<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Political News and Chicago Politics]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Thu, 02 Apr 2015 03:02:36 -0500 Thu, 02 Apr 2015 03:02:36 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[In Latest Ad Rahm Takes Off Sweater But Stays Fuzzy]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 17:25:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm+new+ad+better.jpg

Rahm Emanuel displays his soft side again in his latest TV advertisement before the April 7 runoff.

In the advertisement, titled "Better," the mayor touts his greatest achievements, but then he ends it by saying he could do better.

"Chicago is a great city, but we can be even better. And, yeah, I hear ya, so can I," Emanuel says before asking for your vote.

The mayor manages to talk about his successes, such as all-day kindergarten and a purported decrease in crime, while also conceding that more can be done.

For example: "Crime may be down, but there are still too many families ripped apart by senseless violence," he says.

The timing of this latest advertisement shows that the mayor is still grappling with an image problem. On March 3, he released another ad where he admitted he can rub people the wrong way in his quest to make a difference in Chicago.

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia released his latest ad on March 18. Rather than focus on his own flaws, Garcia used the air space to attack Emanuel. He stood outside of one of the 50 schools closed down under Emanuel's watch and told voters he wanted them to elect a school board and make decisions about their children's schools.

"He (Emanuel) took the money from these schools and gave it to elite private schools founded by his big campaign contributors," Garcia said.

The mayor's latest advertisement is likely his last one before the election Tuesday. His numbers have risen in the polls in the last few weeks, but with a high number of voters remaining undecided, the race could still be anyone's game.

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<![CDATA[Mayoral Candidates React to First Quarter Crime Stats]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 19:45:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-elecciones-emanuel-garcia.jpg

Chicago's mayoral candidates had far different reactions to crime statistics released early Wednesday that show homicides and shootings were up in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who ordered the Chicago Police Department to re-evaluate policing and spent millions of dollars in overtime for officers, said more help is needed from state lawmakers. 

"The number one problem is shootings and homicides, and that's why I've been clear from get-go, this is not -- yes, we want more police. We've got to have them in the right place," he said. "But we have to get the laws changed in Springfield."

The mayor has previously called on state legislators to pass laws to ban assault-type weapons, limit the size of bullet clips allowed for sale, and mandate comprehensive background checks at every point-of-sale.

Compared to the first quarter of 2014, when the city set a record low for homicides, Chicago recorded 18 more homicides, 107 more shootings and 101 more shooting victims, the department said.

Emanuel's opponent in the April 7 runoff, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, has used the city's violence as a rallying cry for his campaign.

"Ten thousand five hundred shootings and climbing -- almost 2,000 homicides -- should give no one a sense that Chicago is a safer city," he said. 

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the stats show why reforms are needed to limit straw purchases -- where someone buys guns and sells them to others not authorized to buy weapons.

"The worst part of those 500 guns arrests: there's two individuals who we arrested twice in a 90 period for illegal possession of a firearm. Caught. Released. Caught. Released again," he said.

Photo Credit: Especial]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: How WTTW Lost the Mayoral Debate]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:54:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+tonight+photo.JPG

Both mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia likely had their own supporters in the audience Tuesday night during a candidate forum hosted by WTTW Chanel 11 and moderated by Chicago Tonight host Phil Ponce.

Accordingly, during particularly pithy moments, each candidate roused their shares of claps or chuckles from the crowd during the heated debate.

However, only one person on stage Tuesday night got booed, and that was Ponce. He deserved it.

Garcia’s son was once in a street gang in the Little Village neighborhood where he grew up and where the commissioner still lives. Ponce took time to ask the mayoral challenger, “If you can’t keep your own son out of a gang, how can you steer the city away from gangs and violence?”

Emanuel’s subsequent objection to the line of questioning, as well as nicely done criticisms of it in writing that followed seem to imply that Ponce’s question was inappropriate. Such a description would be a bit charitable, however.

The line of questioning was not inappropriate, it was just bad. Ponce had the right to ask Garcia that question, doing so only revealed that the moderator’s understanding of crime, and perhaps parenting as well, lacked sophistication.

Questions about Garcia’s son made up the bulk of Ponce’s effort to touch on one of Chicago’s most important and pressing problems – crime. Ponce could have asked Garcia to talk about the unique crime-prevention strategies (like specific community policing training for officers and restorative justice programs) he’s advocated for during the campaign, and ask him why he believes they would be effective, and how he would pay for them.

Ponce could have asked Emanuel to talk about the strategies he’s used to deal with Chicago’s horrible crime over the past four years, and how he plans to move forward. Ponce could have also looked into criminology research and data and used some of that information as a lens to view and examine Emanuel and Garcia’s ideas and claims, and follow up with pointed and specific questions that could have helped Chicago voters get a better grasp on what to do about this endemic problem, and the differences between the candidates’ approaches.

Ponce did none of that. Instead, like an unfocused but self-righteous prosecutor he pressed harder about Garcia’s son who has, the commissioner said, a criminal record consisting of two misdemeanors, than he did on any other issue of the night. Ponce certainly pressed harder there than he did on education, with either candidate.

Not one question was asked of either candidate about the record number of Chicago Public Schools closed in recent years during the entire hour. Emanuel was not asked anything about that issue, including why he chose to close the schools he did, the impact on school children and communities, or why more and more money is being used for charter schools when regular schools have been shut down in a wholesale manner.

Garcia, who has made criticism of Emanuel’s school closings a central piece of his campaign, was not asked once Tuesday to say how he would have been able to keep those schools open, find the money to improve them, or specifically how he would reverse course if he becomes mayor.
Perhaps the question of whether or not a mayoral candidate’s son is a part of an organized crime group is one worth exploring. The answer has been given, however, and belaboring it made it seem as though Ponce had an ax to grind.

The question of whether or not Garcia improperly contributed to a law firm benefiting from public work after they had helped represent his son is certainly a valid one, as well. Scale of pay-to-play would seem to also be important, however, and it was disappointing to watch the moderator give more attention to the issue of Garcia’s son’s legal defense than the fact that about 60 percent of big campaign donors to the mayor’s campaign have benefited financially from the mayor directly or tax-payer money, to the tune of millions of dollars.

Garcia’s pained but composed answers to Ponce’s questions about his son were difficult to listen to. “We tried to be as loving, and caring, and as supportive of my son as possible,” he said.

