<![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 Tue, 23 Sep 2014 11:36:04 -0500 Tue, 23 Sep 2014 11:36:04 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Emanuel Wants to Decriminalize Marijuana Statewide ]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 08:35:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_rahm_emanuel_chapo_guzman_chicago.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reportedly 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.

The Chicago Tribune, citing City Hall sources familiar with the plan, reports Emanuel plans to call on state lawmakers at a legislative hearing Tuesday.

In 2012, lawmakers approved a new Chicago pot policy that gave police the option to issue tickets of $250 to $500 for possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less.

The Tribune reports that Emanuel plans to propose that lawmakers apply the policy to all of Illinois.

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."

<![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
Judy Baar Topinka
State Comptroller

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.

<![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:

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."
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.

<![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?"


<![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.

<![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

<![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.



<![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.


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.



<![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.

<![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.

<![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.]]> <![CDATA[Rauner Mocks Quinn Aide For 'Passing Notes' During Non-Debate]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 11:26:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/228*120/AndersonB.jpg

Now that the gloves are off, Bruce Rauner is going after Gov. Pat Quinn's re-election team.

The Republican governor candidate's campaign pushed out a video Tuesday showing the incumbent Democrat laughing off Rauner's critique that his staff—namely, Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson—had passed him notes during the rivals' live-streamed pseudo-debate at the Chicago Tribune.

"I don't know about that," a sheepish Quinn told reporters.

The clip cuts to Anderson slipping the governor a note. At one point during the testy showdown, she whispered something into Quinn's ear. Rauner's video people were all over that, too. (According to Capitol Fax, she advised her boss to "sit up straight" because he tends to slouch.)

What do you think, Ward Room readers: Did Anderson's intervention inadvertently make Quinn look weak or are the Rauner attacks much ado about nothing?

<![CDATA[Alderman Wants Speed-Limit Increase After Spike in Tickets]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 06:41:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/209*120/b83583ccfcab4c1dbaf2e7c32ccb9fce.jpg

A Chicago alderman is taking the city's red light camera problems into his own hands.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) says one of the city's red light cameras is unfairly costing thousands of area residents.

The camera is located near 127th Street and Eggleston on the city's Far South Side sits just after an abrupt speed limit change.

Drivers coming off Interstate 57 face a speed limit of 35 mph, but the sudden drop to the 30 mph just a few blocks later is causing problems for nearly 50,000  motorists who have been ticketed by the nearby red light camera.

"I've got a couple of them because I was doing 35 mph, but it's in the wrong spot," said area resident Theresa Thomas.

Beale has heard the many complaints from residents and when the proper channels wouldn't help with a solution, he took an unconventional route.

Beale has proposed raising the speed limit in the area to 35 mph, a move that has already been advanced by the Traffic Committee and will face the full City Council Wednesday.

"It's just the right thing to do," Beale said. "When you look at a major thoroughfare there's no reason a major thoroughfare should be at 30 mph."

"I think it's wrong," said resident Murry Amos. "I think they should just do away with it."

The city's red light program has been at the center of a $2 million bribery scandal and local politicians continue to raise questions about spikes in tickets.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

<![CDATA[Chicago Mayoral Race: Lewis, Fioretti Turn Up the Heat]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 17:52:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/karen+lewis+0619.jpg

Two of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's most vocal critics are inching closer to making a decision on whether to challenge him at the ballot box this February.

Back in June, NBC Chicago first reported that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis 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."

Meanwhile, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti—leader of City Council's Progressive Caucus—said he planned to make an announcement by the week's end. He told the Chicago Sun-Times: "I'm considering it. I'm seriously considering it."

Offered Fioretti operative Michael Kolenc: "We have a big event planned for Saturday. All we're asking is that people save the day for an important announcement."

The 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.

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.

Should both Lewis and Fioretti challenge Emanuel, there's a chance the political progressives—who appeal to different segments of anti-Rahm voters—could together draw down the incumbent Democrat's percentage of the vote.

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.

Tuesday afternoon, Fioretti tweeted a link to a fundraiser to take place Sept. 16.

This mean he's running?

<![CDATA[The 10 Most Riveting Moments in the Rauner-Quinn (Non) Debate]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 22:06:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Quinn-rauner-p1.jpg

Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican opponent Bruce Rauner hurled the lowest of blows at one another during the rivals' first face-to-face meeting, held Tuesday morning before the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

The showdown, streamed live online, was the most riveting, made-for-reality-television moment thus far in one of the most toxic and widely watched gubernatorial campaigns in the country. Looking like Celebrity Apprentice finalists, the two went at it for more than an hour inside the stately Trib editorial boardroom, launching verbal grenades back and forth to the very end as they pleaded their cases to the paper's conservative-leaning opinion editors.

When it was all over, nobody said "You're fired!" The enemies shook hands in an obligatory display of faux respect, actually making eye contact after many minutes of hurling personal attacks via side eye. Without further ado, the 10 biggest jaw-droppers from the raucous Rauner-Quinn Debate No. 1:

1. Taking the Trib board by surprise, Quinn accused the multi-millionaire venture capitalist of bribing lawmakers to influence Springfield's bipartisan pension reform bill passed last December. "You tried to sabotage it," sniped the governor. Rauner, calling a pull-back of retiree pensions "morally wrong," fervently denied the allegation but said he "absolutely" pushed hard to strike down the controversial law. But Quinn said House GOP leader Jim Durkin told him that Rauner had offered campaign money in exchange for "no" votes.

2. Given the opportunity to ask each other questions, the foes went for the jugular. Rauner pressed Quinn on previously stating that disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was an "honest" man following his indictment on corruption charges. (Quinn responded that he never defended Blago.) Quinn asked Rauner why he has not yet disclosed his 2013 tax returns, to which Rauner replied: "We've gone far and beyond what's required. ... Voters have a clear picture of my wealth." The Winnetka venture capitalist, whose use of a corporate loophole to save tax money were recently revealed in a bombshell Trib report, refused to apologize for his success and said he had given back to philanthropic causes.

