy endorsements form A-list allies President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama as well as Hillary Clinton, all three of whom retain high popularity in Democratic Chicago—Quinn's core voter base and a crucial bloc in the state-wide election.

Now especially vulnerable, Rauner has added another $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign war chest and refreshed attacks on Quinn's controversial pitch to continue 2011's temporary income tax hike into the new year.

One of the most expensive and hostile gubernatorial showdowns in the country, the Quinn-Rauner race was expected to get tighter ahead of November's election. While the governor gains on Rauner, the projected outcome is still considered a toss-up, factoring in a September pro-Rauner survey by the polling service We Ask America.

"The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that we lead Pat Quinn in a new independent poll—but the survey shows the race is close," Rauner's campaign told supporters on Tuesday in an email soliciting campaign donations, reports the website Progress Illinois. "According to a new We Ask America poll, we lead Pat Quinn 44-41. We’re winning. But with Pat Quinn growing more desperate by the day, we need to fight harder than ever to keep our lead for the next 35 days."

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<![CDATA[Obama Returns To Chicago Wednesday]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:06:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP217954444784.jpg

President Barack Obama returns to Chicago for a closed-door fundraiser for Gov. Pat Quinn at a downtown hotel and a speech on the economy at Northwestern University.

Air Force One is expected to land late Wednesday at Gary’s airport, according to early reports, instead of O'Hare International Airport. The White House said the president will spend the night in Chicago and attend a campaign event for Quinn the next day.

Obama's speech at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management begins at 1:15 p.m. on the Evanston campus, according to a statement from the school.

The school notes his visit marks the first by a sitting president in 60 years. Obama received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Northwestern in 2006

“I am extremely pleased to announce that President Barack Obama will come to Northwestern’s campus in Evanston to make a major address about the economy and his plans to keep expanding opportunity for Americans,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said.

Obama is expected to depart the Chicago area on Thursday.

Michelle Obama will be in Chicago on Oct. 7 to support Quinn, and Hillary Clinton is expected on Oct. 8.

A new radio ad released Wednesday by Quinn's campaign features the First Lady lauding the governor's work on behalf of veterans and as a proponent of raising the minimum wage.

The big-name appearances may provide a welcome distraction for the Quinn campaign next week when a state legislative committee is scheduled to hold hearings looking into the governor's troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

Early voting begins Oct. 20.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Michelle Obama Touts Illinois Gov. Quinn in New Radio Ad]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:42:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_michelle_obama_6363.jpg

Michelle Obama is taking to the radio waves to stump for Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who's entrenched in a bitter re-election battle against Republican rival Bruce Rauner.

A new radio ad released Wednesday by Quinn's campaign features the First Lady lauding the governor's work on behalf of veterans and as a proponent of raising the minimum wage. Since President Barack Obama isn't on the ballot this election cycle, meaning a lesser number of Democrats will hit the polls Nov. 4.—the party's voters come out most often for presidential races above other political showdowns—she urges supporters to step up and do their civic duty.

Says Michelle, "there's just too much at stake in this election to stay home. So for this election, Barack and I are casting our votes for our friend, Pat Quinn."

As previously reported, the Obamas will headline Chicago fundraisers this month to trumpet Quinn as better for Illinois than Rauner, the wealthy investor who recently poured another $1.5 million of his own fortune into his campaign war chest.

The president returns to Chicago on Wednesday for a private funder on Thursday at a downtown hotel and a speech on the economy at Northwestern University in Evanston. Michelle Obama will be in Chicago on Oct. 7 to support Quinn, and Hillary Clinton is expected on Oct. 8.

All three A-list allies have significant pull in Illinois and especially Chicago, a Democratic stronghold and a crucial voting bloc for Quinn who must maintain his tight grip on the city in order to fend off a formidable challenge from Rauner.

Without further ado, the audio and full text of Michelle Obama's pro-Quinn radio commercial:

"Illinois: We've got a choice to make between two very different candidates for governor, and two very different visions for our state. This is Michelle Obama, and I know Pat Quinn. Over the years I've seen firsthand that he has the courage to take on the tough issues and get the job done. I saw this when Pat and I worked together to help veterans and military spouses find jobs here in Illinois—and when Pat found so hard to encourage businesses to hire veterans. Now Pat's fighting to raise the minimum wage. He's working to create jobs here at home instead of shipping jobs overseas. And he'll never cut funding for military families or veterans to give a tax break to the wealthy. That's the choice. And there's just too much at stake in this election to stay home. So for this election, Barack and I are casting our votes for our friend, Pat Quinn."

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<![CDATA[CA Plastic Bag Ban Approved]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:23:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/Plastic+Bag+Ban+Store+Counter+copy.jpg

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags Tuesday.

The measure, first proposed by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles, would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016.

It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.

The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.

Moments after Brown signed the measure, the American Progressive Bag Alliance called it a “back room deal between grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars without providing any public benefit – all under the guise of environmentalism.”

The group plans to launch a referendum effort for the November 2016 ballot to repeal the measure.

San Diegan Laura Quinn-Stalker had mixed feelings about the news.

“Although I reuse my plastic bags constantly and will miss that,” she posted to NBC 7’s Facebook page, “I think this is important to do.”

“Won't see a dime saved in my pocket. Now, I have to buy garbage bags,” Oxnard resident Wade Wilson posted.

For years, a statewide plastic bag ban has been an elusive goal for lawmakers trying to reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that costs millions of dollars to cleanup.

About 100 local jurisdictions in California already have adopted similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Pols Need to Back Off Their Love For Uber]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:55:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Uber-Car-Rentals.jpg
It’s one thing when a politician embraces a profitable company and tries to take credit for its success.
 
It’s another when a politician seeks out photo ops with a company operating under a currently illegal business model while actively helping grease the skids for that company’s future expansion, all for political benefit in an election year.
 
That’s what’s happening right now in Illinois with ride-sharing giant Uber. Gubernatorial candidates Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner, along with a host of other politicians, are falling all over themselves to praise Uber while at the same time working to change the playing field in a heavily-regulated industry to help ensure the company’s success.
 
On Monday, Democratic Governor Quinn visited Uber’s headquarters in Chicago as part of the company’s announcement it was adding 420 new jobs as part of a expansion of its regional headquarters, contingent on favorable legislation engineered by Quinn being upheld in the state legislature.
 
He got to hang out with some of the city’s brightest and most talented tech employees while praising Uber. The ride-sharing company, Quinn said, “understands that having the opportunity to get a good job that pays a decent wage, that serves the market and serves consumers—that’s what it’s all about.”
 
Quinn’s Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, has been no slouch when it comes to singing Uber’s praises, either. In July, Rauner called on Quinn to veto a bill that would have required a level of background checks and liability insurance for Uber’s drivers. At the time, Rauner called Uber an "innovative, growing company” and that signing the bill was tantamount to saying “Illinois is closed to innovation.”
 
There’s only one problem: Uber’s less the innovative tech start-up its backers make it out to be and more just a company looking to steal market share by avoiding regulations with the help of well-placed, powerful politicians.
 
Let’s review some facts. Uber’s business model involves hiring non-professional drivers who use their own vehicles to provide transportation services to customers. The company takes roughly 20 percent of whatever’s earned and provides support, such as smartphone apps that lets customers call for a driver anytime they want.
 
Uber says it operates in 130 cities. In each of those cities, a taxicab industry already exists, likely heavily regulated by local and municipal governments. To earn market share, Uber must take away existing business from this industry or find new customers currently not using taxi services for one reason or another.
 
The issue of taxicab regulation is where the rub comes in. Picking up a stranger in a car and driving him or her to another destination is fraught with risk and potential problems all along the way. That’s why every municipality with a taxicab industry actively manages and regulates those who work in the industry, including requiring background checks, commercial liability insurance and the like.
 
Uber wants nothing to do with any of this. Instead, it wants to hire unprofessional drivers and allow them to operate without any regulation at all. That’s why it’s hired some of the biggest and most well-connected lobbyists, lawyers and public relations firms in the country in a bid to influence municipal and state political leaders to give it a pass.
 
As of late, that list even extends to David Plouffe, who once ran Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and served as key White House advisor. As well, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother, Ari, holds a financial stake in the firm.
 
Uber has parlayed its story of industry innovation into one of the world’s largest corporate valuations, hovering near the $18 billion mark for a company with only a few million in revenues.
 
Yet all the lobbying efforts in the world can’t cover the fact that what Uber offers is currently illegal in city after city.
 
Recently, Attorney Generals in San Francisco and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey sent letters to ride service companies like Uber claiming they are operating illegally and warning them about possible legal action if they don’t change their practices. In Washington, D.C., authorities had to ticket Uber drivers for illegal street pick-ups. In Chicago, the company had to be stopped earlier this year from making illegal pick-ups at the city’s busy O’Hare Airport.
 
As well, some Uber drivers have said the company promise of big paydays doesn’t match reality. As well, there’s a growing consensus among savvy tech industry observers that Uber’s sky-high valuations are more mirage than anything else.
 
That hasn’t stopped Illinois politicians from standing by the company’s side, however.
In fact, to hear politicians like Quinn tell it, Uber is the veritable future of Illinois economic growth.
 
“Through innovation and job creation, Uber is helping drive Illinois’ economy forward,” Governor Quinn said in a statement tied to the company’s announcement of new jobs. A few paragraphs later, he touted his own plans to help business, citing programs to help business find “an easier path to creating new jobs and ensuring workers have the skills to drive a 21st century economy.”
 
Apparently, it doesn’t really matter how a company makes its money for some Illinois politicians to come-a-running.
 
All that matters, really, is whether it can promise some new jobs in an election year.   


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Illinois Lawmakers Proceed With Hearing on Quinn's Scandal-Drenched Anti-Violence Program]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:42:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_gov_pat_quinn.jpg

While he gains traction in the race to keep his job, Gov. Pat Quinn is not off the hook for lingering questions about the troubled anti-violence program he launched four years ago.

A committee of state legislators received the go-ahead Monday to continue its probe into the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a $55 million Chicago area-focused state grant program that Quinn's Republican rivals have called a "political slush fund." Now defunct, the NRI—which aimed to distribute cash to needy neighborhood organizations combating this city's crippling gang-and-gun-violence—became awash with scandal as allegations emerged over managerial incompetence and financial wrongdoing within its loosely organized network.

Quinn has denied accusations that the program was anything but a well intentioned effort to reduce crime.

Earlier this year, Auditor General William Holland released a blistering report that listed the NRI's management failures, prompting investigations by the feds and a bipartisan group of lawmakers headed up by Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman and Democratic state Rep. Frank Mautino. The ongoing controversy, coupled with allegedly improper patronage hiring inside the Illinois Department of Transportation, has dogged Quinn's campaign as he fights for re-election against Republican opponent Bruce Rauner, who's pounced upon the bad press to cast the Democratic governor as a corrupt heir to Rod Blagojevich. (At the same time, the wealthy venture capitalist is dealing with significant problems of his own, most notably the disturbing federal bankruptcy case involving his former private equity firm and patient deaths at a nursing home chain in Florida.)