“He made some mistakes. I’m not proud of it. Perhaps all the love that we gave him, wasn’t enough. Gladly, my son learned from his mistakes. He has four children that he’s raising. He is a chef, and he mentors kids in the community. He turned his life around. I’m proud of him.

“We did the best that we could for him. There are other things that you don’t know about my son, and the work that he has done. He’s been a mentor with the YMCA street intervention program, he’s worked for cease fire as a mentor. He’s mentored kids in the neighborhood, and in many other neighborhoods. He has also worked on trauma issues in the city of Chicago. It’s a great story, Phil. If you like, I’d like to introduce you to him.”

Garcia didn’t defend himself from mistakes of his son, as the question seemed to prompt him to do. Instead, the commissioner soberly explained what it is like to be a parent, and then proudly spoke about how far his son has come.

It may have been difficult to watch Garcia answer those questions. The audience’s heart seem to go out to him, with at least one member shouting out, “Come on, Phil!”

However, the real pity for those moments should be reserved for the moderator, who came off more like a half-drunk great uncle discussing public policy after reading a headline, than a journalist with decades of experience, and months to prepare for a debate between two mayoral candidates. As always, it was impossible to tell which candidate “won” this most recent, and final debate.

This time, however, it was easy to see who the loser was.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Like Schock, "Honest Abe" Questioned About Expenditures]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:08:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/abraham+lincoln+painting.JPG

Tuesday marked a turning point for residents of Illinois’ 18th congressional district.

Those residents officially lost their congressman, Aaron Schock, who resigned two weeks ago in the midst of a spending and mileage scandal.  They had to confront the cold reality that Schock had become the second congressman from their district who faced ethical questions over mileage.

The first? Abraham Lincoln.

Back then, Lincoln represented much of the same area, in the old seventh district of central Illinois. In 1848, he became mired in a mileage scandal which tarred not just the Great Emancipator, but every other member of congress.

"Everybody who was named, which was everybody who was in the House at the time, felt personally accused," said Scott Klein, who researched the 19th century scandal for the investigative site ProPublica. "He’s not singled out more than any other congressman."

The instigator was Horace Greeley, powerful editor of the New York Tribune, during a brief period where he also served as a member of the House. Greeley had become outraged at what he felt were excessive mileage payments to his fellow congressmen.

"He realized that this was a huge excess, that the congressmen were being paid incredible amounts of money to travel what would have been much easier distances in 1848," Klein said. "He was taking on the mileage law as it was written, because it was written before steamships, and before trains had crisscrossed the United States and when it was much more difficult for a member of congress to get to the capitol.”

And Lincoln?

"He was the recipient of some $677 in excess mileage, at least according to Greeley’s calculation," Klein said. "Which is the equivalent of $18,700 today."

At 40 cents a mile, Greeley saw the payments as a relic from an earlier time. The rate had been calculated during a period when it was assumed a traveling representative could only put in about 20 miles per day. Using an official book of mail routes, Greeley instructed a reporter to calculate the shortest path from each congressman’s district to Washington, and compared those distances with their actual payments. He published his results in December of 1848.

"He was trying to expose a corrupt system," said Lincoln expert Bjorn Skaptason, at Chicago’s Abraham Lincoln Book Shop. "Congressmen did not get paid a large salary back in those days. They got paid when Congress was in session. And Congress, of course, was not in session very long."

"One of the principal sources of income for somebody who was putting a major part of their life on hold to go to Washington and represent the people was this mileage," he said. 

Like Klein, Skaptason notes that during the Lincoln era, times had changed. A congressman from Illinois would no longer simply ride a horse along those published postal routes, but had benefit of railroads, or even steamships to make such a long journey.

"All of these would add enormous miles to the trip, but the trip would be faster," he said.

It should be noted that Greeley did not directly accuse the congressmen themselves, but rather the system of payments. He directly said so in his published investigation, but that distinction was lost on those whose names were printed in the tables.

If Lincoln ever answered the charges, history does not make note. While outraged members of congress sought to censure or even expel Greeley, there is no record of Lincoln even speaking during the floor debate.

ProPublica’s Klein points to the Greeley investigation as an early example of modern data journalism. He took Greeley’s numbers, sorted them through an Excel spreadsheet, and re-analyzed the data.

"I found it absolutely full of arithmetic errors," he said. "One congressman is left out, and most notably, Greeley himself is not listed among members of Congress who took excess mileage."

The editor-turned-congressman was paid $5, which he returned to the Sergeant-at-Arms.

And the mileage rates? Klein said that shortly after Greeley’s expose’ the House voted to reform the numbers. But in his autobiography, Greeley argued they did so knowing full well that their colleagues in the Senate would never ratify the changes.

It's all evidence that while news cycles have shortened, some of the scandals of the modern era are actually rather familiar.

Photo Credit: FILE-AP]]>
<![CDATA[New Poll Results Show African-American Voters Favor Emanuel]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:00:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm+chuy+cand+forum.jpg

A new mayoral poll shows Rahm Emanuel is likely to earn the majority of the coveted African-American vote on April 7.

WVON and the Chicago Defender interviewed more than 1,000 registered African-American voters in a questionnaire asking them how they would vote in the runoff election if it took place that day. About 46 percent of those surveyed put their support behind Emanuel, while 36 percent supported Garcia. Another 18 percent remained undecided.

Both candidates have actively campaigned for the African-American vote since Feb. 24 as it was seen as the key to winning the runoff. Much of that demographic remained heavily undecided in the ensuing weeks, thus giving those voters the potential to determine the outcome of the April 7 election.

Although Emanuel emerged the victor in this poll, Garcia has racked up more endorsements from African-American leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson and former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones.

Other recent polls show the mayor has a significant lead over Garcia. The Chicago Tribune poll results released Tuesday showed 58 percent of voters favored Emanuel with only 9 percent undecided. The latest Ogden and Fry poll from the weekend showed Emanuel with about 48 percent of the vote. About 18 percent were undecided.

The WVON and Chicago Defender poll does not indicate voter turnout, however. According to their analysis, more than 50 percent of voters polled who are 46 years old and older favored Emanuel. The younger demographic represented in the poll leaned toward Garcia.

Among the undecided voters, the older demographic is more likely to cast their ballots in the election, meaning Emanuel is most likely to emerge the winner of the African-American vote, according to WVON and the Chicago Defender.

<![CDATA[Who Gets Your Vote For Mayor?]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:58:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/flash+survey+new.jpg

Various polls have Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia with different levels of support, and we know there's a large contingent of undecided voters.

With fewer than seven days to go, make a choice: If today were election day, which man would get your vote?