3. Asked about his stance on the minimum wage, Rauner—heard in damning audio last week saying he supported eliminating a living wage for low-income workers—conceded his language was "inartful" and reiterated that he backed an increase in Illinois' rate alongside pro-business concessions. He accused Quinn and Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan of playing "political football" on the issue, saying the pair "could have raised the minimum wage" earlier in their government careers. Striking back, Quinn said he'd made prior attempts throughout the last decade and that Rauner had been "caught red-handed" in that January radio interview, adding: "I favor raising the minimum wage without condition."

4. Quinn pounced on Rauner's checkered private-equity past, casting the GTCR founder as a money-motivated executive who reaps financial rewards from bad businesses decisions for which he refuses to take responsibility. Rauner pivoted the debate to Quinn's alleged reputation for corruption, cronyism and "illegal patronage hiring." In an especially low blow, he quipped: "The only difference between Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich is the hair. ... Pat Quinn has no idea how jobs get created."

5. Another Rauner bon mot that had Rauner and running mate Paul Vallas (also in the room) cracking up: "(Vallas is) a Chicago machine politician. What we don't need in Springfield is anymore Chicago politicians." To which the Windy City-based incumbent invoked the mini-scandal over the businessman pulling strings to get his kid into the elite North Side public school Walter Payton College Prep. Quoth Quinn:  "Name-calling won't get around the fact that you clouted your daughter into (Walter Payton)." Rauner countered that he understood why parents were upset about that: Because they don't have a choice.

6. Rauner alleged that Vallas, a veteran education reform advocate, had "flip-flopped" on the school voucher issue in order to get on the ballot. While Rauner said the thinks that taxpayer dollars should go toward vouchers, Vallas countered that pro-voucher, school-choice proponents  "don't think public education can be effective without charging. I do."

7. Backtracking on his previous assertion that Rauner is too wealthy to governor Illinois, Vallas clarified: "No one's too rich to be governor." At the same time, he maintained, "Mr. Rauner defines his success as 'I made money.' ... I believe his wealth (informs) his strategy."

8. Rauner poo-poohed the Quinn-Vallas commitment to education, suggesting that Democrat-installed tax hikes are meant to cover fiscal woes rather than prop up a broken public school system. "We cannot tax our way out of our problems," he said in reference to the 2011 income tax increase that Quinn wants to make permanent in order to stave off a budget crisis. "They say it's for schools and then it doesn't go to the schools. ... They count borrowing as revenue. That's not revenue." In defense mode, Quinn said Rauner's budget proposal doesn't add up, arguing: "It's all about arithmetic, Mr Rauner. And you don't understand arithmetic or want kids to learn arithmetic cause you'd cut education dollars."

9. Evelyn Sanguinetti, Rauner's running mate, said they are like-minded on policies but took a potshot at the way he dresses. She added that she and Rauner's wife, Diana, and "working" on improving his election style. Vallas, sporting a suit-and-tie, demurred when asked to weigh in on Quinn's wardrobe; instead he made a self-deprecating joke about his own clothing choices, observing that this was the best he'd ever looked in the campaign.

10. Quinn defended his track record on term limits, which Rauner strongly supports. "I was for term limits in 1994," asking Rauner where he was at that time. Rauner's response: Making money for pensions.

<![CDATA[Why Ditka Filmed That Rauner Commercial]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 19:08:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/225*120/Ditka+p1.jpg

Someone once joked to me the Chicago celebrity-worship hierarchy went roughly like this (in descending order): 5) Sinatra; 4) Daley; 3) Jordan; 2) The Pope and 1) Ditka.

The legendary Chicago Bears coach is as beloved as he is ubiquitous here in the Windy City, where the 74-year-old sports icon and ESPN radio host hawks all sorts of national and local brands—raking in an estimated $2-$3 million annually, Crain's Chicago Business reported last month.

On Sunday, Da Coach hawked Bruce Rauner.

Ditka unofficially endorsed the Illinois Republican governor candidate in a 30-second spot that ran twice during the Bears season opener and for which Rauner's campaign reportedly shelled out $90,000.

"You know what I like about you Bruce. You're tough. You attack the special interests. Bam! Hit them right in the mouth," says Ditka, hamming it up while Rauner plays the straight man.

The ad was filmed at Ditka's Chicago steakhouse and the entrepreneurial, self-promoting, check-collecting Bears legend did not accept any money for making the cameo, Rauner spokesperson Mike Schrimpf told the Trib.

It's not surprising that Ditka would warm to Rauner and support the Chicago venture capitalist's pro-business, reform-touting brand of conservatism.

Despite his vaunted status in Chicago, which is heavily Democratic, Ditka is a card-carrying Republican and has dubbed himself an "ultra-ultra-ultra conservative." He has dabbled in Illinois' political arena, 10 years ago considering a run for U.S. Senate after Jack Ryan bowed out of the race amid an embarrassing, career-crashing sex scandal. Ditka opted against a play for public office, citing a conflict with his business endeavors. If he had thrown his helmet into the ring, Ditka could have gone head-to-head with future President Barack Obama, who easily trounced conservative media pundit Alan Keyes for the senator post in 2004.

In an uncharacteristic move six years later, Ditka appeared in an ad endorsing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in his 2010 election battle against Republican Bill Brady, saying of the embattled Quinn: "I think he's good people."

Several weeks ago, the famously unfiltered hothead made headlines for dismissing the controversy over the Washington Redskins name as "so stupid it's appalling."

He said: "We're going to let the liberals of the world run this world. It was said out of reverence, out of pride to the American Indian. Even though it was called a Redskin, what are you going to call them, a Proudskin?"