Back to the NRI debacle: U.S. Attorney James Lewis, who's based in central Illinois, had previously barred the General Assembly's Legislative Audit Commission from calling hearings into the matter so as to not conflict with his federal grand jury investigation. That ban, enforced for a 90-day period from July, was lifted Monday when the prosecutor gave his OK to the commission to go forth with a hearing slated for Oct. 8, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Barickman told the paper he expects to call to witness Jack Lavin, Quinn's former chief of staff whose emails were subpoenaed by the feds, saying: "We have posed many questions, such as how the decisions were made to choose certain communities and certain providers (for grants), and I would hope we would begin to have an understanding as to how those decisions were made by the Quinn administration."

With Nov. 4's election fast approaching, the month of October still stands to be a terrible, no good, very bad time for Quinn as he attempts to fend off a formidable offensive from Team Rauner. The silver lining: The Obamas (and Hillary) are coming to town to throw A-list support behind Quinn, who could use a star-studded distraction right about now.

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<![CDATA[President, First Lady and Hillary to Stump for Quinn]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 06:37:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP222398648587.jpg

Some big name Democrats will be in Chicago over the next couple of weeks to help support Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign.

President Barack Obama returns to Chicago on Wednesday for a closed-door fundraiser on Thursday at a downtown hotel and a speech on the economy at Northwestern University in Evanston.

Michelle Obama will be in Chicago on Oct. 7 to support Quinn, and Hillary Clinton is expected on Oct. 8. The specific details behind the events have not been released.

The big-name appearances may provide a welcome distraction for the Quinn campaign next week when a state legislative committee is scheduled to hold hearings looking into the governor's troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

Early voting begins Oct. 20.

 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Durbin, Oberweis Butt Heads on ISIS, IRS]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:58:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/durbin+oberweis.jpg

Illinois' Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate, faced off against Republican rival Jim Oberweis in a frequently hostile "endorsement debate" before the Chicago Tribune editorial board on Monday.

Chicago's conservative-leaning paper recently live-streamed a similar pseudo-debate featuring Gov. Pat Quinn and GOP challenger Bruce Rauner wherein the two enemies were figuratively at each other's throats for the better part of 90 minutes.

Stretching past an hour, Durbin and Oberweis' exchange began on a respectful note and closed the opposite as the opponents delivered blows on the former's controversial 2010 letter urging the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a conservative political group and the latter's association with the tea party movement.

Oberweis, whose chances of defeating the Democratic incumbent are slim to none, as evidenced by a recent Trib poll, seized another opportunity to target Durbin for requesting the IRS probe Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, a conservative organization that has poured millions in anonymous donations toward like-minded causes and candidates.

The Sugar Grove dairy magnate, who operates a chain of ice cream stores, whipped out purported evidence revealing further correspondence between Durbin and fomer IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, sniping that the senator should "stop lying" about his alleged Nixonian attempts to investigate political nemeses.

"I wasn't hiding a thing, and I won't hide a thing," said Durbin, calling for political groups of all stripes to disclose their donor lists and make political spending transparent.

When it was Durbin's turn to ask a question of Oberweis, he pressed the GOP state senator about whether he supports the tea party's opposition to using federal money to build highways, and the possible loss of construction jobs in Illinois as a result of said opposition.

"I'm not in the tea party," declared Oberweis before noting that he thinks the conservative grassroots movement has had a "generally positive" effect on politics. He said he likes the emphasis on limited government and lower taxes.

The opponents sounded off on a range of hot-button topics including President Obama's proposal to equip and train moderate Syrian rebels to combat the spread of ISIS in Syria and Iraq—Durbin shot down Oberweis' critique that U.S. troops shouldn't have been pulled out of Iraq in the first place—as well as immigration reform, an issue which has plagued Oberweis for years. (In 2004, he courted controversy during a failed bid for U.S. Senate when he aired an ill conceived commercial casting undocumented immigrants as villains who are taking over middle-class jobs.)

Apologizing for the infamous campaign-derailing ad, Oberweis said "it did not communicate the right message" and conveyed his support for giving undocumented children an easier path to citizenship while cracking down on adults with criminal track records. As for those who have no committed no crimes, "They should apply for citizenship and go to the back of the line."

Durbin, as well as the Trib's editorial board, appeared to balk at Oberweis' remark that federal immigration reform would result in "blanket amnesty" for immigrants.

Asked about his hardline stance on corporate inversions—Durbin has crusaded in recent weeks to prevent an exodus of corporations departing Illinois for greener tax pastures—the Senate Majority Whip went on the defense against critics including Oberweis who accuse him of being a bully.

He said he told Walgreens that it would be better for business in the long term if they stuck to their American roots rather than going overseas to "avoid tax responsibility." Oberweis pressed Durbin on why he hadn't earlier sought to reform state tax code to ensure companies wouldn't want to leave Illinois in the first place.

"I favor tax code reform," proclaimed Durbin, blaming Senate filibusters as the reason for the hold-up.

Speaking of taxes, things got real below the belt when the the paper raised the subject of Oberweis' dual residency—his wife lives in Florida, which has has no state income tax—and questioned why he had not disclosed his most recent returns. While Durbin suggested Oberweis "may not be paying Illinois state income taxes," the latter affirmed that he has to pay "more" but did not provide further details.

When the conversation turned to Oberweis' pitch to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, Durbin told his opponent to "get out, meet some of these people" who need that healthcare coverage to survive. Striking back, Oberweis he's been the one on the ground talking to constituents, notably in the South Side.

"I'm sure they're looking for the first Oberweis ice cream store (to open) in the South Side of Chicago," sniffed Durbin.  

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<![CDATA[Illinoisans on Forbes' List of Richest in U.S.]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:04:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/Money_generic.jpg

Forbes has released its annual ranking of the 400 richest people in America, and Chicago hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin—who has donated millions to Illinois' GOP governor candidate Bruce Rauner—jumped ahead 14 spots to No. 89.

The 45-year-old Griffin, who ranked 103rd last year, boasts a net worth of $5.5 billion as the founder of the $20 billion hedge fund firm Citadel Group. In June 2014, the active political donor broke records by writing a $2.5 million check to help Rauner defeat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in November's election. Griffin has contributed $3.57 million in total to the Winnekta venture capitalist's campaign.

Back in February, he offered $150 million to Harvard, his alma mater, to be used for students' financial aid.

A vocal supporter of charter schools, the libertarian-leaning Griffin—who's going through a contentious divorce from wife Anne Dias Griffin—has padded the campaign war chests of politicians including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and ex-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He was a member of Rauner's exploratory committee before the multi-millionaire businessman declared his candidacy in 2013.

Rauner isn't on Forbes' freshly updated 400 list, but 16 other deep-pocketed Illinoisans made the cut, ranking below Griffin. Among them: Sam Zell, No. 104 with $4.8 billion in the bank; food and beverage entrepreneurs Christopher and Jude Reyes (net worth: $3.7 billion), and four Democratic-donating heirs to the Pritzker fortune.

Not technically a Chicagoan anymore, Oprah—whose primary residence is Montecito, Calif.—came in at No. 209, commanding a net worth of $3 billion.

The richest American is Bill Gates (again) followed by Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison and the Koch brothers, another set of influential political donors to conservative candidates and causes. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, placed eighth on the list.

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<![CDATA[Fitzgerald Floated for Top Attorney General Spot]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:56:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Patrick+Fitzgerald+3.jpg

Well, you have to admit—he’s got a good resume. 

Patrick Fitzgerald, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, is being touted by some as a potential replacement for outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.
 
The Chicago Sun-Times reports Fitzgerald’s name is being bandied about in legal circles, and no less than Illinois’ junior Senator, Mark Kirk, appears to be in Fitzgerald’s corner.
 
Fitzgerald’s reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor of political corruption, along with a recognized expertise in national security law, makes him the perfect choice in the eyes of those looking to re-energize the nation’s top law enforcement office after years of controversy under Holder.
 
Fitzgerald won national acclaim for his many high-profile investigations during his tenure in the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office, including convictions of two former Illinois governors, Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan. He also set his sights on media mogul Conrad Black, several aides to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in the Hired Truck Program, and Chicago detective and torturer Jon Burge.
 
Despite a welcome return for some to a focus on civil rights issues while in office, many observers feel Holder’s tenure to be a series of missed opportunities at best and a controversy-ridden tenure at worst.
 
Republicans in Congress, long opposed to Holder and more than happy to cause President Obama problems on any available political front, have already signaled their likely opposition to anyone Obama nominates for the post.
 
Nevertheless, some Fitzgerald backers are hoping his reputation and track record can be brought to bear on those areas critics have faulted the U.S. Attorney General’s office for being lax on. Specifically, they point to Holder’s failure to aggressively prosecute Wall Street malfeasance and re-litigate the errors and missteps of the Bush administration’s War on Terror as places where Fitzgerald could make his mark.
 
Yet, the last two years of any presidency are often marked by Congressional investigations into executive branch policies and behavior that could easily end up on the Attorney General’s desk. That could well mean Obama may be reluctant to appoint a prosecutorial bulldog to occupy an office just down the street on Pennsylvania Ave.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clinton to Campaign for Quinn in Illinois: Report]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:56:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_hillaryclinton7.jpg

Hillary Clinton is heading home to her native Illinois to campaign for Gov. Pat Quinn, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Quinn's campaign did not respond to Ward Room's request for confirmation.

The Democratic governor is entrenched in a highly competitive—and increasingly hostile—showdown with Republican rival Bruce Rauner, a Chicago venture capitalist-turned-political rookie who just poured another $1.5 million of his own fortune into his campaign to take Springfield's highest office for the GOP.

Clinton, who has yet to announce her decision on 2016, is extremely popular in diehard Democratic Chicago, where she recently kicked off a national tour to promote her new memoir, Hard Choices.

According to the Sun-Times, she may endorse Quinn in Chicago on Oct. 8, if she's not too tied up with grandma duty.

As previously reported, the Obamas will stump for the governor in early October.

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<![CDATA[Temporary Senator Roland Burris Looms Large in Corruption Trial for Chicago Man]]> Sat, 27 Sep 2014 13:20:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/219*120/052809-Burris-2.jpg

An Illinois Democrat appointed by disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to a U.S. Senate seat in 2008 has become an issue in the lead-up to a federal trial in Chicago, with defense attorneys claiming onetime Sen. Roland Burris was once accused of seeking to extort a business.

 
Word about the allegation against Burris, who held the Senate seat from 2009 to 2010, arose during a pre-trial hearing Friday for a Chicago man charged with illegally lobbying U.S. lawmakers to lift sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
 
Prosecutors have indicated they will call Burris, 77, to testify against C. Gregory Turner, who has pleaded not guilty. Defense lawyers are attempting to dent the ex-senator's credibility. The trial starts Monday.
 
Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison term on multiple corruption convictions, including for trying to secure campaign cash or a high-paying job for an appointment to the Senate seat, which was vacated by Barack Obama after he won the 2008 presidential election.
 
Amid a political firestorm following his December 2008 arrest, then-Gov. Blagojevich, who is also a Democrat, named Burris to the seat. Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, was widely ridiculed for accepting the appointment.
 
Turner's attorneys said in court Friday that the extortion allegation against Burris was described in federal documents that prosecutors turned over to the defense as part of the pre-trial discovery process.
 
Neither the defense nor prosecutors provided details in court. But after the Friday afternoon hearing, defense attorney James Tunick spoke to reporters holding what he said was one of the federal documents. The word "SENSITIVE" was stamped across it in capital letters.
 