<![CDATA[How Accurate Are Mayoral Polls?]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:08:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm+and+chuy+2+getty.jpg

It looks like Mayor Rahm Emanuel is headed for a victory on April 7, according to the latest poll results at least.

But how much stock should we put in the polls?

Both Ogden and Fry and the Chicago Tribune have conducted regular polls for the mayoral race both before and after the Feb. 24. election. Their results are not the same, but both show that Emanuel has gained a significant lead over Garcia in the past few weeks.

The Chicago Tribune released its latest poll results Tuesday showing Emanuel with 58 percent of voters and Garcia with only 30 percent. Another 9 percent were undecided. In the newspaper's March 6-11 poll, the mayor had 51 percent, while Garcia had 37 percent.

Ogden and Fry's results are slightly more conservative. Their latest numbers, released Sunday, show Emanuel with 47.6 percent of the vote and Garcia with 34.2 percent, factoring in the undecided voters.

The weekly Ogden and Fry polls have shown Emanuel with a significant lead since March 15. The poll immediately before that, however, painted a more bleak picture for the mayor. Emanuel held only 43.5 percent of the vote to Garcia's 38 percent.

More than anything, the polls reflect Emanuel's amped up ad game in the last few weeks. But although the numbers bode well for Emanuel, it does not guarantee him a victory.

Here's why.

Both polls showed Emanuel with a greater lead before the Feb. 24 election than he actually achieved. The mayor's numbers were relatively accurate, but Garcia's supporters came through in the actual election where they didn't in the polls.

The last Chicago Tribune poll before the Feb. 24 election showed Emanuel with 45 percent and Garcia with 20 percent. On Election Day, however, Emanuel gained only one point, but Garcia surged to 34 percent.

Likewise, in the Ogden and Fry poll just before the February election, Emanuel held 48.3 percent of the vote to Garcia's 26.5 percent.

Mike Fourcher, of Aldertrack, also makes a case for Garcia gaining significant ground at the last minute. In an analysis about poll results Tuesday, Fourcher points out Garcia's confidence in his ground game with union members and community groups going door to door and bringing supporters to the polls.

In another strike against the mayor, Fourcher highlights the wealthier demographic of Emanuel's supporters, who are more likely to be out of town for Spring Break on Election Day.

The determining factor for the mayoral race is most likely the early vote. While the polls indicate the success of each candidate's campaign moves, what really matters is who turns up to vote.

Despite the record early voting numbers and trends in recent polls, as Fourcher says, it's probably still too early to call this race.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pence: We'll Fix "Perception" Problem of New Law]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:55:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/pence-presser-468206814.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday said a bill he signed into law last week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but said he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

"We've got a perception problem here ... and we intend to correct that," Pence told reporters during a morning press conference from Indianapolis.

The Republican reiterated earlier comments that the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not to discriminate but to protect religious freedom. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law alleged it could provide some businesses the opportunity to refuse providing services or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

Pence said he found that claim "offensive," and called upon the state's General Assembly to address the issue.

"This law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," he said. "The intent of the law was to give the courts in our state the highest level of scrutiny in cases where people feel that their religious liberty is being infringed upon by government action."

His comments Tuesday were a follow-up to an op-ed piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal that the law was not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The law sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Krishnamoorthi Launches Campaign to Replace Duckworth]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:14:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/RajaKrishnamoorthiTammyDuckworth.jpg

Raja Krishnamoorthi announced Tuesday that he plans to seek another run for U.S. Congress.

The former Deputy State Treasurer who made unsuccessful runs for comptroller in 2010 and Illinois' 8th Congressional seat in 2012 announced Tuesday his campaign to replace Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

Duckworth announced Monday her candidacy to challenge Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016.

"Tammy has been an excellent Representative for this district," Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, said in a statement. "I want to continue Tammy’s advocacy for working families, with a focus on helping more people to succeed in the new economy. I will work hard to provide education and job opportunities so more families can achieve the economic security they need."

Krishnamoorthi, 41, is the president of Sivananthan Labs and Episolar, Inc., a collection of small businesses that sell products in the national security and renewable energy industries, and a co-founder of InSPIRE, a non-profit organization that provides training in solar technology to Illinois students and veterans. 

“In our rapidly changing global economy, the ability of working families to reach and hold onto economic security is under threat,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We need people in Congress who understand the opportunities provided by the New Economy and how to make sure more Americans are prepared to seize them. That requires practical, pragmatic ideas and far less partisanship and politics."

Krishnamoorthi plans to form a federal election campaign committee later this week.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Poll: Emanuel Has Commanding Lead Over Garcia]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 08:31:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-elecciones-emanuel-garcia.jpg

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel earned his widest lead over challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in the latest poll of the runoff campaign. 

The results of a Chicago Tribune poll, released late Monday, show the incumbent mayor with the support of 58 percent of the registered voters polled between last Wednesday and Sunday. Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner, had the support of 30 percent of those polled. Another 9 percent of the 724 voters polled said they were undecided.

The margin of error in the poll was 3.7 percent.

Emanuel's lead in the Tribune poll, conducted by APC Research, is wider than one released Sunday and conducted by Ogden and Fry. That poll had Emanuel at 47 percent to Garcia's 34 percent.

The April 7 runoff is a first for Chicago since it changed its election system and falls during Spring Break for Chicago Public Schools. More than 82,000 ballots have been cast in the current Early Voting period.

The Chicago Tribune has endorsed Emanuel for a second term.

Photo Credit: Especial]]>
<![CDATA["I'm Not Running": Warren Shuts Down 2016 Buzz Again]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 08:36:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP868875334282.jpg

Sorry, "Elizabeth Warren for President" holdouts.

The U.S. senator from Massachusetts on Tuesday dealt another blow to supporters — and rivals on the right — hoping she'll enter the 2016 race, repeating her intention to stay on the sidelines. 

"No, I am not running and I’m not going to run," she told NBC's Savannah Guthrie in an interview.

"I'm not running. I'm not running," she repeated when asked again whether there was any room to hedge.

Warren, who has gained a national profile as a vocal critic of Wall Street, has insisted for months that she does not plan to run against likely candidate and frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. On Tuesday, as she appeared on the "Today" show to promote her new memoir, she said serving in the U.S. Senate is the best platform for fighting for changes on financial regulation, student loans and more.

“I’m in Washington and I’ve got this really great job and a chance to try to make a difference on things that really matter," she said.