(Ditka's most vocal defender? Sarah Palin.)

If you thought Rauner had a big mouth, he's got nothing on Da Coach.

<![CDATA[Karen Lewis Loans $40,000 to Her Campaign]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 09:54:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Karen_Lewis_8-13.jpg

Chicago Teacher's Union President and potential mayoral contender in 2015 Karen Lewis has boosted her own fundraising efforts. 

Lewis Monday revealed that she had loaned her own campaign $40,000. 

She told the Sun Times that the loan is meant as a billboard to let people know she is in fact raising money ahead of a run for mayor. 

"It's a sign that I'm trying to raise money," Lewis told the paper. "People have to see that we're trying to raise money now. We have to do all kinds of other things."

Staffers took to the streets on Monday to begin collecting petitions for Lewis to make it onto the ballot. 


<![CDATA[Rep. Luis Gutierrez Slams White House for Immigration Delay]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:23:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_luis_gutierrez_denver.jpg

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez warns that President Barack Obama's immigration indecision might have political consequences for state Democrats seeking re-election this November.

Gutierrez, who serves Illinois' fourth congressional district, issued the warning on Sunday morning's edition of This Week on ABC, saying "it's clear that playing it safe is what is going on at the White House and among Democratic circles. And playing it safe means walking away from our values and our principles."

The White House said Saturday that President Obama was delaying a decision on immigration reform until after the Nov. 4 midterms, a politically motivated action designed to stave off a Republican take-over of the Senate. The president had previously vowed to leverage his executive power to enact sweeping changes by summer's end (including a reduction in deportations). The presidential postponement has been widely denounced by Latino groups and immigration activists like Gutierrez.

"They've looked at polling in four or five states where there aren't large Latino constituencies and said that's the way forward without thinking of the impact that that policy might have in Illinois, in California and Colorado. And so they've walked away," said the congressman.

Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Lynn Sweet reports that the delay could possibly affect the re-election chances of Illinois Democrats such as congressmen Brad Schneider of the 10th district and Bill Foster of the 11th as well as embattled Gov. Pat Quinn, who's running a tight race against rising GOP star Bruce Rauner for which traditionally Democratic Latino constituents are a crucial vote.

Photo Credit: Video por Sonia Gutierrez]]>
<![CDATA[Anti-Rauner Political Ad Spoofs the Country Club Set]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:29:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bruce_Rauner_budget.jpg

A new political ad targeting Bruce Rauner takes a big swipe at the country club set in a spoof worthy of Saturday Night Live.

The spot, released by the Illinois Education Association, arrived on the heels of an especially rough week for the Republican governor candidate after he admitted to joining an elite wine-of-the-month club where membership costs $140,000 and was also heard in a radio interview that made the media rounds confirming that he once proposed to eliminate the minimum wage entirely.

The Winnetka venture capitalist, who scored a welcome boost from Mike Ditka on Sunday, has made a concerted effort to shed his rich-guy image in an effort to appeal to the average Illinoisian who doesn't own nine homes. He even showed up to the State Fair riding a Harley.

Seizing on the income inequality issue, supporters of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn have leveraged class angst to play the wealth card and portray Rauner as too out of touch to governor Illinois.

Amusing ads like this one, featuring caricatures of Rauner voters, are refreshingly un-serious, and that much more likely to stick in voters' minds.

<![CDATA[Ditka Appears in New Rauner Ad]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 15:15:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/454593447.jpg

Da Coach has lent his tough guy commercial persona to GOP Governor candidate Bruce Rauner.

In an ad that debuted just before the Chicago Bears season opener Sunday, Mike Ditka tells Rauner that he likes how tough he is.

“You attack the special interests,” Ditka says to Rauner in the ad. “Bam! Hit them right in the mouth.”

The ad promotes the hashtag #Ditkatough.

It’s the latest ad for Rauner as the race for governor continues.

His most recent ad before "Ditka" had Rauner showing off a 20-year-old van, just after admitting he belongs to a $140,000 wine club.

Rauner criticized Quinn Friday for flying to Springfield at taxpayer expense, even driving his old Volkswagen van to a campaign event Friday afternoon.

“That van is going to be with me in Springfield,” Rauner said. “I’m going to use it a lot.”

Quinn also showed off an “everyday lifestyle” element in his recent ad, which saw him mowing his lawn.

Quinn has been living on minimum wage for the last week, a move critics have called a campaign stunt.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn, Rauner Showcase "Everyday Lifestyles"]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 14:43:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rauner+vw+van.jpg

The battle for governor in Illinois continued Friday as both Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican candidate Bruce Rauner took on new challenges.

Rauner made good on his promise to invest in the South Side, depositing $1 million of his own money at a credit union in the area Friday.

“This is an important part of Chicago, it’s under served,” Rauner said.

“It’s good to make investments,” said Gov. Pat Quinn. “The bottom line though is what are your policies?”

It’s the latest move by Rauner as the race for governor, and campaign ad war, heats up in Illinois.

The latest ads show Quinn apparently mowing his own lawn and, after admitting he belongs to a $140,000 wine club, Rauner was seen showing off a 20-year-old van.

Rauner criticized Quinn Friday for flying to Springfield at taxpayer expense, even driving his old Volkswagen van to a campaign event Friday afternoon.

“That van is going to be with me in Springfield,” Rauner said. “I’m going to use it a lot.”

NBC 5 Investigates filed a Freedom of Information request with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office and found that Rauner and his wife Diana currently have seven vehicles registered in Illinois.

Those vehicles include:

  • 2012 Volkswagen 4-door sedan
  • 2012 Ford Edge
  • 2003 Jeep
  • 1993 Volkswagen van
  • 2008 Harley Davidson motorcycle
  • 1995 BMW motorcycle
  • 2009 trailer for hauling a motorcycle

The two candidates continue to battle over minimum wage.