"The accusation was that Sen. Burris offered to promote a ... business to the U.S. military in exchange for $250,000 a year when he (left) office," said Tunick. He looked down at the document and appeared to be paraphrasing it — not quoting it directly.
 
Defense attorneys did not say if federal prosecutors ever took the allegations seriously or, if they did, over what period of time — weeks, days or merely hours.
 
A message left for Burris at his Chicago law firm wasn't immediately returned Friday night and he does not have a listed home number. A one-time attorney for Burris, Timothy W. Wright III, said he no longer represented the former senator. But he said he would forward a message to Burris that The Associated Press was seeking a comment regarding the allegations.
 
The trial prosecutors did not speak to reporters outside court, and a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, Randall Samborn, later declined any comment. A spokeswoman for the FBI in Chicago, Joan Hyde, also declined any comment.  


Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Diana Rauner Grants First Campaign Media Interview]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 21:12:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Diana_Rauner.jpg

Diana Rauner has appeared in campaign ads and news conferences to help support Republican Bruce Rauner's campaign for Illinois governor, but on Friday she gave her first one-on-one media interview to NBC 5.

As president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund -- a group dedicated to providing quality early childhood experiences -- Diana Rauner says her husband is also committed to social issues.

"You can trust him that no way he will ever let something happen to our reproductive rights," Diana Rauner said.

"I think this is a great opportunity, in this race, where we don't have to actually think about the social issues, because both candidates are pro-choice."

Diana Rauner is often seen campaigning alongside her husband and he mentions her often in his speeches.

And she doesn't shy away from the "feminist" label.

"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people," she said.

The Rauners, who are multi-millionaires, have received criticism that their lifestyle doesn't relate to everyday Illinois voters.

"Let me tell you about my lifestyle. I get up every day and I walk my dog. I used to get my kids off to school, but now they're gone. And then I go to work, and I spend all day thinking about the education of young people in poverty," Diana Rauner said.

Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign points out that Diana Rauner has applauded Quinn's budgets in the past, but she tells NBC 5 that the governor's budget has cut funding to early childhood education by $80 million.

A Quinn spokesman says that's not true, because federal funds have helped the state hold the line.

Both candidates in the race are angling for the women's vote. A new poll this week from We Ask America showed Quinn leading Rauner among women, 44-42 percent, while Rauner commands a larger male following, 47-36 percent.

Diana Rauner's full interview will be posted on NBCChicago.com on Sunday.

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<![CDATA[This Week in Mudslinging: Rauner Plays the Harold Washington Card; Rahm Slams Lewis' Pitch to Legalize Pot]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:19:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP962049827639.jpg

Still want to run for governor, Bruce?

 

The successful private equity exec-turned-GOP political candidate is learning the hard way that the campaign trail can be unforgiving—especially for a rookie. Everything you ever said or did in your life can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. Just ask Bruce Rauner. And recall: Wine-Gate. Revelations that he once advocated wiping out the minimum wage. His blindsided reaction, as part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, to a reporter's question on the NFL domestic abuse scandal. That's not to mention the furious frenzy over Rauner's use of a corporate loophole to save big money on taxes—catnip for "gotcha!" journalists in a tough media town.

 

None of these sordid setbacks leave Gov. Pat Quinn off the hook. Not by a long shot. He's been in Illinois politics a long time, and his administration is tainted with corruption scandals that would otherwise dash Democrats' hopes of holding onto the governorship.

 

Perhaps Rauner, running on the "I"m Not Pat Quinn" platform, underestimated the opposition. The incumbent has progressed in recent polls after months of trailing behind the upstart Winnetka multi-milllionaire, who's being dangled before Quinn-fatigued Illinoisians as a new, bright, shiny object riding in on a white horse—or Harley Davidson—to rescue this cash-strapped state from the depths of economic despair.

 

Enter the biggest public-relations headache to hit Team Rauner in weeks. 

Quinn vs. Rauner. The seedy Florida court case involving Rauner's former private equity firm, nursing home deaths and an alleged "bust out" scheme to avoid culpability for patient fatalities at a network of homes the firm invested in continues to escalate amid a complicated—and tabloid-tawdry—trial that launched Monday. As new details emerge, Rauner—who denies playing a significant role in biz decisions related to the troubled nursing home chain co-founded by his firm, GTCR—is reportedly more closely linked to the drama than previously stated. Questioned on his level of involvement, the candidate blamed Quinn for stirring the pot, snapping: "This is a destruction, a distraction from a failed governor who is creating a diversion away from his failure inside his administration. Pat Quinn is under federal criminal investigation himself, and his office." Meanwhile, in related mudslinging, Rauner targeted his rival with a powerful attack ad featuring anti-Quinn commentary by the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, who once said he'd "never appoint Pat Quinn to do anything." Those are potent words meant to undercut Quinn's influence among black voters. Quinn, striking back, said he's the one whose beliefs reflect those of Washington, citing mutual support for raising the minimum wage. On the "Look, I Have Famous Supporters!" front, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited Chicago Tuesday to tout Rauner for the umpteenth time—why don't you just move here, Chris—while feminist icon Gloria Steinem campaigned for Quinn in a major coup for the governor on the crucial women vote. He's also wrangled the star power of the Obamas, who hit the stump next month.

Karen Lewis vs. Rahm (and Corey Brooks). The Chicago Teachers Union firebrand, who may or may not be challenging nemesis Rahm Emanuel in February's mayor election, got into it with South Side pastor Corey Brooks on Twitter Friday, criticizing Brooks' shifting loyalties from Democratic candidates to GOP-ers Rauner and Jim Oberweis, who's entrenched in an uphill battle to unseat the unseatable Sen. Dick Durbin. The Sun-Times has helpfully compiled the testy exchange, and if you love a good feud, you won't be disappointed. After Brooks called her "out of touch," the politically progressive union boss shot back: "Are you serious? Out of touch? Your choice for gov had no blacks working at his firm. Why are u attacking me? U want a list?" On Wednesday, Lewis and Mayor Emanuel, her favorite punching bag, engaged in a sparring match over legalizing pot in Illinois. Emanuel, who announced Tuesday his support for decriminalizing weed possession across the state, dismissed Lewis' idea to fully legalize the drug and then tax it as "another revenue source that we out to look at." In Rahm's opinion, "you should balance the budget by promoting recreational smoking of pot."

Judy Baar Topinka vs. Sheila Simon. Like Oberweis, Simon—Quinn's erstwhile Lieutenant Governor and daughter of the legendary Paul Simon—has zero chance of prevailing at the ballot box this November. Her numbers are in the tank. The unfiltered Republican Comptroller Topinka is an indomitable force in Springfield, and boasted Teflon-like resistance to Simon's attacks on an apparent display of clout in which she pressed Quinn to check out her son's resume. Quoth We Ask America's Gregg Durham, a pollster watching the Topinka-Simon race: "While no one understands what the comptroller does, they view Judy as a competent and as someone who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of politicians. It also doesn’t help Simon that she's from 'Forgotonia.' Eighty percent of the vote lies north of her." Harsh! Simon, however, isn't going down without a fight. On Thursday, she ripped JBT for allegedly enabling the overly padded paychecks of her staffers on taxpayers' dime. Responded Topinka: "They're working for my office and doing a good job, and I think we have a very good professional staff."

Bill Enyart vs. Mike Bost. The hotly contested House race between incumbent Democrat Bill Enyart and Republican challenger Mike Bost in Illinois' 12th district is a "pure toss-up," according to The Rothenberg Report, tweaking its initial rating that favored Enyart to dubbing Nov. 4's election up in the air. Enyart, whose electoral vulnerability could be linked to constituents' negative attitudes toward Quinn, has gone on the defense with attack ads casting Bost as an unhinged loose cannon and featuring footage of the state representative's eye-popping 2012 rant against Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. In a radio interview earlier this week, Bost attempted to do damage control, arguing: "You know, it is the job of my opponent to try to paint me as something I’m not ... What we're hearing from constituents out there is, you know what? They're tired of people going to Springfield and going to Washington, and sitting there."

OK, I just wanted another excuse to roll the tape:



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Rauner Taps Horton in Campaign Strategy]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:50:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bruce_Rauner_marijuana.jpg
For a while, it looked like it was a new day in Illinois politics.
 
For a while, it looked like we had something we’d not seen in a long time in this state: a well-funded Republican candidate for governor with a clear and compelling message that just might win him the governor’s seat.
 
The message? Bruce Rauner was a political outsider, committed to a new way of conducting politics in Illinois, sent from nowhere to shake things up in Springfield.
 
Rauner said current Democratic governor Pat Quinn and his friends, such as House Speaker Mike Madigan, were interested only in looking out for themselves in a culture of corruption born out of the old way of doing business.
 
What was needed, he argued, was someone who didn't have ties to any political establishment, didn’t care about identity politics or social issues, and only wanted to focus on making Illinois more competitive, tax-friendly and creating more jobs.
 
Backing up that message was a flood of folksy TV ads with Rauner driving a used truck, wearing an $18 watch and trotting out his once-Democratic wife who looked sincerely into the camera to announce she was now backing her husband.
 
And for months, it worked. Rauner was leading in the polls, Quinn was reeling from a series of well-placed attacks and the argument looked like genius. Maybe Illinois did need a fresh new voice dedicated to getting things done and who avoided the old, worn-out school of personal politics.
 
And then came an unexpected reversal of fortune in Rauner’s polling numbers, and all that went away in one fell swoop.
 
The proof? It seems when its back is up against the wall, the Rauner campaign is more than happy to revert to the one of the oldest political tricks in the book: stoking racial fears about crime.
 
After being pummeled with stories about Rauner’s old investment firm, GTCR, potentially playing a role in skirting responsibility for deaths at a nursing home chain the firm once owned and news 12 other firms linked to Rauner had also gone bankrupt, the polls started showing a shift that allowed Quinn to effectively close the gap between the two candidates.
 
As a result, the Rauner campaign earlier this week released a TV ad blaming Gov. Quinn for putting sex offenders, wife beaters and murderers back in the street as part of a 2009 early prison release program.
 
The basis of the accusations involves two convicted criminals who were granted early release as part of an early release program designed to save the state money. One, Edjuan Payne, is charged with murder in Peoria after being released. The other, Derrick Allmon, is charged with shooting 9 year-old Antonio Smith in Chicago last month.
 
The ad is part of a long line of tried-and-true political attacks, most often used by Republicans against Democrats, that goes all the way back to the 1988 George Bush presidential campaign against Democrat Michael Dukakis.
 
Then, Bush campaign manager, the late Lee Atwater, created an entire campaign strategy around tying Horton, a convicted felon who committed assault, armed robbery and rape while on a weekend furlough program in Massachusetts in 1986 to Dukakis being soft on crime.
 
As part of the strategy, Atwater was quoted as saying "By the time we're finished, they're going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis' running mate."
 
Rauner may not be going that far, but his decision to pivot away from a campaign of being an outsider to attacking Quinn for being soft on crime calls into question his sincerity in practicing a new brand of politics in Illinois.
 
The tactic is tried-and-true because it often works. Plastering Horton’s face, who was black, across the nation’s airwaves associating race with crime helped propel Bush past Dukakis handily. The 2014 Alaska Senate race was roiled when Democratic incumbent Mark Begich's campaign released a brutal new TV ad tying Republican challenger Dan Sullivan to a horrific Anchorage murder case.
 