The senator's own words haven't stopped supporters on the left from continuing a draft-Warren effort to lay groundwork and generate support for a run. Republicans have also used the buzz surrounding a possible Warren bid to rally their base — citing the progressive Democrat in fundraising emails and other appeals for support.

Even as she rejected the speculation surrounding her own plans, Warren sidestepped a question about whether Clinton is the best messenger on issues embraced by the party's liberal wing.

“I think we need to give her a chance to decide if she’s going to run and declare and to lay out what she wants to run on," she said. "I think that's her opportunity to do that.”

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Pence in Op-Ed: "I Abhor Discrimination"]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:56:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Mike-Pence-Indiana-Gov.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said in a Tuesday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that a controversial bill he signed into law last week is not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore."

"As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it," he continued.

His published remarks are an attempt to quell the firestorm that's brewed since he affixed his signature to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last Thursday. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law maintain it could allow some businesses to refuse providing service or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

That's sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

Republican legislative leaders said they are working on adding language to the law to make it clear it does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ind. Lawmakers Face Backlash Over Religious Freedom Law]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:22:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000011698037_1200x675_420178499530.jpg Republicans in the Hoosier state want to rework the law to clarify its intent while many Democrats want to get rid of it entirely. ]]> <![CDATA[Apple's Tim Cook: "Religious Objection" Laws Are "Very Dangerous"]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:22:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tim-cook-apple-fortuna.jpg

Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed Indiana's new "religious objection" legislation over the weekend, penning a Washington Post piece warning that “there’s something very dangerous happening in America.”

The piece, which was posted late Sunday night, said the openly gay executive, who was raised in a Baptist home in the South, was "deeply disappointed" in the recently passed "Religious Freedom Restoration" law in Indiana that shields business owners who turn away customers for religious reasons.

"This isn’t a political issue," he wrote. "It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous."

Cook called this new wave of legislation "very dangerous," noting there are about 100 similar bills under consideration in two dozen states. And he added that they "go against the very principles our nation was founded on" and "have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality."

“America's business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business,” he wrote. “At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers' lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That's why, on behalf of Apple, I'm standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I'm writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement.”

Cook, who was baptized in a Baptist church and grew up in the South in the 1960s and 1970s.  He publicly disclosed that he is gay in October. Last week, Cook announced that he will give his fortune away.

Photo Credit: NBC NEWS]]>
<![CDATA[Duckworth Launches 2016 U.S. Senate Bid]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 18:24:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Tammy-Duckworth3.jpg

In a video to supporters, Rep. Tammy Duckworth on Monday made official a 2016 challenge to Sen. Mark Kirk. 

"I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because it’s time for Washington to be held accountable and to put Illinois’ families and communities first," the Hoffman Estates Democrat said her video message.

Duckworth, an Iraqi war vet who lost her legs in a helicopter crash, recently had her first baby at the age of 46. 

Well known in her district, her message was a sort of introduction to a statewide audience. She said she was a Marine, a wife, a new mom and a combat veteran. She recalled the financial struggles she faced with her family while growing up and as she put herself through college.

"If you elect me as Illinois’s Senator, I will fight my heart out to represent you with honor and integrity," she said. 

Kirk, who suffered a stroke in 2012, plans to run for re-election.

Illinois Republicans quickly tied Duckworth to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is currently serving time in a Denver-area prison on a corruption conviction.

"Rod Blagojevich protégé Tammy Duckworth is not the kind of partisan politician Illinois families want to represent them in the United States Senate," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider. "Duckworth represents the extreme wing of the Democrat party — voting with Nancy Pelosi 92 percent of the time. I have no doubt that next November, Illinois voters will re-elect Mark Kirk who has been a strong & independent voice for our state in Washington."

Photo Credit: YouTube / Tammy Duckworth
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<![CDATA[Garcia Gains Little Ground in Latest Poll]]> Sun, 29 Mar 2015 18:21:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-elecciones-emanuel-garcia.jpg

If the latest poll numbers are a reflection of the big early voting numbers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel should feel comfortable heading into the last week before the runoff election.

Ogden and Fry released their latest numbers Sunday, which show Emanuel retaining his comfortable lead over Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, although he is still short of the 50 percent he needs when factoring in undecided votes.

Garcia gained a little ground in the poll with 34.2 percent of the vote to Emanuel's 47.6 percent. More than 18 percent of voters surveyed remain undecided with just over a week to go until the election.

In the same poll last week, the mayor held 48.5 percent of the vote and Garcia 32.1 percent.

Perhaps the more important difference between the two polls are the numbers when the undecided voters are factored out. In this case, Emanuel rakes in a comfortable 57.9 percent of votes to Garcia's 42.1 percent. This is an increase in last week's numbers, which should be reassuring to the mayor.

The two candidates were neck-and-neck in the race before they both revealed their budget plans a few weeks ago. Immediately following the Feb. 24 election, Emanuel only held 42.7 percent of voters surveyed and Garcia held 38.5 percent.

Since their budget plans were spotlighted, however, Emanuel has used advertisements and other campaign strategies to pick away at Garcia's vague plan, which received its share of criticism from the general public as well.

Ogden and Fry claim Emanuel's attack ads focusing on Garcia's budget plan are the cause of the shift in their polls over the last few weeks. If Garcia wants to stay competitive, he will need to shift the spotlight to Emanuel's flaws instead of his own.

After a record week of early voting, it may even be too late for Garcia to turn around the poll numbers before next week's election. Voter turnout is expected to be low on April 7, which falls in the middle of Spring Break for Chicago Public Schools and several area schools. 

In another advance for Emanuel, the mayor received an endorsement from Ald. Bob Fioretti Sunday. The former mayoral candidate was one of the most vocal critics of Emanuel during his time in City Council, but while his sudden change of heart may hurt his own reputation, it could also give Emanuel one more boost.

Photo Credit: Especial]]>
<![CDATA[Fioretti Endorses Emanuel for Mayor]]> Sun, 29 Mar 2015 18:33:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/fioretti+endorses+rahm.JPG

In a surprising and politically charged move, Ald. Bob Fioretti announced Sunday he would endorse Rahm Emanuel for mayor.

The unsuccessful mayoral candidate, who was previously one of the most vocal critics of Emanuel, put his support behind the mayor in the name of city finances.

"The No. 1 issue that we face in this election is the financial crisis that is a result of generations of Chicago and Springfield politicians kicking the can down the road. If that is the top issue -- and for me it is -- then we need a mayor that can deal with those problems," Fioretti said in a statement.