Quinn has been living on minimum wage for the last week, a move critics have called a campaign stunt, and Rauner has been left to explain past claims that he favors eliminating the minimum wage.

“I didn’t speak thoughtfully or thoroughly about minimum wage in the past,” Rauner said. “My mistake. I have a plan now to raise the minimum wage.”

<![CDATA[Rahm's Police Union Deal Gets No Love From Lewis, Fioretti]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:59:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_emanuelrahmgi.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's political allies are applauding his pact with the Fraternal Order of Police union to reportedly get Chicago law enforcement officers an 11 percent raise as well as retroactive pay.

Not among them: 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti and Chicago Teachers Union firebrand Karen Lewis.

Two of Emanuel's most vocal critics, Fioretti and Lewis—each mulling a run for mayor in 2015—are poo-poohing what many consider to be a victory for the embattled Windy City boss and a silver lining in a stormy re-election forecast.

Lewis tells the Sun-Times, "He's done three years worth of damage and now in six months, as he's struggling for his political life, he's trying to make amends. Police are going to see through this and I don't think it's going to make any difference. Now, you're gonna give us a contract when you could have done this two years ago? He should have given them their retro pay. But, he should never have waited all this time. That's how this guy is. He wants to play hardball with everybody. Now, he needs something. Now, he wants to play nice guy with them."

And here's Fioretti: "In the last few weeks — and in the next six months — he's gonna do everything he can to try and win back the groups he has alienated. It's too little, too late. It may satisfy them in terms of benefits, but will it satisfy them in terms of voting? That’s a different question. I hope they're not used as political pawns."

Extending an olive branch to organized labor, Emanuel declared Thursday that he'd made a deal with the Fraternal Order—the biggest union in Chicago, with some 12,000 members—that would reportedly grant city cops retro pay increases of 2 percent stretching back to 2012 and 2013 as well as an 11 percent raise over a five-year period. The mayor has previously been tough on back pay, seizing on the issue during tense contract negotiations with the FOP, whose former president made a massive paperwork gaffe that prevented officers from getting automatic payments.

The City Hall-police union pact is in limbo pending approval by union members and the City Council.

Last month, polling revealed Emanuel's job approval rating at an all-time low amid backlash from voters who consider the mayor out of touch with the everyday Chicagoan. Afterward Fioretti began to crowd-source interest in a possible play for the mayorship. Lewis is also gauging response to a potential run, popping up at meet-and-greets around town.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Meet Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press"]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 08:22:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/090714_LSP_Chuck_Todd_1200x675_325741123764.jpg

Chuck Todd makes his debut as moderator of "Meet the Press" on Sunday, and has landed President Barack Obama as his first guest. On Friday, Todd took to Reddit to introduce himself.

The Miami native, who attended George Washington University, was previously NBC’s chief White House correspondent and political director. Despite his years in Washington, the sports lover remains committed to teams outside D.C.; he has been a fan of the Miami Hurricanes and the Green Bay Packers since birth.

Here, from his Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” are five things we learned about the famed political junkie.

When will he shave his facial hair?

Don’t hold your breath — even if, as suggested, it would improve his ratings. When he looks in the mirror, he sees his late father, he says. Shaving his beard would be like getting rid of that piece of his father that he carries with him

Who is one person, now dead, that he would have loved to have interviewed?

Richard Nixon, because it would have been a challenge

How does he see his role as a reporter and moderator?

His job is to push back against bloviation and talking points by being grounded in facts, and to get to the nut of the debate.

How does he feel about his name?

He hates having two one syllable names, and has given both of his children multiple-syllable first names. “I’ve been ‘ChuckTodd’ with every coach and teacher during my childhood,” he wrote on Reddit.

Does he ever get nervous interviewing high profile guests?

He's always a tad nervous. "Any moment can be a career ender," he wrote.

What did he think about the University of Louisville’s football win over Miami on Monday?

His late father-in-law was a star quarterback at Louisville, so criticism of Louisville is off-limits in his house. He’s not upset about Louisville, he says, but about the University of Miami being unprepared.
“It’s time for the ‘State of Miami’ to return, meaning that the best players in the best high school football factories in the country go to Miami,” he wrote.

<![CDATA[This Week in Mudslinging: Rauner's Foot-in-Mouth Disease Takes Turn for the Worse; Candidates Play Wealth Card ]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:50:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/oberweis+ahern.jpg

Now that Labor Day Weekend has come and gone, it's time for the real games to begin.

The end of summer is when election season really starts to rev up, and with Nov. 4 just two months away, political campaigns are stockpiling extra mud to sling at rivals.

Here in Illinois, Bruce Rauner found himself in the middle of a wine-soaked PR disaster, Jim Oberweis gained on Dick Durbin in polling and shady Republican operatives are making things more difficult for Bob Dold.

Quinn vs. Rauner. This was an especially rough week for Republican governor candidate Rauner, who stumbled upon his first major setbacks in an otherwise successful campaign to defeat unpopular Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn. The Winnetka multi-millionaire showed cracks in his affected Everyman facade when he admitted he paid a whopping $140,000 to join an elite wine-of-the-month club. (Not worth the money, Bruce.) Team Quinn immediately jumped on the confession, fast-tracking an amusing attack ad that leveraged the income inequality issue to max effect. "Bruce Rauner spends more on wine than Illinois households spend on everything," said the spot, quoting Philip Bump's deliciously snarky WaPo column. As if that weren't bad enough, the Sun-Times posted obscure audio from a radio interview Rauner did back in January where he copped to once supporting the inarguably awful idea of eliminating the minimum wage. The same day that story broke, fast-food workers demanding higher wages staged protests across the country with 50 protesters detained in Chicago. Further inflaming the Quinn-Rauner class wars: The venture capitalist's past remarks on the finance industry-fueled economic meltdown wherein he advised people to "get over it." Quinn sicced running mate Paul Vallas on his opponent, with Vallas telling the media he thinks Rauner's too rich to govern this state. If you want to run for office these days, your wealth can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. Quinn wins this round.