And it almost worked for Democratic incumbent Toni Berrios in her reelection race for 39th House district in Illinois against Will Guzzardi.
 
Of course, it’s yet to be seen if this latest line of attack will do the same for Rauner. But one thing is certain:
 
From the perspective of the Rauner campaign, the race is no longer about presenting the candidate as a fresh-faced outsider riding into town simply to shake things up.
 
It's about doing whatever it takes to win. Just like any other politician running for office.
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<![CDATA[Opinion: Quinn vs. Rauner: Guess Who's Recruited Gloria Steinem?]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 18:08:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/184*120/51571208.jpg

When I heard that famed feminist Gloria Steinem is coming to town to campaign for Pat Quinn, my inner coffeeshop critic immediately wondered: What is she doing with him

Pardon me for being overly judgmental, but I can't help it. Steinem is a beloved icon; Quinn's a less-than-popular governor at the helm of a state government tainted by scandal. She's global; he's provincial. She's creme brulee; he's Jell-O.

Quinn campaign spokesperson Brooke Anderson confirms to Ward Room that Steinem will be in Chicago Friday for an event kicking off the group Women for Quinn as well as a fundraiser downtown. Anderson provided no further details on the events.

How Illinois' deeply flawed Democratic incumbent managed to wrangle an endorsement from the stately Steinem is as equally mystifying as his Republican rival Bruce Rauner's strategic aversion to detail. Her approval not only sprinkles Quinn with much-needed gravitas, it gives the beleaguered politician a potential boost in the eyes of women voters—a crucially important, highly coveted demo—and feminists of all stripes. It makes Rauner, a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers pressured to condemn the NFL domestic abuse scandals after initially refusing to comment, look like the kind of guy who might claim to have "binders full of women" to hire.

Not that Steinem—who's been campaigning for political candidates since the '60s—needed much persuading to publicly support Quinn as he battles multi-millionaire venture capitalist Rauner in one of the most competitive gubernatorial showdowns in the country. A new poll this week from We Ask America shows Quinn leading Rauner among women, 44-42 percent, while Rauner commands a larger male following, 47-36 percent. (This gender reversal reflects the data in a recent Ward Room analysis of the candidate's Twitter followers.)

Rauner has sought to appeal to women through appearing in light-hearted campaign ads with his wife, Diana, a Democrat. He chose Evelyn Sanguinetti, an attorney from Wheaton, as his running mate. Last week he announced the launch of the group Women for Rauner, whose members include Anne Dias Griffin (the estranged wife of hedge fund mogul Ken Griffin), ex-Illinois Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood (who served with George Ryan) and state Rep. Jil Tracy of the 93rd district.

In a video message on Women for Rauner's sign-up page, Diana Rauner says: "Bruce doesn't have a social agenda, he has an economic and education agenda. He'll be a warrior for our children and for taxpayers. ... This isn't about Democrat or Republican. This is about our state's future."

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted a Quinn source as saying the writer-activist "is not only going to hit the campaign trail for Quinn, but she will keynote a major fundraiser for him." 

Why?

"The governor has been a strong champion for women, from leading initiatives to strengthen(ing) pay equity to signing laws to prevent domestic violence," the source told the Sun-Times' Michael Sneed in a story published last Thursday.

A rep for Steinem did not respond to Ward Room's request for comment.

Most recently, Steinem endorsed Christine Quinn (no relation to Pat), a Democrat and former speaker of the New York City Council, in her 2013 bid for the Big Apple mayorship, and Hillary Clinton in her 2008 campaign for president.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Second City Spoofs Quinn-Rauner Race With Rival Political Ads]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:15:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Rauner_Quinn_9-19.jpg

Anyone who felt mildly annoyed at the "me time"-interrupting barrage of gloomy political attack ads that aired during Sunday's otherwise perfect installment of The Good Wife is going to appreciate these new Quinn-Rauner spoofs from the merry pranksters at Chicago's talent-spawning The Second City.

I'll have to watch the below on continuous loop for a week straight in order to get this depressing elder abuse image out of my head. Thanks for making me feel all the feelings, Quinn campaign!

Ha-ha quote: "Pat Quinn is a man of his word. When he was elected governor, he stayed governor."

Meanwhile, abiding by equal time rules, the comedy troupe has issued a rival ad that lampoons the GOP's Bruce Rauner for appealing to government-fatiqued Illinoisians on the "I'm Not Pat Quinn!" platform. (Definitive solutions for fixing this screwy state need not apply.)

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<![CDATA[Mayor Emanuel Meets Archbishop-Designate Cupich]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 14:56:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Blase_Cupich_9-22.jpg

Chicago's Archbishop-Designate Blase Cupich and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have already met, by phone.

“I wanted him to know the entire city, regardless of faith, welcomed him,” Emanuel said in an exclusive interview with NBC 5.

Emanuel said he hoped Cupich would “continue to be a moral voice as it relates to justice [and] compassion, remembering those who are less fortunate, that all of us have a role to play.”   

Cupich told Archdiocese employees about his phone call with the mayor when he met them this week.

“I said, 'If there’s a way that the church can help with this whole business of violence in the streets, we want to be with you,'" he said. "We want to do what we can.”

Cupich arrived back in Chicago Monday for meetings with the Catholic Extension Society, which serves the poorest Catholics across the country.

He was appointed the next Chicago Archbishop on Sunday.

"People of faith really need to work together for the common good," Cupich said. "Labels are hard for anybody to live up to. I just try to be myself and I try to learn from great people."

Emanuel also said he and Cardinal Francis George had breakfast two weeks ago about pre-Kindergarten education.

The mayor reached out to Cardinal George on Saturday after the naming of Cupich “to personally thank him for his years of service to Chicago and for being a moral voice on the difficult issues.” 

Cardinal George is cutting back on his schedule while he takes a new antibiotic to treat an infection as he battles cancer. A spokeswoman said the cardinal is not gravely ill.

"The Cardinal is being treated with antibiotics for a cellulitis infection in his right foot that may require him to use crutches for the near future," Susan Burritt said. "Because of this infection, the Cardinal has been advised that he should not fly, so he has canceled his out of town trip for later this week."

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<![CDATA[Gov. Candidates Spar Over Nursing Home Case]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:32:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008942279_1200x675_332615235841.jpg Candidates Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner sparred Tuesday over nursing homes once owned by a Rauner company and over whether it was Quinn's responsibility to keep an inmate in prison. ]]> <![CDATA[Nanci Koschman Appeals Court's Decision to Toss Lawsuit]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 16:43:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Koschman_7596502_722x406_2177124074.jpg

Nanci Koschman plans to appeal a federal judge's decision to throw out the civil rights lawsuit in the death of her 21-year-old son, David Koschman, who died from a single punch thrown by former Mayor Richard M. Daley's nephew, R.J. Vanecko, in 2004.

Koschman's lawyers have filed a "notice of appeal" saying it is their intent to appeal the U.S. District Court ruling.

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

"I'm certainly disappointed," Koschman said at the time, "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.

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<![CDATA[Rauner's Nursing Home Drama Escalates Amid Federal Trial ]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 16:22:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Quinn-rauner-p1.jpg

Illinois governor candidate Bruce Rauner kept his lips zipped as a federal trial involving his former private equity firm and allegations of nursing home neglect launched in Florida.

The trial, if it makes an impact on voters in this state, could threaten Rauner's bid to defeat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn at the ballot box Nov. 4. Its seedy origins and disturbing nature have haunted the Republican multi-millionaire venture capitalist for the past several months, though he has denied having a major role in business decisions linked to a scandal-drenched nursing home chain co-founded by GTCR, the Chicago-based firm from which Rauner retired in 2012.

Back in May, a Tampa federal bankruptcy judge, accusing GTCR of orchestrating a Mafia-style "bust out" scheme to let the business die and evade culpability for a series of patient fatalities, ruled in favor of continuing litigation into a $1 billion case that involves alleged incidents of wrongful death and abuse by the offending chain, Trans Healthcare Inc., which has been in receivership—a form of corporate bankruptcy—since 2009.

"I hope if there is any wrongdoing, that it gets punished," Rauner said at the time, adding: "I'm very comfortable letting that play out in the court, the fact that the judge said they're going to let a little bit go forward. That's all fine, part of the process."

Rauner has stated that he sat atop Trans Healthcare's board for just a year after founding it in 1998, but the Chicago Tribune reports that was not the case, citing court documents as revealing the veteran businessman-turned-political candidate had been a board member for four years, not one. In addition, the paper cites prosecutors in the case as referencing information held in sealed documents which allege Rauner was part of a group within GTCR that managed Trans Healthcare until its 2006 sale to Barry Saacks, an aging graphic artist who testified that he had no recollection of signing papers to buy the ailing company.

"I don't know that company," Saacks said in video testimony was played in court Monday. "Somebody must believe me."

Rauner is not named as a defendant in the case, but GTCR and Edgar Jannotta Jr., an ex-partner at the firm, are both defendants. Defense lawyers argue that their clients did nothing wrong and accuse attorneys for the other side of using the case to get more cash for victims' families.

Declining to answer the Trib's questions on revelations that he may be more intricately involved with Trans Healthcare than previously thought, Rauner demurred: "I hope and believe that there was no wrongdoing, no bad behavior. The courts will sort out all the facts. I'm confident that no one at GTCR engaged in any inappropriate behavior."

Rauner is locked in a neck-and-neck race against Quinn for Springfield's highest office, and for campaign Quinn, the nursing home trial is extra ammo in its effort to cast the GOP candidate as an out-of-touch gazillionaire for whom money trumps moral character. In response to the courtroom drama, an escalating PR headache for Team Rauner, a Quinn spokesperson said: "Bruce Rauner has said that he's a businessman who wants to run Illinois like a business, yet he's taken no responsibility for this business."

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<![CDATA[Opinion: Hey, Pundits – Stop Predicting Chicago’s Mayoral Race]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 14:01:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_alcalde_rahm_emanuel1.JPG

Let’s review some basic facts about the 2015 Chicago elections, shall we?

Karen Lewis may run for mayor. If she does, she might win.
 
Bob Fioretti is running for mayor. He, too, might win.
 
Rahm Emanuel is running for re-election. He could win. Also, he could lose.
 
Other candidates—such as Amara Enyia, Frederick Collins and Robert Shaw—are also running. As legal candidates for the office of Mayor of Chicago, any of them, too, could win if their campaign caught fire.
 
It’s important to remind ourselves of these basic truths for one simple reason: More than five months out from Election Day, a number of political operatives and media types are already working to craft a narrative that doesn't square with the these facts.
 
In an effort to prove themselves savvy and aware political observers, these folks are picking winners and losers in one of the most important political races the city has ever seen before voters ever get a chance to have their voice heard.
 
For example, take a look at this piece of political analysis by veteran political beat report Fran Spielman published by the Chicago Sun-Times on September 9.
 
Entitled “Fioretti a longshot for mayor, but could force run-off”, the piece starts off with a basic premise: Despite years of public service as an alderman, a long history as a successful attorney and one of the city’s most vocal and respected politicians, Fioretti doesn't stand a chance of winning on his own.
 