Fioretti was a harsh opponent of Emanuel's leading up to the Feb. 24 election, and he used his opposition to the mayor as his own campaign platform. In January, he tweeted, "My vision for Chicago is entirely different than the mayor's. If you're happy with the way things are going, then welcome to the 1 percent."

After talking to both Emanuel and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia following the Feb. 24 election, Fioretti remained neutral and chose not to throw his support behind either candidate.

Two weeks ago, however, the alderman told Garcia supporters he would endorse their candidate. "It was crystal clear," they said.

Fioretti's endorsement of Emanuel comes as a surprise to many who worked with him. Four people who worked closely with the alderman and the Progressive Caucus at City Council told NBC 5 they were "disgusted," "sad," "embarrassed" and "not surprised" by Fioretti's sudden endorsement. All four of them wished to remain anonymous.

Ald. Scott Waguespack of the 32nd ward, who was a frequent ally of Fioretti's in City Council, also expressed his opposition to Fioretti's endorsement and said he was staying by Garcia's side in the voting booth.

"Ald. Fioretti and I have been friends and colleagues for many years, and we have stood up together against the Emanuel administration's bad choices, wrong priorities and broken promises," Waguespack said in a statement. "And, together, we have voted against the last three irresponsibile Emanuel administration budgets."

Fioretti acknowledged his past disagreements with the mayor, but he said his endorsement wasn't about those issues.

"My endorsement is about which of these two candidates is ready and able to take on the tough financial challenges this city faces. For me, that candidate is Rahm. And on Election Day I will be casting my vote for Rahm," Fioretti said.

The alderman did not seek re-election after the new ward map pushed him outside of the second ward boundaries. Instead, he decided to challenge Emanuel, who pushed for the remap, in the mayor's race.

A spokesperson for Fioretti, however, said there was no personal financial incentive for the alderman in endorsing Emanuel.

"People are going to make up all kinds of stories of what Bob is getting," the spokesperson told NBC 5. "Honestly, he is getting nothing. He and Rahm disagree on a lot of issues, but his endorsement is simply about the financial solvency of the city. Bob has more faith in Rahm to handle it."

Fioretti received 7 percent of the vote in the Feb. 24 election.

Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Rahm, Chuy Cross Paths in Crucial Weekend for Early Voting]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 18:21:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm+chuy+cand+forum.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia's paths crossed as they hit the streets for an important weekend of early voting and competed yet again for the key African-American vote.

Both candidates attended the Black Women's Expo at McCormick Place Saturday afternoon, but at different times. The expo features speakers and exhibitors that allow attendees to discuss solutions for the issues African-American women face in their everyday lives. 

For Emanuel and Garcia, the expo is also another place to court the African-American vote, especially during this crucial early voting weekend.

Voter turnout on Election Day is expected to be low because it falls in the middle of Spring Break for Chicago Public Schools and several area Catholic schools. With the Easter next weekend, this Saturday and Sunday are likely to be some of the biggest days for voting.

Emanuel's public schedule for Saturday is shorter than Garcia's, but the mayor will likely make several "unscheduled" visits throughout the day.

In addition to the expo, the mayor was slated to host a get-out-the-vote rally on the South Side with performances by the Jesse White Tumblers and the World Performance Drill, among others. He also attended another rally in support of his re-election at the Harold Washington Cultural Center.

Garcia made yet another appearance at the Rainbow PUSH headquarters Saturday morning before heading to the South Side, like Emanuel. He was scheduled to attend rallies with Ald. Toni Foulkes and Ald. Ricardo Munoz as well as attend a meet-and-greet with voters on the South Side. The final scheduled stop for Garcia was at the SEIU's Latino Caucus annual meeting.

The candidates are in the final stretch of what must be an exhausting election for them both, and whomever gets the most voters to the polls this weekend could emerge the winner on April 7.

<![CDATA[California Mayor Bans City Travel to Indiana]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 13:03:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mayor+edwin+lee.jpg

The mayor of San Francisco banned all publicly funded travel to the state of Indiana Thursday following Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's decision to sign a religious objections bill.

"We stand united as San Franciscans to condemn Indiana's new discriminatory law," Mayor Edwin Lee said in a statement, according to Politico. "San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the State of Indiana."

Gov. Pence defended the state bill that prohibits state and local laws that "substantially burden" the ability of people, including businesses, to follow their religious beliefs. Critics of the bill say it allows discrimination because it provides legal cover to businesses that don't want to serve gays and lesbians.

The San Francisco mayor is not the only one who publicly condemned the bill. The Washington-based Human Rights Campaign said the bill sends "a dangerous and discriminatory message." Founder and CEO of Salesforce.com Marc Benioff also announced on Twitter that he was canceling all programs that require customers or employees to travel to Indiana.

Others have stood by Gov. Pence and his decision to sign the bill, including the president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, Mike Fichter. Some conservative groups also say the bill protects businesses from providing such services as catering same-sex marriages if their religious beliefs do not support it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A Look Back: Emanuel, Garcia Have Long Histories in Politics]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 23:53:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/237*120/Screen+Shot+2015-03-27+at+11.51.33+PM.png

Imagine Rahm Emanuel as a young political operative. Then picture Jesus Garcia as a novice candidate.

If it is true that a picture tells a thousand words, then the video accompanying this story is a “must read” for any Chicago political junkie.

As both Rahm Emanuel and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia search for votes and try to define themselves – and each other – what many voters may not know is how each began their political journey.

Though many differences separate the two, they are also connected to a great era in Chicago political history with mentors cut from the same progressive cloth.

In 1984, as Paul Simon set out to upset Charles Percy as U.S. Senator, among his press aides was a young Rahm Emanuel. One year earlier, as Harold Washington made history as the city’s first African-American mayor, Chuy Garcia was along for that ride.

Washington tapped the young Latino activist and made him a Deputy Commissioner in the city’s Water Department. Two years later, in a special election, Garcia won a seat on the City Council representing the 22nd ward.

He was an ally to the embattled Mayor during the tumultuous fight against Ed Vrdolyak and Ed Burke known as Council Wars. When Washington died in 1987, Garcia, who had helped break the council deadlock, was chosen to speak at the mayor’s funeral.

By 1989, Rahm Emanuel was working behind the scenes to elect Richard M. Daley as mayor, as a fundraiser and senior advisor. Three years later he set his sights set on a different contest. The North Shore native headed to Little Rock, Arkansas, part of a cadre of young Chicagoans backing Bill Clinton’s White House bid.