Durbin vs. Oberweis. The Democratic U.S. senator from downstate faces a growing threat from Oberweis, the Republican dairy magnate making another play for a Washington job after three previous failed bids. A Sun-Times survey revealed the gap is narrowing between Durbin and Oberweis, with the former leading by a slight seven-point margin. Oberweis has gone negative in recent weeks, painting Durbin as a corrupt, career politician with millions in the bank. (Pot, meet kettle.) His brazen character assassination attempts must be working. He may also be riding Rauner's coattails as the aspiring governor woos government-fatigued voters. Playing the tea party card, Team Durbin responded: "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." All told, this increasingly nasty race boils down to one defining debate: "Pepsi vs. Coke."

Schneider vs. Dold: Illinois' 10th congressional district is catnip for the national Republican and Democratic parties. Both sides are pouring tons of resources into the race between U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider and his GOP challenger Bob Dold, who's fighting to win back his north-suburban seat. "The 10th Congressional District is full of Republicans who consider themselves moderates," wrote the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet this week. "While moderate Republicans are a vanishing breed in Congress, the 10th is stocked with GOP moderates who support abortion rights and do not relate to the tea party faction of the GOP party at all." As such, the Schneider campaign released an ad Tuesday where the congressman proudly declared he's a Democrat and said he loathes "tea party obstruction"—a veiled smear of Dold. Meanwhile, the candidate dropped a spot of his own, focusing on economic over social issues and making no mention of his party affiliation. According to Sweet, "His campaign decided a reminder that Dold was Republican congressman is not useful at this point." In response to Schneider's latest commercial, Team Dold had this to say: "After voting with Nancy Pelosi 90 percent of the time, Congressman Schneider’s own ad reminds everyone how enthusiastically he embraces blind partisanship and rejects the independent-minded leadership the 10th District enjoyed under Mark Kirk and Bob Dold." The New Prosperity Foundation—a fundraising group headed up by Republican donor Ron Gidwitz —went nastier, issued a radio ad falsely asserting that Schneider failed to disclose his 2013 tax returns and dubbing him "one of the richest members of Congress." It's being yanked off the airwaves as we speak.

<![CDATA[Uber Recruits A-List Lobbyists to Buy Influence in Illinois]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:12:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Uber-Car-Rentals.jpg

Beside recruiting President Barack Obama's former adviser David Plouffe to lead its policy branch, Uber has brought on a small army of lobbyists to tackle political issues on the state level—and here in Illinois, the fast-rising start-up is prepared to spend a lot of cash to defeat the traditional taxicab industry.

Crain's Chicago Business reports that Uber, eyeing Chicago (if not world) domination, has lined up an A-list lobby team including Gov. Pat Quinn's ex-Chief of Staff Jack Lavin and the firm Fletcher O'Brien Kasper & Nottage, which counts attorney Mike Kasper as a partner. Kasper helped Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel score a spot on the 2011 ballot amid residency concerns.

Since May, Fletcher has donated $27,510 to a bipartisan array of influential politicians whose support they hope to win in the ride-share regulation debate, said Crain's, citing research from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

Recipients of that money include Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and state Sen. Christine Radogno on the Republican side and state Sen. Kwame Raoul and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the Democratic corner.

Tallied up, the Uber lobby has contributed nearly $60,000 to Springfield and Chicago movers-and-shakers. That's not to mention a similar effort by ride-share rival Lyft, which has retained Nicolay & Dart to funnel a collective $2,500-and-growing toward Radogno, Democratic Chicago alderman Brendan Reilly and other elected officials.

Meanwhile, taxi companies—amassing an all-star lobbyist roster of their own—have formed a fundraising entity, the Illinois Transportation Trade Association, and enlisted the Chicago firms Roosevelt Group and Daley & Georges, which is led by former Mayor Richard M. Daley's brother Michael, to dole out the dough.

All told, the yellow taxi coalition has shelled out $117,271 to the political set—padding Democratic state Senate President John Cullerton's campaign war chest with $50,000—and that number stands to snowball as the group moves to curb the ride-share revolution in the Land of Lincoln.

The politics of Illinois and Uber are getting messier and increasingly entangled, with Emanuel attempting to toe the line between Uber-friendly and cabbie-considerate. His brother, Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, has invested in the popular app and now his ex-White House colleague, Plouffe, is on the payroll.

Emanuel recently passed a bill that bars Uber drivers from picking up passengers at O'Hare, Midway and McCormick Place. (The loophole: City transportation authorities reserve power to open those cab zones to ride-share outfits.)

In late August, Quinn caved to growing outside pressure and vetoed a bill targeting Uber and its ilk with stiff state-wide regulations including mandatory commercial insurance and chaffeur's licenses for drivers.