Just take a look at the first quote listed in the piece:
 
“I don’t think Bob has any chance [of winning]. He does not seem to connect. Eighty percent of the public has never heard of him. But his presence reduces the possibility of somebody winning outright,” said veteran political consultant Don Rose.
 
Of the three people quoted for the article, all of them have decades as consultants or operatives in Chicago politics—including Greg Goldner, who was once described by Chicago Magazine as running a “powerhouse public affairs firm that, during Rahm’s reign, has functioned like an appendage of City Hall.” Of the three, two flat out say Fioretti can’t win or isn't qualified.
 
"Bob Fioretti hasn’t exhibited a lot of depth in his criticisms or offered practical, real solutions. He’s good at putting out press releases and moving on. He goes out of his way to score political points,” Goldner said.
 
For her part, Speilman’s not the only one playing this game. There’s the recent Chicago Tribune piece that suggested a “series of lawsuits could provide fodder for foes in the mayor’s race who might suggest Fioretti isn’t a good manager,” even though nobody outside of Chicago’s political elite are actually talking about it.
 
Or the assertion as if it was fact by Sun-Times columnist Laura Washignton that in a one-on-one race between Fioretti and Emanuel, Fioretti doesn't stand a chance.
 
“Fioretti could raise $3 million-plus. Count on Emanuel to pull in $20 million-plus.
If it’s mano a mano, it’s over.”
 
Or the multitude of times a Chicago political reporter has referred in to Lewis as “feisty,” a “rabble rouser”, “outspoken” or “confrontational” in a story, all based on the commitment and passion she displays in her current job as president of the Chicago Teachers Union.
 
In short, it’s a political narrative taking shape in some quarters that Fioretti and Lewis are electoral long shots, here to add some excitement to the 2015 mayor’s race but otherwise doomed to failure.
 
It’s subtle, but it’s there.
 
Last week, I had the good fortune of being in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, on the day of the Scottish independence referendum vote. Over and over on British TV, commentators discussed how the vote’s results would play among the country’s “political class”. It was a naked admission that politics in that country are run by a self-selected group of elites who have a vested interest in shaping political narratives that effect policy, often in close quarters with the nation’s political media.
 
Here in the U.S. such a group has been called the “Gang of 500,” those political insiders and journalists who influence the daily media narrative in U.S. politics. The term was coined by ABC News political director Mark Halperin, who happily counts himself among those that help set the agenda.
 
Chicago doesn’t have such a clearly identified collection that helps define the narrative, but that doesn't mean the group’s not there.
 
In fact, Chicago’s political class is increasingly made up of people who have been engaged in politics for literal decades, and who more often than not have a vested interest in seeing the predominate narrative of the status quo maintained at all costs. 
 
The only problem is, the 2015 Chicago municipal elections are increasingly looking like a decision that could affect Chicago’s future for decades to come. And, in part, it’s important because both the mayor’s race and many aldermanic contests are being populated by a different set of voices that have been heard in Chicago politics in a very long time.
 
As a result, whether a given candidate can win is too important a choice to be left to political observers and pundits who feel compelled to help set the 2015 narrative this early in the game.
 
That’s for voters to decide. And no one else.


Photo Credit: Archivo Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bobby Rush: African-Americans Should Get '35 to 40 Percent' of CTA's 95th Street Construction Jobs]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:02:25 -0500 Bobby Rush
1st Congressional District
Democrat]]>
Bobby Rush
1st Congressional District
Democrat]]>
http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bobby+rush+2014.jpg

Illinois congressman Bobby Rush, a Democrat whose district encompasses a portion of Chicago's South Side, is giving the Chicago Transit Authority until Friday to make a decision on his request that African-Americans be guaranteed "35 to 40 percent" of the estimated 700 job opportunities to be created by the much-touted new 95th Street Red Line terminal.

"When they did the Red Line renovation, that kind of turned the corner on minority participation, but we are poised to fight if we have to fight,” Rush said Monday during a ground-breaking event, the Sun-Times reports.

"Almost as important as building this station is building the lives of people who live around and use the station. You can't build good lives without jobs," he said. "Whatever it takes to get the jobs and the contracts, we’re prepared to do that."

According to the Sun-Times, Rush has given the CTA a deadline of end-of-day Friday to decide whether to shake hands on a deal to grant African-Americans a "35 to 40 percent" portion of jobs and contracts on the $240 million project.

Mayor Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn joined Rush and other political heavies to break ground on a snazzier update of the decaying 45-year-old South Side-based terminal, for which a makeover will include a pair of sleekly modern buildings connected by a commuter-friendly skyway-pedway.

"We have to work hard to make sure we don't get all of the dust and all of the delay but that we get some of the dough also," Rush told NBC Chicago of his desire to open construction opportunities to job-seekers in predominantly African-American neighborhoods surrounding the station.

CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson said the mass transit service handed a 93 percent portion of one contract and 41 percent of another to African-American businesses with a third major contract to come, telling the Sun-Times: "One of the things the mayor has insisted on is African-American and community participation. We’re committed to that and stand by that."

The 95th Street venture is the next splashy step in the successful, job-creating $500 million revamp of the Red Line's South section, for which Emanuel has won kudos. And he could use more of them: The mayor, running for re-election this February, has been plagued by declining approval numbers among African-American constituents, a crucial vote for a second term at City Hall. Last week, he scrapped plans to name a brand-new North Side high school after President Barack Obama amid backlash from critics who wondered why he overlooked the South Side, where the First Family has a home.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Emanuel Wants to Decriminalize Marijuana Statewide]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:20:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_rahm_emanuel_chapo_guzman_chicago.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to decriminalize marijuana possession across the state, reducing the penalty to a misdemeanor for those caught with 1 gram or less of a controlled substance.

"If you have a minor possession, how do you go on in your life," Emanuel said, "and get the education or the employment opportunities so that you are not held back from what was a minor possession?"

Speaking to a General Assembly committee, Emanuel said Chicago made nearly 5,000 fewer arrests last year for low-level cannabis possession. He said it's allowing Chicago police to spend more time on the street and less time filling out paperwork.

"Focus our resources, primarily police in this case, on the real challenges we had because 15 grams or less wasn't the real challenge to public safety," Emanuel said.

But some in the legislature worry that the mayor’s pitch on marijuana may be a way to resurrect the issue of stricter penalties for gun crimes including mandatory minimum sentences.

"Mandatory minimums simply don't work," State Rep. Ken Dunkin (5th) said. "That's what he advocated for and he lost on in Springfield, and this is a result of that. Just because he is behind it doesn't mean it's a green light."

"I think the mayor wants to do something on gun violence," Sen. Kwame Raoul (13th) said. "He is not hell bent on mandatory minimums."

The mayor's office noted that 45,000-plus police hours were used in 2011 in 18,298 arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis. Each case needed four officers to arrest and transport offenders, according to police statistics.

Emanuel said since fewer cops are needed to issue a ticket than make an arrest, decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot puts more officers on the streets.

He also planned to use a portion of the ticket revenue for an anti-drug campaign aimed at kids.

The mayor’s office estimates that roughly 7,000 people are arrested each year for possession of 1 gram of less of a drug.

Emanuel is up for re-election in February.



Photo Credit: Archivo Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Mayor Race: Fioretti Accepts Responsibility for His Law Firms' Legal Trouble]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:43:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bob_Fioretti_4-14.jpg

Chicago mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti is defending his track record of financial competence amid reports that the 2nd Ward alderman and his law firms have been the target of lawsuits over allegedly delinquent bill payments.

The Trib reports that Fioretti, who moonlights as an attorney at Orum & Roth, and two firms at which he worked—Fioretti & Lower, and Fioretti & Des Jardins—were hit with 12 lawsuits from various individuals and businesses claiming they had not been compensated for their labor. Citing court papers, the paper's Hal Dardick and Bill Ruthart said the majority of the suits, which stretch back to 1999, pertained to payments under $10,000 and have since been settled but "could provide fodder for foes in the mayor’s race who might suggest Fioretti isn’t a good manager."

The No. 1 foe being Mayor Rahm Emanuel, of course. Emanuel seeks a second term in office, and with February's city elections inching closer, competitors are emerging to make a play for the Fifth Floor. Fioretti, a vocal Emanuel critic and staunch political progressive, announced his candidacy earlier this month. Buzz is growing that Karen Lewis, the fiery anti-Rahm president of the Chicago Teachers Union, may soon declare that she, too, will attempt to unseat the famously cutthroat political operative-turned-Windy City boss.

"While Bob did not have management oversight at the firms, he will not dodge responsibility,"  Fioretti spokesman Michael Kolenc tells Ward Room in a statement. "Bob has said that his life is an open book and that voters should examine his record and compare it to this administration's. What we do look forward to is actually talking about how to make this city safer, how we improve our public schools and how we make economic development a priority in all parts of the city. That is a debate that Chicago wants and deserves."

According to the Trib, Fioretti said he did not know that some of the lawsuits existed, noting he wasn't a managing partner in charge of bill-paying, and chalked up other legal trouble to the financial crisis as well as a previous bout of cancer that prevented him from doing his job.

"I'm a lawyer, and I always pay my bills," he said. "The buck stops here with me as an elected official, and I have always said I pay my bills."

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<![CDATA[Sheila Simon vs. Judy Baar Topinka: The Illinois Comptroller Race Is Unsurprisingly One-Sided]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:39:47 -0500 Judy Baar Topinka
State Comptroller
Republican]]>
Judy Baar Topinka
State Comptroller
Republican]]>
http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/judy+baar+topinka+2014.jpg

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is running to unseat Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka this November—and the outlook does not look good.

Simon, Democratic daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, lags behind Topinka—a Republican heavyweight and 34-year veteran of state politics—by a whopping 33 percentage points in a new poll from the Chicago Sun-Times and We Ask America.

The phone survey of 1,071 likely voters, conducted last Wednesday with a 3.1 point margin of error, shows Topinka leading Simon 55-32. Six percent of poll-takers supported Libertarian comptroller candidate Julie Fox, and 8 percent said they were undecided.

"While no one understands what the comptroller does, they view Judy as a competent and as someone who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of politicians," We Ask America COO Gregg Durham, who once served as Topinka's press secretary, tells the Sun-Times. "It also doesn’t help Simon that she's from 'Forgotonia.' Eighty percent of the vote lies north of her."

Let's be real: Did Simon honestly have a chance? It would always be an uphill battle to upstage Topinka, a colorful character with long political history here in the Land of Lincoln, given the triple threat of her charisma, experience and incumbency advantage.

Back in July, Simon took a swipe at Topinka when the former state treasurer—not realizing her mic was still on—was heard asking Gov. Pat Quinn about a job for her son in an apparent public display of patronage. (Nevermind the irony that Simon is the offspring of an esteemed Illinois politician and the connection most certainly helped get her on the 2010 ballot as Quinn's lieutenant governor.)

"The comptroller recalls mentioning that her son just completed 20 years of service in the military, that he has multiple degrees, including his J.D., and is interested in returning to Illinois, preferably southern Illinois," Topinka's press rep said at the time. "It was no different than a million other conversations she’s had about her son in the last few months. Like any mom and grandma, she would like to have her family closer to home."

The grandma card! Shameless. (We're on to you, Judy. You too, Pat Quinn.)