With the 1992 November election secure, the young Emanuel headed to the nation’s capital to serve as an aide to newly elected president.

“Chuy” Garcia had his eyes set on a different capitol, the one in Springfield. That same year he was elected to the state senate, the first Mexican-American to serve that in that body. Four years later he was defeated for re-election by the Richard M. Daley backed Hispanic Democratic Organization, known as HDO.

The rest?

Garcia moved on to work as a community activist in Little Village until his election to the Cook County Board in 2010. And Emanuel moved from advisor and strategist into the role of candidate…heading to Congress in 2002 and then on to the White House as President Obama’s Chief of Staff.

Now they battle on towards the April 7th election each with a similar goal and a not-so-dissimilar past.

<![CDATA[Rep. Duckworth to Announce 2016 Senate Bid: Report]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:47:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Tammy+Duckworth+ill+dept+of+veterans.jpg

UPDATE: Duckworth Announces Candidacy in Video to Supporters 

Rep. Tammy Duckworth will reportedly announce a 2016 Senate bid next week.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the Illinois Democrat will announce on Monday that she plans to run against Republican Sen. Mark Kirk.

The announcement will reportedly be followed by a fundraiser at the Hancock Center in Chicago.

The congresswoman said last month that she was considering running for the seat. 

“If we can avoid a primary that would be great," Duckworth said in an exclusive interview with NBC Chicago. 

Duckworth, an Iraqi war vet who lost her legs in a helicopter crash, recently had her first baby at the age of 46. 

“I don't think I would be the first working mom bringing my baby with me everywhere,” she said.

Kirk, who suffered a stroke in 2012, plans to run for re-election.

"Senator Mark Kirk is an independent voice for Illinois and is proud of his bipartisan record of achievement in the United States Senate," Kirk spokeswoman Alissa McCurley said in a statement. "While he looks forward to a vigorous campaign, the Senator believes there will be plenty of time for politics, and he is focused on fighting for veterans who have not received the treatment and respect they have earned from our government, as well as advocating for policies that encourage economic growth and job creation.”

<![CDATA[Conservative Money in City Council Race Sparks Controversy]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:22:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/172*120/082008-DOLLARS-P2.jpg

Former Chicago police officer and current city firefighter Anthony Napolitano has major labor endorsements in his bid to become the next alderman of the 41 ward, against incumbent Mary O’Connor. Even so, the challenger and union member has taken campaign contributions from a conservative group tied to anti-union efforts.

The Illinois Opportunity Project, an organization who describes themselves as promoting “principles of liberty and free enterprise” on their website, is opposed to raising Illinois’ minimum wage, expanding Medicaid, and advocates for the Illinois to opt-out of having its own state exchange for “Obamacare.”
The IOP has ties to the Illinois Policy Institute, an organization which supports the same law firm (the Liberty Justice Center) which earlier this week filed a motion in court to deny unions in Illinois from being able to collect the so-called fair share dues that Gov. Rauner also opposes. On Feb .19, the IOP donated $3,000 to Napolitano’s aldermanic campaign.
In January, the 43rd Ward Republicans organization donated $1,000 to the fireman.  Alderwoman Mary O’Connor blasted her challenger in the Northwest side ward’s race.
"Anthony should immediately return the money he received from the extremist groups supporting his campaign, and denounce their union-busting efforts. They have no place in the 41st ward,” she said in a statement.
For his part, Napolitano told Ward Room that his campaign will not return the campaign contributions from the conservative groups. “No, we are not going to give the money back,” he said.
“The greatest thing about this election is that it is a non-partisan election. We’ve received contributions from conservatives and liberals both. I’m supported by a local firefighters union that supported her in 2011 but now they don’t want her in office. I’m endorsed by the SEIU who endorsed her in 2011, but she failed them as well so they don’t want her in office. We’re a grassroots campaign, and so we take money from a lot of different groups.”
The challenger said the notion that he is in support of union-busting is laughable. “I’m the one who has been in a union for fifteen years,” he said.
“I’ve paid my union dues. I’ve shed blood, sweat and cried with union members. I pay into a pension and I will protect pensions. If anyone should be returning money it is her for taking money from O’Hare interest groups and then not calling a hearing about noise complaints from residents in the ward, even though she’s on the Aviation Committee.”
O’Connor believes that the symbolism of Napolitano taking money from groups who are attacking unions, is still wrong. “Families are sick and tired of the never ending assault on unions who give working people a collective voice,” she said.
“And, they deserve better than a candidate who takes money from the right-wing organizations pushing that very agenda.”
The IOP is connected to many issues other than labor ones, of course, including so-called “school reform.” Napolitano, who says he has not had concerns expressed to him of his support for organized labor by any of his labor supporters, also told us that he unequivocally supports neighborhood Chicago Public Schools.
“I support CPS. I have three children in Chicago public schools,” he said.
“I do not support charter schools, either. Flat-out. And, I support an elected school board.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Where Does Harry Reid's Departure Leave Sen. Durbin?]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:08:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP232834530121.jpg

Sen. Harry Reid's retirement announcement brings with it questions about whether Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin is interested in the minority leader role.

Durbin is currently the Democratic Whip in the Senate. 

Durbin released a statement praising Reid as “one of the ablest leaders of the Senate Democratic caucus in modern history,” but he did not suggest what his plans are going forward.

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, but Washington reporters have noticed he’s been avoiding the spotlight in recent years.  

Reid has already endorsed New York Sen. Charles Schumer to replace him, but a Durbin source told CNN Friday that,“it’s too soon to rule him out of the fight.”

Should Durbin challenge Schumer for the post, some note the move could send a message to liberal senators who want to break away from the image the party has become too closely tied to Wall Street.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Official: Ind. Boycott a "Tempest in a Teacup"]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 18:28:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Speros-Batistatos.jpg

The president of the South Shore Convention and Visitor's Bureau in Indiana says he doesn't expect the state's new "religious freedom" bill to have a negative impact on tourism.

"There's 31 other states that have bolstered religious freedom in some way or another -- Illinois being one of them, Texas being one of them, Florida being one of them -- and there was no appreciable change in business level," Speros Batistatos said Friday, one day after Gov. Mike Pence signed the controversial bill into law.

"This is, to me, a tempest in a teacup. We are going to be open for business. It's going to be business as usual," he said. 