According to Crain's columnist Greg Hinz, "an override effort is expected after the November election."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Quinn Needs More Than ‘Class Warfare’ Strategy to Win]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:47:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/215*120/tlmd_entrevista_pat_quinn.jpg
Recently, I was talking to a friend when the subject of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s wealth and fondness for wine came up.
My friend, a political operative not associated with either the Rauner or Quinn campaigns, put a fine point on the troubles incumbent Pat Quinn is having connecting with the voters he needs to win in November.
“I get it,” she said. “Bruce Rauner is rich. He has nine houses and enough wine to pay off my student loans like six times over.”
“But Bruce Rauner being rich isn't a reason to vote FOR Pat Quinn. Until the Quinn campaign figures that out, until he starts talking about what he has actually accomplished and telling a clear story about himself and his vision for Illinois, this [stuff] about Rauner being rich is irrelevant.”
And there you have it: the essential problem Pat Quinn faces on his road to reelection in November.
Unfortunately, it’s also a problem the Quinn campaign doesn't seem to recognize.
In fact, Quinn seems to be placing all of his bets on one central idea: Bruce Rauner is simply too rich to be governor. It’s a classic “class warfare” strategy in reverse—instead of claiming one candidate should be forgiven for being too rich, this time it’s a candidate suggesting being rich is a sin all by itself.  
You can see it in Quinn’s campaign ads, where he pushes an old lawnmower outside of his Galewood home like a guy who putters around on a Saturday afternoon tending to his grass. No wealthy landowner with paid gardeners he.
It’s there in the big splash his campaign is making around the populist push for raising the minimum wage. To make sure everyone knows he understands poor voters concerns, Quinn made it his mission to live on what a minimum wage worker earns for an entire week.
Not like his wealthy opponent, who spends more on wine than the average Illinois family spends on everything in a year.
And you can hear it in the words of Quinn’s running mate, Paul Vallas, when he says Rauner is clearly “too rich to be governor.” As if there was some kind of net-worth limit candidates can't pass and win.
Normally, I roll my eyes whenever a politician adopts a strategy based explicitly on the idea of class warfare. That’s because it’s usually a Republican candidate looking for an excuse anytime someone points out that his or her policies or positions are likely to benefit the wealthy or hurt the poor.
But from the vantage point of only a few months left before the November elections, it’s difficult to see what other strategy the Quinn campaign has up its sleeve.
And, to his detriment, it may not be enough for Quinn to win come November. Remember, this is a man who beat a much weaker opponent by only 32,000 votes last election.
More importantly, such a campaign narrative doesn't do a thing to assuage those voters who would likely vote for a Democrat but are either too angry or disappointed in Quinn’s first term to pull the lever for him.
Make no mistake—those folks are out there. They’re the ones who see Quinn as colluding with Republicans, unprincipled Democrats and moneyed interests to unconstitutionally diminish pension benefits for retired state workers and teachers who rely on their retirement plan to get them by.
Or the folks who see Quinn as being too cozy with House Speaker Mike Madigan, and booed Quinn two years ago when he showed up for Governor’s Day at this year’s Illinois State Fair.
Or those tired of hearing of a series of ongoing scandals that have befallen Pat Quinn. Let alone those who may feel, after more than a decade of Democrats in the Governor’s Mansion, its time for a change.
Claiming Bruce Rauner is too rich to be governor doesn't do a thing to help voters who may feel uncomfortable with another four years of a Quinn administration. Or are looking for a clear reason to back him on Election Day. 
Yet, it’s all Quinn seems to have at the moment. A vague hope that fear of what a wealthy Republican might do once in office will be enough to win.
In a race that could easily be decided by a few thousand votes, such a strategy simply might not be enough to bring Quinn’s voter base home like he needs.    
<![CDATA[Who Wins Twitter: Durbin vs. Oberweis]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 17:29:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/162211003.jpg

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has thousands more Twitter followers than Jim Oberweis, but the suburban Chicago ice cream magnate-slash-state senator is gaining momentum on the powerful Illinois Democrat.

Earlier this week a Chicago Sun-Times poll showed Durbin, who seeks a fourth term in the Senate, having a slight seven-point lead over his Republican challenger. The narrowing gap signals an increase in support for Oberweis, who recently went negative in his campaign to dethrone the Democratic incumbent. If he wasn't taken seriously before, the candidate—who previously launched failed bids for Illinois governor, U.S. senator and U.S. representative—is now considered a deeper threat to Durbin's political future.

Both candidates are employing Twitter to reach out to supporters—and the people who read their tweets are wildly different. The latest in our Ward Room/Stat Social series on political nemeses' social media demographics pits @SenatorDurbin against @JimOberweis. Previously: Gov. Pat Quinn vs. Bruce Rauner, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel vs. Karen Lewis.

See the infographic for Dick Durbin:

See the infographic for Jim Oberweis:

Here's how the two stack up on Twitter:

Gender: Durbin has more female than male followers, 54 to 46 percent. In comparison, Oberweis has more male than female followers, 57 to 43 percent.

Businesses: Given his background in the private sector, it's perhaps not surprising that Oberweis attracts more commercial accounts than Durbin, 9 to 7 percent.

Age: You would think Durbin's followers might be younger than Oberweis' in an echo of the Quinn-versus-Rauner analysis. But stunningly, the dairy magnate dominates the Democrat in the 18-24 and 25-34 age brackets. Young people must really like ice cream?

Income: Durbin's followers are wealthier, with 14.77 percent boasting incomes in the $100K range. Just three percent of Oberweis followers make six figures. Meanwhile, Oberweis—who's higher than Durbin on the income scale—has more followers in the lowest segment (59.81 percent).

Favorite Auto Brand: Durbin followers like Mercedes, Tesla and Chevrolet. In descending order, Oberweis' like Chevrolet, Chrysler and BMW.

Favorite Restaurants: Durbin followers prefer Starbucks, McDonalds and Subway. Oberweis' like Chick-fil-A, Jimmy John's and the Coffee Bean.

Favorite TV Network: Durbin's track CSPAN, MSNBC, CNN, and Oberweis' read tweets from Fox News, CSPAN and The Weather Channel.

Favorite Magazines: Oberweis followers like National Review, Forbes and The Nation. Durbin's like The New Yorker, Mother Jones and The Economist.

Favorite Store: Durbin followers tend toward the mass market (Target, Walmart, Macy's) while Oberweis' skew upscale (Nordstrom, Bloomie's).

Favorite Soft Drink: Durbin followers prefer Coke, while Oberweis' are more into Pepsi.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rauner Pulls a Romney In Minimum Wage Confession]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 17:11:50 -0500

While Gov. Pat Quinn subsists on minimum wage in what some view as an election-cycle PR stunt, his Republican rival Bruce Rauner's past statements on the issue continue to haunt the Winnetka venture capitalist.