Simon's campaign dismisses the Sun-Times/We Ask America results, saying: "Our own internal polling shows a much closer race, one that will be won by directly communicating with voters and discussing Sheila’s plan to bring transparency and accountability to state and local spending."

Check out the survey's stats on the statewide races for attorney general (Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan leads GOP nominee Paul Schrimpf 53-32), secretary of state (Jesse White's pretty much a lock) and treasurer (Republican Tom Cross out-polls Democrat Michael Frerichs).

And in case you don't know what the heck a comptroller does, and you would not be alone, here's a handy explainer. In short, a comptroller oversees the state's finances and acts in the capacity of an accountant-in-chief. That still does not make sense of the fact that comptroller is pronounced controller.



Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn, Rauner Neck and Neck in Competitive Illinois Governor Race]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:37:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Rauner_Quinn_9-19.jpg

Two months ago pollsters shifted predictions to favor GOP candidate Bruce Rauner over Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in the Illinois gubernatorial race. But now, with the Nov. 4 election just six weeks away, a Rauner victory appears less certain as Quinn surges forward in polling to thwart the Winnetka venture capitalist's seemingly invincible odds of winning Springfield's highest seat.

A poll released Sunday by We Ask America has Rauner leading Quinn 44-41 among 1,400-plus likely voters surveyed Sept. 18-19. Nine percent of poll-takers said they were undecided; six percent backed Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm. The margin of error was three percent.

The rivals are close on women voters too, with 44 percent supporting Quinn and 42 percent favoring Rauner. The gap widens on men, with 36 percent in Quinn's corner and 47 partial to Rauner. (The wealthy Republican businessman has a bigger male-to-female following than the governor, as evidenced in our recent social media analysis of the showdown.)

Rauner, meanwhile, nabbed more independents with 48 percent to Quinn's 29 percent. And according to We Ask America's results, he's stolen 14 percent of the Democratic vote from Quinn. Eleven percent of registered Republicans said they were breaking from the party to vote for Quinn.

"After holding a double-digit lead a few weeks ago, the gap narrows ... just as it did four years ago when Republican State Senator Bill Brady led Quinn by 10 points a month out from the election only to lose a relatively close race," said the polling service. "Despite running a state that’s home to massive debt, terribly low job creation rates, and a pension system that has almost single-handedly lead to a credit rating close to 'non-investment grade,' Pat Quinn has pulled within the margin of error."

A veteran of Illinois politics, Quinn—whose deer-in-the-headlights expression masks an experienced political animal—has proven he cannot be underestimated.

Called a "bumbling fool" by Rauner, the governor has countered attacks on his allegedly corrupt leadership by casting his opponent as an out-of-touch gazillionaire. Quinn's shamelessly effective leveraging of Rauner's wealth and the income inequality issue sweaping the nation seems to be working—for now.

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<![CDATA[A Q&A with Libertarian Candidate Chad Grimm]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 09:31:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/202*120/Chad+Grimm+for+Governorp1.jpg

Chad Grimm, a Libertarian on the November ballot for governor along with Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and GOP businessman Bruce Rauner, sat down with The Associated Press for an interview. Here are details of his background and a sampling of where he stands on issues:

 
BIOGRAPHY
 
Age: 33
 
Hometown: Peoria
 
Work experience: Gym manager, former actor, broadcast intern, unsuccessful bids for state representative and Peoria City Council
 
Why he's running: "Problems can be corrected with less government as opposed to more government. Let's discuss what laws can be stricken from the books that can put the people in control of the state and not the other way around."
 
ISSUES
 
Minimum Wage: Seeks to eliminate it altogether. "It's unpopular to say, but anything it takes to run a business, the price of that service depends on what it costs the business owner to bring that to the market."
 
Gay marriage: Favors gay marriage, but says government should neither intervene nor officially sanction unions between straight or gay couples.
 
Gun Rights: Believes there should be no restrictions on gun rights other than being 18-years-old to purchase a firearm.
 
Pensions: Favors the elimination of state employee pensions over time, but would be open to moving employees to a 401(k) style plan.
 
Term Limits: Opposes term limits but says Illinoisans should be able to vote on the issue.
 
Income tax: "I would like to see it not exist," Grimm says. Opposes extending a temporary income tax hike approved as "temporary" in 2011.


Photo Credit: GrimmforLiberty]]>
<![CDATA[Durbin, Oberweis See Eye to Eye on Obama's ISIS Plan]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:58:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_isis_irak_siria.jpg

Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, was in the minority of senators voting against the Iraq War 12 years ago.

But he says he had "no choice" but to support President Obama's plan to train moderate Syrian rebels as part of a strategy to topple Islamic State militants moving to seize control of Syria and Iraq.

Invoking his proudly contrarian Bush-era "no" vote before the Senate on Thursday, when the chamber gave its 78-22 seal of approval paving the way for an American-financed anti-ISIS ground campaign, Durbin stated, via the Sun-Times: "I remember my thinking on that October night 2002 that we should hold back, not get involved in Iraq. And I think I was right. I think history proved me right."

But, he argued, "I think that we have no choice but to do this but to do it thoughtfully, without combat troops, with clear accountability and reports and behind a coalition that has Arab and Muslim nations."

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois also voted "yes" to Obama's pitch along with 32 GOP colleagues; 12 Republicans opposed it including Kentucky's Rand Paul and Texas' Ted Cruz. Among the nine out of 44 Democrats voting "no": New York's Kirsten Gillibrand and Massachusetts' Elizabeth Warren, who said: "I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, and it is time for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to step up and play a leading role in this fight."

The Senate is (conveniently) waiting until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections to hash things out on authorizing military action in ISIS-addled regions.

Speaking to the Sun-Times, Durbin said: "It goes ’til Dec. 11; we get to see how this unfolds. ... So we can monitor what the administration is actually doing. We won't be doing anything until a coalition is formed. I think that is an important element. And we know that we will return for a larger re-authorization question as soon as we get back in November."

The Establishment Democrat is predicted to win re-election against GOP Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis. The latter issued a statement Friday on the ISIS vote, saying: "I think this is a very difficult situation that we would not be in if President Obama had not pulled all of our troops out of Iraq too soon. But that is past. ISIL [another acronym for the Islamic State group] poses a very dangerous threat to Western civilization and had I been in the Senate I would have listened closely to the debate and likely would have voted yes. However I don't say that absolutely because the Syrian funding was part of a larger bill that I haven't seen."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[This Week in Mudslinging: Rauner's NFL About-Face; Lewis Calls Pro-Rahm DFER 'Racist'; Davis Loves a Good Steak]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:29:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AZUSA-RAIN-MUD.jpg

Who's ready for a mud bath?

Another week, another shameless display of political character assassination. Let's jump in!

Quinn vs. Rauner. The two clashed on jobs, ethics and the NFL as Rauner moved to gain back ground lost from weeks of public missteps including the revelation that he once supported eliminating the minimum wage entirely. 

While Quinn trumpeted Illinoisians' promising job prospects, with the unemployment rate at its lowest in six years, his Republican rival slammed the incumbent Democrat for promoting possibly "misleading" data and declared, "The voters know and they've told me crystal clear that they don't believe Illinois is going the right way and they are suffering."

The venom continued on television, radio and the interwebs with dueling attack ads that focused on moral character: Rauner's campaign homed in on its ongoing "Quinn is corruption" theme with a noir-influenced spot linking the governor to his jailbird predecessor Rod Blagojevich; Team Quinn called out the Winnetka venture capitalist for his former private equity firm's scandalous sale of a "lemon" of a company to Universal American Corp., and also knocked the firm, GTCR, for having no African-American employees.

Meanwhile, amid the NFL domestic abuse scandal capturing national attention, Rauner—a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2008—appeared caught off guard on Wednesday when our very own Mary Ann Ahern pressed the candidate for comment on the unraveling controversy.He said he was focused on his campaign, but several hours later his PR issued a statement saying he thinks the league "badly has mishandled the (Ray Rice) situation." Not missing an opportunity to slime Quinn, a Rauner spokesperson added: "As a husband and father of four daughters, Bruce stands for women's health and safety everyday. Sadly, Pat Quinn has done just the opposite and cut funding for domestic violence shelters by nearly 15 percent.That never should have happened, but Pat Quinn was too busy funneling millions into his own political slush fund that is now the subject of two federal grand jury investigations."

Pouncing on Rauner's initial tightlipped response, Quinn had implored his challenger to denounce domestic violence, citing a "special responsibility that owners of teams have." He'll get more chances to character-assassinate Rauner, especially in the eyes of women, when Gloria Steinem heads to Chicago next Friday to sprinkle some of her intellectual gravitas upon the man Rauner dubs a "bumbling fool."

Karen Lewis vs. DFER. D-WHAT? For the unitiated, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) is what happens when a bunch of "heck yeah, school choice!" hedge fund dudes who support Rahm Emanuel get together and put pressure on Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union leader who's maybe running for mayor, to declare her candidacy or step down from her day job. Quoth a rep for DFER's Illinois branch: "With a $40,000 contribution to her mayoral campaign, President Lewis has made it clear she is running for mayor, but she has also said that she will force negotiations over a new teachers contract this year. Doing both would present nothing short of a conflict of interest. Chicagoans won't know whether President Lewis is representing her members, her political interests, or if she’d use the negotiations merely as an extension of her campaign." Lewis dismissed DFER's statement, telling the Sun-Times, "Yes, I can do both jobs. People act like I'm the only one in this office and that I do all these different things. We have a bargaining team of 75 people. ... I don't care what DFER tells me. They can go back to running their 'Hey, Girl' racist radio spots." In the group's defense, Karen are you going to run or not? Please check "yes" or "no" and slip your answer underneath Ward Room's door. "MAYBE" IS NOT AN OPTION.

Rodney Davis vs. Ann Callis. The race between Republican Rep. Davis and his Democratic challenger in Illinois' 13th congressional district is getting nastier with seven weeks left 'til the Nov. 4 election. Callis dropped another negative ad Thursday, taking swipes at Davis for allegedly spending too much time wining and dining with DC "insiders." (It all comes down to wine, doesn't it?). Retaliating, Davis' campaign invoked Callis' "growing residency scandal" and called her spot "smarmy," "desperate" and "untruthful." But according to Callis, Davis did indeed spend nearly $40,000 at Washington steakhouses, which proves that the congressman really loves a good steak.

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<![CDATA[Dueling Quinn-Rauner Attack Ads Spew Venom on Moral Character]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:21:40 -0500

Out-campaigned on the income inequality issue, Bruce Rauner is pumping up a media campaign to redirect focus upon Illinois' most powerful Democrats. His latest ad ties Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Senate President John Cullerton to the scandalous governship of the imprisoned Rod Blagojevich.

The GOP gubernatorial nominee's campaign dropped a new ad targeting Quinn as complicit in "100 years" of Machine-fueled corruption and featuring up-to-no-good, noirish imagery of a man puffing a cigar, a brief case being cracked open and a jail cell.

Intones the narrator: "Cullerton. Madigan. Blagojevich. Quinn. Together they've been in Springfield over 100 years. They've taken millions from taxpayers for themselves. And what have they given us? Record job losses. Painful tax increases. Billions in debt, and the worst pension crisis in America. Corruption. Patronage. Cronyism. Investigations. Prison. Now Pat Quinn wants four more years? One hundred years of failure is enough."