The bill Pence signed prohibits state and local laws that "substantially" burden the ability of people -- including businesses and associations -- to follow their religious beliefs. The bill doesn't mention sexual orientation, but critics maintain it is harmful and amounts to a license to discriminate against gay and lesbian people. 

The governor's signature on Senate Bill 101 created a firestorm on social media, with residents, organizations and celebrities blasting the law and calling for boycotts of the state and its products and services: The president of the NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, issued a terse statement saying he was "concerned" about the law

"Outraged over Indiana Freedom to Discriminate law, signed today. LGBTs aren't 2nd class citizens.," actor George Takei -- of Star Trek fame -- wrote on Twitter. He appended his message with the hashtag #BoycottIndiana, which became a trending topic.

Former Secretary of State and presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter that she was "sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn't discriminate against people because of who they love."

The American Civil Liberties Union said the law is particularly troubling because the state doesn't have a human rights law to counteract it. In Illinois, the Human Rights Act prohibits unlawful discrimination against any individual because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation and more. Members of the ACLU claim the new Indiana law counters the state's recently passed marriage equality. 

Salesforce, Gen Con, and Yelp were among the companies who said the new law was making them re-evaluate their involvement in the state. Collectively, they bring millions of dollars to the state.

But supporters of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act say discrimination concerns are overblown because the bill is modeled after federal legislation that Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, signed into law in 1993 while president.

They say the law is about not forcing anyone to have to participate in something they don't support or believe in because of their religion. 

Indiana's new law takes effect July 1.

Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz Speaks in NH]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:22:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cruz-AP938170470053.jpg

Just days after making his presidential candidacy official, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is in New Hampshire for a two-day swing.

Cruz was the first major candidate to announce a run for president. He made the announcement on Monday at Liberty University in Virginia.

On Friday, he attended a rally in Merrimack, New Hampshire, at 3 p.m.

He's also scheduled to speak later in the day at the "New England Freedom Conference" in Nashua, being held by the Young Americas Foundation. On Saturday, he is scheduled to speak at a brunch being hosted by the Rockingham County Republican Committee and the Seacoast Republican Women.

Cruz has made four previous visits to the Granite State with more than a dozen individual stops dating back to 2014. See those visits and more in NECN's New Hampshire Candidate Tracker. 

Photo Credit: FILE - AP Photo/Andrew Harnik]]>
<![CDATA[Blagojevich Brother: JJJr. Was Behind Senate Seat Scheme]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:16:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Robert-Blagojevich2.jpg

Jesse Jackson Jr., who was released from prison Thursday morning, famously said after he admitted to and was convicted of improperly using campaign funds to the tune of $750,000, that he "manned up."

At least one person was not impressed with Jackson's manly declaration, though: Robert Blagojevich. 

"I ask you, when are you going to man up about trying to buy the Senate seat that was vacated by Barack Obama?" says Robert Blagojevich, brother of the ex-governor. In saying that, he says he believes the former congressman has eluded questions about the biggest questions the governor faced.

Blagojevich, of course, faced charges with his brother in a first round of indictments in the fall of 2008. But after a jury hung on the charges against Robert, he was dismissed from the case, the government opting not to try him again in a drama where he had impressed observers as stunningly truthful on the witness stand.

It was clear that prosecutors felt the gambit with the elder Blagojevich had backfired, that he had hurt their case against the governor, and they wanted no part of including him when they put the more famous Blagojevich on trial a second time.

But it was Robert Blagojevich, when working as a campaign fundraiser for his governor brother, who had been party to conversations where a group of Indian businessmen offered big money -- as much as $6 million in campaign contributions -- if Rod Blagojevich made Jesse Jackson Jr. a senator.

Because he had access to trial discovery in the case, Robert Blagojevich said he read the FBI reports, known as 302s, of interviews with everyone, including Jackson himself.

He said from reading those reports, it was clear to him that Jackson was behind the campaign overture.

"I strongly believe that," he said. "No doubt about it."

If that was the case, the question, of course, is why Jackson was never charged. It's a question Blagojevich said he would like answers to as well, especially now that the former congressman is leaving prison, while the ex-governor remains behind bars.

"Do I think that somehow he was protected from further investigation because there was enough information there to pursue him? Yes!" Blagojevich said.

In 2012, Blagojevich offered testimony for the House Ethics Committee investigating Jackson.

"I have information I think will help them find the truth," he said at the time. "Based on what I know, I believe Jesse Jackson Jr. has a lot of unanswered questions."

Jackson had always denied involvement in the Senate scheme, and was never forced to answer those questions from House investigators. Citing health problems and with ethics issues swirling, he resigned his seat in November 2012, 16 days after being re-elected to another term.

<![CDATA[Has JJJr. Repaid His Debt to Society?]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:13:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/flash+survey+new.jpg

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was released from an Alabama prison Thursday morning after serving more than a year for illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds.



<![CDATA[CA Attorney General Moves to End Anti-Gay Initiative]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 09:44:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/file-kamala-harris-ca-ag.jpg

California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked a state court on Wednesday for permission to reject a proposed ballot initiative stipulating that anyone who engages in gay sex be killed.

Harris issued a statement saying she was making the unusual request to stop the measure filed by a Southern California lawyer late last month. The initiative seeks to amend the California penal code to make sex with a person of the same gender an offense punishable by "bullets to the head or by any other convenient method." The distribution of gay "propaganda" would be punishable by a $1 million fine or banishment from the state.

"This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society," Harris said.

Matthew McLaughlin, the Orange County lawyer who paid $200 to submit the initiative, did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment. A Democratic state senator, Ricardo Lara, has asked the California bar to investigate whether McLaughlin's actions make him unfit to practice law.

The measure puts Harris in a difficult position. Although the bill has no discernible momentum or likely chance of success, she said unless a judge rules otherwise, she will have no choice but to give McLaughlin the go-ahead to seek the nearly 366,000 votes needed to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot.

California is one of 21 states where citizens can petition to have laws put on the ballot through the gathering of voter signatures. Under California's initiative process, state officials do not have authority to refuse to administer initiatives they find objectionable, the California Supreme Court has ruled. Although few of the dozens submitted to the attorney general each year make it on the ballot, the ease with which a resident with a pet peeve can gain clearance to circulate their proposals while seeking signatures has prompted calls for reform.

University of California, Davis law professor Floyd Feeney, an expert on California's initiative process, said Harris alone cannot impede the proposed law. And despite the numerous legal problems with McLaughlin's proposal, Feeney said he was not convinced a court would agree to halt it at this stage.