In a "gotcha!" story Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times posted audio (embedded below) from a January 2014 radio interview in which Rauner 'fessed up to having once proposed to wipe out the minimum wage in blue-state Illinois. Not just slash the state rate. Take it off the map. Void it. Bring it down to zero.

First reaction: [Eyes pop out of sockets. Listens to interview. Eyes fall out of sockets. Resumes writing.]

Second reaction: Could this be the "smoking gun" that derails Rauner's campaign? Recall Mitt Romney's disastrous "47 percent" gaffe, not to mention all those "binders full of women."

Third reaction: Per usual, Mark is on point about Rauner, wealth and whether the candidate truly understands the plight of the non-rich.

Back in December, the GOP governor candidate said he supported bringing Illinois' $8.25 rate down to the $7.25 federal level in order to keep the state competitive. Faced with the possibility of voter backlash, Rauner finessed his stance to restate that, yes, he would support a minimum wage hike but only with business concessions attached.

Responding to the controversy in his radio spot with WJBC-AM's Scott Laughlin, the self-described "free-market conservative" admitted he'd previously stated "on a number of occasions, that we could have a lower minimum wage or no minimum wage as part of increasing Illinois’ competitiveness. I've said that many times. ... It's a mistake for me to focus on lowering the minimum wage or eliminating it because there are better ways to increase Illinois’ competitiveness."

Team Quinn quickly jumped on the headline, stating: "We're not surprised to learn that Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner advocated eliminating the minimum wage just this year. This is his real position, the one he’s trying to hide from voters to get elected."

The Democratic Governors Assocation chimed in, telling Ward Room in a statement: 

"This is the most revealing moment of Bruce Rauner's candidacy. Throughout this campaign he has been a master of disguise - veiling his elitist and exploitative philosophies with flannel shirts and a cheap watch. But Rauner can't hide from his own damning advocacy against real people living from paycheck to paycheck. By supporting the elimination of the minimum wage, Bruce Rauner has distinguished himself as the most dangerous candidate that Illinois' working families have ever seen."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a friend of Rauner, tweeted his disapproval:

 Here's what Rauner's spokesman had to say in response, via the Sun-Times

"In this interview, Bruce acknowledges — as he has repeatedly — that his past statements about the minimum wage were a mistake and he supports a federal minimum wage increase that would raise Illinois’ minimum wage and he supports raising the state minimum wage in conjunction with pro-business reforms. The online story that accompanied the interview also confirms that."

<![CDATA[Opinion: UNO Charter’s Troubles Just Don't Seem to Stop]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:17:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/classroom-generic-1200.jpg
Once, the United Neighborhood Organization, or UNO, was one of the most powerful and politically well-connected organizations in town.
The group runs one of the largest charter school operations in the state. It has received millions of dollars in state funding. Its former leader, Juan Rangel, was pals with politicians across the city and state, including such figures as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Ed Burke and House Speaker Mike Madigan. The group claims it serves more than 7,500 students with a daily attendance rate of 97 percent.
Now it seems little more than a scandal-ridden investigation factory.
The latest revelations come amid news the group is being audited by the IRS over $37 million in bonds issued in 2011 for UNO Charter School Network, which has 16 campuses across the city that receive a total of about $50 million a year in funding from the Chicago Public Schools.
The IRS move follows a series of other scandals that have plagued UNO. First, there were reports of the ongoing insider contracts, nepotistic hires, and political cronyism. Then, the group’s No. 2 executive resigned amid news he paid state grant money to companies owned by two of his brothers. The state twice halted funding as a result. Later, the SEC started poking around, concerned that UNO had been defrauding bond investors.
Now, the IRS wants to know whether “bonds issued in 2011 to finance construction and expansion of UCSN charter schools” were hinky or not.
Part of the problem with UNO is that its operated in the past as non-transparently as a private organization taking public money can be. For years, the charter school network was run by a combination of UNO, a parent organization, and UNO Charter School Network, which theoretically oversaw the schools.
In the wake of the many scandals the group has suffered, the board overseeing the schools recently voted to terminate its long-running management agreement with UNO, and UNO Charter School Network officials say they will manage the schools alone.
Yet, critics of the organization say the split doesn’t matter in the long run, as the lack of transparency and accountability remains. The Pilsen Alliance, a community group operating in Chicago’s Lower West Side, recently put out a press release calling on Attorney General Lisa Madigan to open a criminal investigation about the “fraudulent and clientelistic charges against UNO, its board directors and political supporters.”
UNO’s separation from its precious charter schools is but another indication of serious problems in the organization. Ald. Solis, UNO’s founder and god father has tried to separate himself from the organization, but those who know UNO are well aware of his power in the organization. Even though Rangel and other high officers of the organization have been pushed out to protect the overall project, Ald. Solis long term associate and friend Phil Mullins remains to be the Chief Strategy Officer at UNO. At the end of the day, it matters little whether UNO is one or two organizations if the same characters remain running the show. 
More to the point, the group has refused to honor a series of FOIA requests and a subsequent lawsuit by the Chicago Sun-Times requesting records of UNO’s “payments to lobbyists, auditors, media spokespeople, and the services of the federal judge who reviewed its construction contracts.” To date, UNO has maintained that only records held by the UNO Charter School Network Inc. must be made public under the law, keeping proof of any potential political cronyism by the parent organization under wraps.
UNO’s ongoing troubles come amid a period of bad news for Chicago charter schools in general.
For example, Chicago’s public neighborhood elementary schools improved greatly in reading and slightly in math, outpacing average charter school growth last year, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of recently released testing data.
CPS recently scrapped plans for a South Side charter school operated by Concept Schools that was scheduled to open this year. The move follows a series of scandals Concept has undergone in recent months, including FBI raids earlier this year on 19 schools the group operates and news CPS Board president David Vitale would benefit financially if Concept operated out of the proposed South Side location.
Arguments about whether charter schools in Chicago are better choices for parents and students tend to focus on academic achievement. Yet, as private entities that require public tax dollars just to be in business, how an organization runs its operations and whether its accountable or not should matter just as much as if the company does a good job of educating children.
By that measure, it’s hard to make a case for UNO as anything other than a failed business that just can’t seem to stop creating scandals, one after the other. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonnells Guilty on Most Charges]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 17:16:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonnell-guilty-AP977255973421.jpg

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have been found guilty of most of the public corruption charges they faced in a marathon trial centered on lavish gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman.