Meanwhile, Quinn—in bulldog mode of late—struck back on the morality front with a spot shaming the wealthy venture capitalist for a federal lawsuit by Universal American Corp. that accused Rauner's former private equity firm of selling it an ailing business -- APS Healthcare -- for $222.3 million in March 2012.

"Bruce Rauner's healthcare company APS was caught by the F.B.I. defrauding taxpayers and cheating patients," says the commercial against a backdrop of sad music and an even sadder image of an elderly woman. "Rauner's company had to pay a $13 million dollar settlement. The U.S. Attorney said Rauner's company 'took Medicaid's money for itself and left some of our most vulnerable citizens without the aid they deserve.' Did Bruce Rauner really think no one would find out?"

Coinciding with that attack is a brilliant Quinn-crafted ad on African-American radio that rips Rauner's past explanation on why the firm he founded, GTCR, had yet to hire an African-American employee. The audio, courtesy of Capitol Fax's Rich Miller, features a bemused female narrator taking Rauner to task: "Really, Bruce Rauner? You couldn't find anyone? You couldn't find a single qualified African-American to work for and represent your firm? And now you're running TV ads claiming our close you are to our community?"

Elsewhere this week, Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin released his second re-election ad this season. The theme: Student loans. The mudslinging: Non-existent. He again makes no mention of his Republican opponent Jim Oberweis.

"The high cost of college is weighing down America's middle class," declares the senator. "That's why I'm fighting for a law so college loans can be refinanced at today's lower interest rates. ... After all, if you can refinance a car loan and a home loan, why can't you refinance a student loan?"

 

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<![CDATA[Karen Lewis Tweets for Donations: 'Help Me Make a Decision']]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:00:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Karen_Lewis_9-2.jpg

Still undecided on running for mayor, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is soliciting supporters on Twitter to help pad her campaign war chest with enough money to go up against Rahm Emanuel's millions.

On Wednesday, she tweeted a request to her supporters.

Lewis posted a link to the donation page of the Exploratory Committee to Elect Karen Lewis, where she solicits contributions ranging from $10-to-beyond.

The fund raising effort comes with a call to action: "Join the 'People's Movement' for inclusion, equity, racial justice and participatory democracy and contribute today to help us reverse the bad policies of Mayor 1%."

The charismatic CTU boss, who's been seriously considering a run for the past three months, would also face off against fellow progressive and Emanuel critic Bob Fioretti, the alderman of Chicago's 2nd Ward, who announced his candidacy last Saturday and held a private fundraiser downtown on Tuesday night.

For Fioretti, who has long eyed the mayorship, cash flow appears less an obstacle than the opportunity to potentially oust Emanuel from office.

For Lewis, donor dollars are a dealbreaker. Last week she poured $40,000 of her own dough into her campaign fund, explaining: "It's a sign that I'm trying to raise money. People have to see that we're trying to raise money now. We have to do all kinds of other things."

If she does throw her hat into the ring, Team Emanuel will most certainly lob verbal grenades her direction. After Fioretti's announcement, an Emanuel spokesman responded: "Time and again, Alderman Fioretti has shown no backbone for making tough choices and little respect for Chicago taxpayers' pocketbooks."

At the time, Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Ward Room that Fioretti could pose a real threat to the incumbent Democrat, observing: "It could throw it into a run off and it would be clear that the mayor can be defeated."

Should Lewis enter the race, both she and Fioretti—who appeal to different segments of anti-Rahm voters—might even bring down Emanuel's percentage of the vote, thereby nullifying the impact of his impressive and apparently bottomless fundraising power.

It would also be double the election-cycle nastiness as Lewis gets slimed along with Fioretti.

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<![CDATA[Rauner, Part Steelers Owner, Won't Weigh in on Abuse Scandals]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:52:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bruce_Rauner_marijuana.jpg

Illinois Governor Candidate Bruce Rauner became a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008, which means he in part employs embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Rauner, however, wants no part of the domestic abuse mess currently bedeviling the National Football League, and he declined to take questions. 

The candidate Wednesday was asked to comment on his thoughts about Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in an elevator, Adrian Peterson allegedly using a switch to beat his 4-year-old son, or Greg Hardy assaulting his girlfriend and threatening to kill her.

"I am working here in Illinois to win an election and transform our government for the people of Illinois," Rauner said when asked if he had reached out for information on how the league was handling the spate of abuse reports. 

Rauner is also a minority owner of the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics. 

Update: the Rauner campaign emailed a statement about the NFL's abuse scandal about four hours after he declined to comment at a press conference Q&A session. 

"Bruce thinks what Ray Rice did is deplorable and the NFL has badly mishandled the situation. As a husband and father of four daughters, Bruce stands for women's health and safety everyday. Sadly, Pat Quinn has done just the opposite and cut funding for domestic violence shelters by nearly 15 percent. That never should have happened, but Pat Quinn was too busy funneling millions into his own political slush fund that is now the subject of two federal grand jury investigations." - Rauner spokesperson Lyndsey Walters

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<![CDATA[Rauner Bars College Journalists from Presser]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:18:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rauner+wine+club.jpg

Republican Governor Candidate Bruce Rauner held an event today to announce something. 

Columbia College Chicago journalism professor Curtis Lawrence brought his class of aspiring reporters to listen to Rauner's announcement about something or other and get some practice covering a political press conference, according to the Sun Times' Natasha Korecki

Rauner's seasoned political team decided not to let the students into the event. 

"Working media" only, they said before giving the boot to 12 up and comers. 

"When I asked about future events, she said that it was their 'policy' that only credentialed press would be allowed in," Lawrence told Korecki. "When I mentioned that some of the students were published in the school-sponsored website, ChicagoTalks, she reiterated that they too would need credentials. This has never been an issue with other campaigns and we do this regularly during campaign season."

The students dutifully waited in the hallway, hoping that candidate Rauner might emerge from the closed-door conference about something or other and give them a word. But no dice. 

Governor Pat Quinn's campaign, which did let the students cover an event announcing his running mate, said this is what you could expect from a Rauner administration. 

"It appears we just got a sneak preview of what it would be like to cover a Bruce Rauner administration: little access and no respect for young journalists," Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson told Korecki.

 

 

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<![CDATA[Dick Durbin Seeks to Avoid Eric Cantor's Shocking Fate]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:04:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_dickdurbin.jpg

Despite a positive outlook, Illinois' Dick Durbin—the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate—is not resting on his laurels in an election-season battle against Republican challenger Jim Oberweis.

Why?

Two words: Eric. Cantor.

Referencing the former Republican House Majority Leader's stunning and unprecedented primary loss to economics professor Dave Brat, Durbin tells The Associated Press: "I get up every morning, I open my eyes, I say 'Eric Cantor' and I jump out of bed."

"(Voters) are upset with all of us in public life and political life," he observes of Americans' low opinion of Congress. "It's a wakeup call for all of us."

Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, has crusaded in recent weeks to prevent an exodus of corporations departing Illinois for greener tax pastures as part of a controversial business practice known as a corporate inversion, declaring last week: "Let's call corporate inverters what they really are: corporate deserters."

The politician, who's seeking to bar these so-called deserters from obtaining federal contracts, defends his combative stance in an interview with the AP, saying: "I think it's my job. If an Illinois senator won't stand up to keep companies in this state and in this country he's got the backbone of a melting ice cream cone."

That's a dig against Oberweis. The GOP state senator, a Sugar Grove dairy mogul known for his local ice cream business, accused Durbin of "bullying" Walgreen Co. into keeping its headquarters in north suburban Deerfield as it mulled a potential move overseas.

"His bullying of Walgreens was a political stunt designed to help only one person: Dick Durbin," sniped Oberweis last August. "It didn't create any jobs. It didn't reform our job-killing tax code."

Other critics have emerged to pan Durbin's corporate mudslinging, with Crain's Chicago Business columnist Joe Cahill writing Monday that Durbin may be hurting more than he is helping. Quoth Cahill: "I understand the political calculations that motivate Mr. Durbin. And he has legitimate arguments against corporate inversions. But I wish he would think about the collateral damage of his rhetorical firebombs. Illinois already suffers from an undeserved reputation as a lousy place to do business. Mr. Durbin's language gives people another reason to believe that businesses are unwelcome here."

Meanwhile, Durbin—who's also campaigning on a pledge to raise the minimum wage—says he thinks Democrats will manage to stave off a GOP take-over and hold onto the Senate in November's midterms. (At the moment, the New York Times is predicting a 51 percent Republican majority win.)

Buoyed by incumbency advantage and a strong voter following in Democratic Chicago, Durbin out-polled Oberweis by 23 percentage points in a Chicago Tribune survey released Monday. Last week, Oberweis' campaign was dealt a blow when Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a member of the Republican Senatorial Committee, which offers election-season support to candidates, said Oberweis' campaign wasn't a priority for the party.



Photo Credit: AP Graphics]]>
<![CDATA[Why Chicago Will Win the Obama Library]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:55:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/455214430.jpg

As we prophesied, Chicago stands atop President Barack Obama's shortlist as a location to host his highly coveted library and museum.

The president's foundation, whittling down the field of contenders to four, selected the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago as two possibilities in the tough-and-gruff Midwestern city where Obama made his political bones, married wife Michelle and rose to meteoric fame.

The other two locations are New York's Columbia University, Obama's venerable, deep-pocketed alma mater, and the University of Hawaii, on the tourist-attracting island where he grew up.

The quartet is required to submit in-depth pitches for their dueling libraries by a deadline of Dec. 11. The Barack Obama Foundation, headed up by Obama confidante Marty Nesbitt, is expected to make a decision early next year.

So how good are Chicago's chances of trouncing the competition? So good, it's practically in the bag. At the moment, the obvious favorite is arguably U of C, an esteemed private institution whose South Side campus is close to the Obamas' Hyde Park home and where Obama taught classes at the law school.

But don't count out UIC, the public university on the West Side, which also submitted an attractive proposal that showcases Chicago's famed skyline and provides convenient access to public transportation.

Meanwhile, the University of Hawaii has pitched the idea of hosting a satellite building of sorts—a "presidential center"—in collaboration with a stateside locale that would house the primary library.

Without having seen the bidders' completed plans, it's appealing to envision a Chicago-Hawaii partnership—and on that end, Obama's sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, who's based in the Aloha State, recently joined the library search committee board.

Soetoro-Ng will most certainly make the case for Hawaii, while another newly minted board member—former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who's based in DC—could stump for the East Coast. Nesbitt founded The Vistria Group, a private equity company, in Chicago and also earned his Masters of Business Administration Degree from U of C, lending some credence to predictions that the grand prize will inevitably go to Chicago.

Back in July, the foundation disclosed the names of wealthy donors who collectively contributed as much as $1.75 million in an early round of fundraising. They include Michael Sacks, the CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management, a funder of hedge funds based in the Windy City, and a veteran Obama campaign bundler as well as a confidante of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (who's dying to score the library).

Earlier this year, Chicago wrangled the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art away from San Francisco and Los Angeles, allowing Emauel to tout George Lucas project's job creation potential and calling its construction a "significant step" for the city.

The Obama library would be a double win for Emanuel during a re-election year as he seeks to transform Chicago into a global tourism trap.

"We're already a global city," Dick Simpson, professor of political science at the UIC, sits on its Obama library committee, recently told Ward Room. "But (the Obama library) and the Lucas museum add dimensions to the foundation that is already here."