"The courts, rightly or wrongly, treat the initiative as sort of the citizen right and they are reluctant to get involved in trying to get rid of it, at least in advance, by using the law to keep something from being presented to the electorate," he said.

On Wednesday, a Southern California real estate agent, Charlotte Laws, countered the so-called "Sodomite Suppression Act" with an initiative of her own. Titled the Intolerant Jackass Act, it would require anyone who proposes an initiative calling for the killing of gays and lesbians to attend sensitivity training and make a $5,000 donation to a pro-LGBT group.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Variety]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor Backs Out of Forum, Then Changes Mind Again: Report]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 22:00:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-generic-464267918.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel apparently flip flopped on his attendance at Wednesday night's mayoral forum at Chicago State University, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.

The newspaper reports that the university issued a statement early Wednesday saying the forum would be held without Emanuel. In the afternoon, a new statement was issued saying both candidates would, in fact, attend the event.

The forum will not be a traditional debate. Instead, the candidates will independently face a group of panelists who will ask them questions for an hour, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Chicago State University hosted a mayoral debate before the Feb. 24 election, which was attended by every candidate on the ballot except Emanuel.

Emanuel and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia faced off for the first time at the NBC Chicago candidate forum March 16. In addition to Wednesday's forum at Chicago State University, both candidates have agreed to two more televised debates before the April 7 runoff.

The forum will be held at the Jones Convocation Center at 9501 S. King Drive from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on CAN TV 27. Watch the forum live here.

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[This Week in the Mayor's Race: Early Voting, Final Push]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 14:03:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd-Emanuel-Garcia-encuesta-tribune.jpg

The race for mayor is down to the wire as Rahm Emanuel and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia push for the early vote ahead of the April 7 election.

The most recent poll by Ogden and Fry shows a high number of voters remain undecided (about 18 percent), but patterns have begun to emerge in the last few weeks. As Emanuel tackles his image problem and attacks Garcia's vague financial plans in TV advertisements, his popularity in the polls rises.

Meanwhile, Garcia continues to rack up the big endorsements and travel the country for some last-minute funding.

Most recent polls put Emanuel significantly ahead of Garcia but not quite at 50 percent, meaning both candidates continue to fight hard for the undecided vote and pinpoint those voters they still have time to convince.

For most of the runoff race thus far, both candidates have chased the African-American vote. While Garcia took the lead early on with endorsements from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson, among others, Emanuel managed to stay in the race, albeit far behind Garcia. On Friday, the mayor earned an endorsement from the Rev. James Meeks, who had a change of heart after outspokenly opposing Emanuel in 2011. Meeks also announced the support of nine other influential African-American ministers included in the endorsement.

The importance of the African-American vote, however, has faded slightly to make room for the Latino vote in both campaigns. Garcia has had support from the Latino population in the palm of his hand for the entire election season, but he'll need to get those voters to the voting booth if he wants to stay in the race.

A new poll conducted by Latino Decisions shows Garcia easily holds the majority of the Latino vote, but the results also showed that neither candidate has done very much to encourage them to actually vote.

But instead of going door-to-door in the heavily Latino neighborhoods in the city in these last days before the election, Garcia has been traveling across the country to raise money. On Monday, Garcia was in New York. On Tuesday, it was D.C. Last week, he was in Los Angeles.

Early voting is now underway, marking the most important period of election season for both candidates. Election Day itself, April 7, falls directly in the middle of Spring Break for Chicago Public Schools and many Chicago Catholic schools, so voter turnout is expected to be low that day. And with record early voting turnout Monday, now is the time for the final push.

<![CDATA[Flash Survey: OK For Garcia to Travel For Fundraisers?]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 10:17:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/flash+survey+new.jpg

Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia this week has been traveling to raise funds for his campaign against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

He was in New York City on Monday and has at least two stops in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.



<![CDATA[New York Unions Hold Fundraiser to Benefit Garcia]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:35:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chuy-garcia-generic-AP565325422577.jpg

A Monday evening fundraiser in New York City will benefit Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in his fight against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the upcoming runoff election.

Involved in the event are the United Federation of Teachers, the union-backed Working Families Party, the health care workers local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, SEIU 32BJ, MoveOn.org, and the Amalgamated Transit Union the New York Daily News reported over the weekend.

The fundraiser reportedly starts at $100 per plate and aims to help Garcia prop up his finances against the well-funded Emanuel.

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[First Day of Early Voting Brings in Record High Number of Voters]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 22:14:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WEB+Poling+Place+sign.jpg

The runoff election for mayor and 18 aldermen appears to be generating interest. In the first hour that Early Voting was available on Monday, there were approximately 1,000 voters at the 51 Chicago sites.

It's been since 1991 that there have been 18 aldermen in runoffs. There's never been a mayoral runoff since the city went to a consolidated election with candidates not having to declare political parties.

Even with the snowy weather that is considered a "good solid start," said Jim Allen at the Chicago Board of Elections.

As of 5:15 p.m. Monday, there were a total of 7,914 voters across the city voting early -- the highest number ever recorded for the first day of early voting for a municipal election.

Election Day falls this year during Spring Break for Chicago Public and Chicago Archdiocese schools.

<![CDATA[Madigan Holds Summit to Tackle Sex Assault on Campuses]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 11:16:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Lisa-Madigan4.jpg

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday held a summit to address sexual violence on college campuses and promote a bill that would establish a framework to help universities in the state comply with federal law.

Speaking at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s student center, at 750 S. Halsted St., Madigan said victims of sexual violence often don't report what's happened to them because there is a belief they won't be taken seriously. 

She said her office will help push the "Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act" in the Illinois Legislature during the spring session. The act, according to a fact sheet her office shared with the media, will "set the basic standards for Illinois colleges and universities to address sexual violence at their institutions."

Specifically, the bill would mandate that Illinois colleges and universities:

  • Develop a clear, comprehensive campus sexual violence plan, including detailed incident reporting and university response guidelines;
  • Notify student victims about their rights, including their right to privacy and what protections the university can provide to ensure the student’s health and safety, such as obtaining an order of protection, changes in class schedules or campus housing, and the availability of medical and counseling services;
  • Provide a confidential advisor to victims to help them understand their options to report the crime and seek medical and legal assistance;
  • Adopt a fair, balanced process for adjudicating allegations of sexual violence;
  • Train students and campus employees to improve awareness and responsiveness to allegations of sexual violence

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Michelle Mussman and Sen. Toi Hutchinson.