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Obamas Get Chicago Schools Named After Them]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:58:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/tlmd_obama_getty_michelle.jpg

South Chicago suburbs Park Forest and Chicago Heights have renamed two area schools in tribute to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Those Cook County cities, which comprise School District 163, announced on Monday that Beacon Hill School, grades 4-8, now goes by the Barack Obama School of Leadership and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), while Forest Trail School, 4-8, has been named Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts (STARS).

"The Obama name was selected for the two schools because the values that the First Family models are unparalleled precedents and are values that our students strive to emulate. I believe we are the first schools in the nation to honor the First Family in this manner," Joyce Carmine, district superintendent, said in a statement. "School District 163 has a strong legacy of promoting innovation and the reconfiguration and creation of the two Obama schools will continue this legacy."

Both "concept" schools will adhere to Common Core standards of learning that spells out what children K-12 should know by the end of each grade. The STEM school will focus on curricula related to math and the sciences, while the STARS school will focus on theater, music and the visual arts.

Students residing within the district can apply to whichever school reflects their interests, and those not accepted into their chosen school may re-apply in two years, Carmine said.

Meanwhile, in the city proper, a selective enrollment school to be named for President Obama was commissioned earlier this year to open in the 2017-18 school year on Chicago Park District property near Skinner North Classical School on the city's North Side.

 

 

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<![CDATA[Durbin Leads Oberweis 55-32 In New Tribune Poll]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:19:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/452895498.jpg

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is in a good position to win a fourth term serving Illinois this November, despite possibilities that Republicans will take hold of the Senate and weeks of negative attacks by opponent Jim Oberweis.

A new Chicago Tribune voter poll reveals that Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, leads Oberweis by 23 percentage points, with 55 percent intending to vote for the incumbent and 32 percent supporting Oberweis. Seven percent said they were undecided on whom to support at the ballot box Nov. 4. Five percent backed Libertarian candidate Sharon Hansen in her bid for senator.

Last week, Oberweis—a state senator and dairy magnate from Chicago's western suburbs—took a major tumble when Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a member of the Republican Senatorial Committee, which offers election-season support to candidates, said Oberweis' campaign wasn't a priority for the party. (Translation: We consider Durbin a lock, so we're focusing attention to contenders who stand a chance of winning.)

While Durbin released his first re-election ad several days ago, making no mention of Oberweis, his challenger has been on the attack since the summer with a media blitz painting the Washington power-player as a career politician in the same vein as Richard Nixon.

Following the anti-Durbin offensive, Oberweis—a political conservative who previously launched two failed bids for U.S. senator, one for U.S. representative and one for Illinois governor—saw his prospects brighten earlier this month when a Chicago Sun-Times survey showed a narrowing, seven-point gap between the rivals.

At the time, Durbin's spokesman told Ward Room: "Our internal numbers show a larger gap; however, as we approach Election Day we're going to keep working hard to share Sen. Durbin's message of a fair shot for everyday Illinoisans. Despite the flaws of the Sun-Times poll, one thing is clear: perennial candidate Jim Oberweis is significantly behind in the polls because of his radical tea party agenda."

Eyeing Durbin's Chicago voting bloc, the senator's most loyal, Oberweis nonethless managed to secure the improbable endorsement of Chicago pastor and South Side activist Corey Brooks, who began supporting the candidate last May after Oberweis participated in an event for Brooks' anti-violence initiative in the tough Woodlawn neighborhood.

On Monday morning Durbin is expected to announce endorsements from "dozens of faith leaders" on Chicago's South Side, according to his campaign.



Photo Credit: CQ Roll Call]]>
<![CDATA[Fioretti Wants to "Bring the City Together"]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 18:28:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bob_Fioretti_4-14.jpg

Second Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti revealed Saturday that he will run for mayor, marking the first major challenger to face Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February election.

News of the decision was first posted to Fioretti's website ahead of a "big announcement" scheduled for Saturday morning.

"Four years ago, Rahm promised he was going to be tough," Fioretti said. "All we got was tough luck."

Fioretti, leader of City Council's Progressive Caucus, said earlier this week that he was "seriously considering" challenging Emanuel at the ballot box in February.

The 61-year-old alderman, who previously worried his campaign war chest wasn't outsized enough to trounce talented fund-raiser Emanuel, reported he received loads of encouragement following his late-August crowd-sourcing initiative.

"I love Chicago and I cannot stand by as the current mayor looks out for some of us and ignores the struggles of some," Fioretti said Saturday. "Chicago deserves someone who can bring the city together."

While he didn't go into specifics Saturday about his agenda, he did call for hiking the minimum wage $15 an hour, an elected school board, money for more police officers and a 1 percent commuter tax.

With Emanuel's approval rating at an all-time low, Fioretti—who has long desired the mayorship—has begun in earnest to lay the groundwork for a potential Fifth Floor take-over.

"Time and again, Alderman Fioretti has shown no backbone for making tough choices and little respect for Chicago taxpayers' pocketbooks," Emanuel's campaign spokesman, Steve Mayberry, said in a statement Saturday. "Chicago can't tax itself out of its problems. Chicago needs, and has, a strong leader who has shown that he is willing to make tough decisions."

Political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dick Simpson, says Fioretti is a significant candidate who still has some time to get his name out there.

"It could throw it into a run off and it would be clear that the mayor can be defeated," he said.

Emanuel could also face a challenge from Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis, who told NBC Chicago in June that she was seriously mulling a run for mayor.

Since then she's explored the idea, privately and publicly, popping up at voter meet-and-greets around town. On Monday, the outspoken, off-the-cuff Lewis poured $40,000 of her own money into her campaign fund, explaining: "It's a sign that I'm trying to raise money. People have to see that we're trying to raise money now. We have to do all kinds of other things."

While Emanuel wants to boost the minimum wage from $8.25 to $13, Fioretti and Lewis want to hike it to $15. They balked at the mayor's pact with the city's police union to get cops an 11 percent raise as well as retroactive pay, blasting the move as an election-cycle stunt.

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<![CDATA[Two Chicago Sites Cut From List for Obama Library]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 10:20:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/159846115.jpg

The pool of locations vying to become home to a potential Obama Presidential Library has reportedly been narrowed.

The Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reported Thursday that two Chicago sites -- in Lakeside and Bronzeville -- have been cut from the running. The University of Chicago and the University of Illinois Chicago, which previously announced three potential library and museum sites, remain as candidates.

The Lakeside site was on the former site of U.S. Steel South Works, and the Bronzeville location focused on the area of the former Michael Reese Hospital.

Locations in New York City and Hawaii are also being considered.

 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Durbin Makes No Mention of Oberweis in First Re-Election Ad]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:55:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/452895498.jpg

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who's seeking to hold onto his Illinois post amid competition from Jim Oberweis, has released his first political ad this election cycle.

Not once dropping Oberweis' name, the second-ranking Senate Democrat goes for the heartstrings in the clip, which uses the story of Joliet resident Andrea Simone to highlight Durbin's commitment to veteran issues.

Simone's husband, Tony, survived an attack by the Taliban on a U.S. military helicopter while he was serving in Afghanistan. He received a severe brain injury in the incident. With the help of the Durbin-sponsored Veterans Affairs' Family Caregiver Program, which was instated in 2009 and offers financial and educational support for caregivers, Andrea was able to manage Tony's care on her own.

"Senator Durbin passed a law that provided me with the resources and the training so that I am able to take care of Tony at home," she says. "I believe for Dick Durbin it's not about politics. He cares for veterans and their families."

The downstate-born incumbent leads Oberweis in polling and by most predictions is expected to score at the ballot box Nov. 4. However, his Republican challenger—a dairy magnate from Chicago's western 'burbs—has recently gained momentum amid an increasingly negative anti-Durbin media campaign.

Durbin's ad is airing in the markets of Springfield and Chicago, home to his most loyal voting base.



Photo Credit: CQ Roll Call]]>
<![CDATA[Democratic Poll Shows Quinn Ahead for First Time]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 08:43:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_gov_pat_quinn.jpg

After weeks of losing ground to Bruce Rauner, Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is three points ahead of his Republican rival in a new poll released Thursday by the Democratic Governors Association.

It's the first time the embattled incumbent has led Rauner in any publicly released poll since last year, reports the Chicago Sun-Times, which last month spread word of an internal Quinn-commissioned survey showing the governor trailing Rauner in a close match-up.

The survey of 605 potential voters, done Sept. 4-7 by the Global Strategy Group on behalf of the DGA, has Quinn with 43 percent of the vote and Rauner with 40 percent. The Libertarian Party candidate Chad Grimm has 5 percent.

It revealed that Rauner's negative ratings have risen 20 points among Democrats and 13 points among Independents while his positive ratings have flatlined.

These numbers signal a possible sea change in the court of public opinion. Dogged by low approval ratings, not to mention two corruption-related investigations into his botched anti-violence program and improper patronage hiring inside the Department of Transportation, Quinn has struggled to combat Rauner's relentless attacks and growing popularity among government-fatigued Illinoisans responsive to a campaign to "Shake Up Springfield."

But Rauner, prone to foot-in-mouth disease, has stumbled in recent days. Last week the multi-millionaire venture capitalist confessed to belonging to an elite wine-of-the-month club where membership costs $140,000 and also copped to once proposing the controversial idea of slashing the state's minimum wage entirely. In the past he had argued that a full-scale wipe-out of living wages for low-income workers would serve to keep fiscally struggling Illinois "competitive."

Leveraging the income inequality issue, which is trending across America as the wealth gap widens, Team Quinn has counter-attacked with a media blitz casting Rauner as out of touch with the average voter.

On Tuesday, the two sparred during a testy non-debate debate at the Chicago Tribune, where Rauner sniped: "The only difference between Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich is the hair." But Quinn, in bulldog mode, shot back at his tall-and-refined opponent with unexpected verve, taking swipes at Rauner's checkered corporate history and for "clouting" his daughter into the selective-enrollment Chicago high school Walter Payton Prep. (Whatever Quinn's re-election team said in those passed notes must have worked.)

Making another trip to support Rauner, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the leader of the Republican Governors Association, surfaced in Springfield Wednesday as Rauner called upon Quinn to cut off ties with his former Chief of Staff-turned-lobbyist Jack Lavin, whose emails were subpoenaed as part of a probe into improper hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

"He speaks his mind. He tells people exactly the way he would handle things if confronted with similar circumstances, and he makes sure he’s holding Gov. Quinn to account," Christie told reporters.

Next week ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will headline a pro-Rauner fundraiser in Chicago Sept. 18.

As Republican A-listers, and gobs of outside money, coalesce around Rauner, it remains to be seen whether the blunt-speaking businessman will regain any lost momentum in this blue state and succeed in his efforts to tip the election outside the Democrat-controlled Windy City come Nov. 4.

If Quinn wants to turn this victory into a winning streak, he'll need to push even harder on the wealth theme. The trouble for Team Rauner is their guy happens to be giving Quinn a lot of negative material to use against the self-styled Winnetka reformer.

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<![CDATA[President Obama Details Plan to Attack ISIS]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 22:36:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008763421_1200x675_327698499823.jpg President Barack Obama addressed the nation Wednesday night. He announced plans to attack ISIS. NBC's Rob Elgas reports.]]>