The former governor has been found guilty of 11 of the 13 charges against him. Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell has been found guilty of nine of the 13 charges against her.

It was a bombshell ending to a trial that included the dissection of the former first couple's marriage, testimony that Bob had moved out and was living with a priest, and testimony that Maureen had begun frequently texting and emailing the businessman in the case, Jonnie Williams, who wanted help promoting his dietary supplement.

Three of the McDonnells' five children clutched each others' hands and prayed before the verdict was announced, breaking into sobs as their parents' guilty counts were read aloud.

The couple's son Bobby McDonnell looked at his father with tear-glazed eyes as the former governor's head collapsed into his hands.

Bob McDonnell is "broken" and "devastated," said defense attorney Henry Asbill, who added that he would appeal the verdict.

The government had accused the McDonnells of doing special favors for Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific, Inc., in exchange for more than $177,000 in gifts and loans.

Courtroom observers said two jurors wiped their eyes as the verdicts were read.

As co-defendants, the former first couple was separated in the courtroom, with three lawyers sitting between them. Maureen McDonnell teared up, but appeared composed compared to the emotional reactions of her husband and children.

The McDonnells didn't look at each other as the verdict was read. They left the Richmond courthouse together but got into separate cars. It was a marked difference from the rest of the trial, which verged into soap opera territory as defense lawyers suggested that the McDonnells' marriage was so broken they could not have conspired to obtain gifts, trips and loans from Williams.

Throughout the trial, Bob McDonnell had appeared confident, telling reporters repeatedly that he was sure he would be exonerated and was putting his faith in God.

"All I can say is my trust remains in the Lord," he said in a brief statement as he left the courthouse Thursday with Maureen, before they got into separate cars.

McDonnell, who was once considered a rising GOP star and potential vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney in 2012, now faces, along with his wife, up to 30 years in federal prison when they're sentenced in January.

"This is a difficult and disappointing day for the Commonwealth and its citizens," said Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "Public service frequently requires sacrifice, and almost always requires financial sacrifice. When public officials turn to financial gain in exchange for official acts, we have no choice but to prosecute the case."

Bob McDonnell is the first former governor of Virginia to be convicted of a crime. The commonwealth had long had a reputation for clean politics, a reputation shattered in the five-week McDonnell trial.

Political analyst Bob Holsworth called it "a day of infamy in Virginia."

The Verdict, Count by Count

Bob and Maureen McDonnell were each charged with 13 counts in a 14-count indictment:

  • In the first count against them, the McDonnells were found guilty of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud for accepting gifts and loans from Williams.

  • The next three charges, counts 2-4, involved accepting checks from Williams: On counts 2 and 3, the McDonnells were both found guilty of honest-services wire fraud for accepting a $15,000 check to pay a caterer for their daughter's wedding, and for accepting a $50,000 loan check for MoBo Real Estate, a company the former governor operated with his sister.

  • On count 4, Bob McDonnell was also found guilty of a count of honest-services wire fraud for a $20,000 wire transfer for MoBo. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty on that charge.

  • On count 5, the McDonnells were found guilty of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right for the gifts and loans they received.

  • The McDonnells also faced six charges of obtaining property under color of official right, counts 6-11: On counts 6-8, they were found guilty of three charges of obtaining property under color of official right for a $50,000 check to Maureen, for the $15,000 check to the wedding caterer, and for a $2,380 golf outing.

  • On count 9, Bob McDonnell was found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for a $1,424 golf outing. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty of that charge.

  • On count 10, both McDonnells were found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for the $50,000 check to MoBo.

  • On count 11, Bob McDonnell was found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for the $20,000 transfer to MoBo. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty of that charge.

  • Only Bob McDonnell was charged with count 12. He was found not guilty of making false statements on a TowneBank loan application.

  • In count 13, both McDonnells were found not guilty of making false statements on a PenFed loan application.

  • Only Maureen McDonnell was charged with count 14. She was found guilty of obstruction of official proceeding for a handwritten note to Williams.

They will be sentenced Jan. 6, 2015.

Inside the Testimony

The trial centered on the testimony of the former governor and Williams, the prosecution's star witness. Maureen McDonnell did not take the stand.

Williams was granted immunity for his dealings with the McDonnells and possible securities fraud violations, which had been investigated by a separate grand jury. He testified that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells to secure their help promoting and obtaining state-backed research for Star Scientific's tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory supplement, Anatabloc. Williams intended to share the results of that research with doctors to gain their support of the product.

Prosecutors claimed the former first couple had an "unconscionable amount" of credit card debt and presented testimony that they were eager to accept gifts from Williams, including a $6,500 Rolex watch that Maureen gave Bob for Christmas, a vacation at Williams’ luxurious home on Smith Mountain Lake outside Roanoke, use of Williams' Ferrari and a shopping spree for designer clothes and accessories for Maureen.

Testimony showed Williams loaned $50,000 to Maureen McDonnell that she used to pay down credit debt in 2011. He also loaned $50,000 and $20,000 to MoBo Real Estate, a small company that Bob McDonnell and one of his sisters ran to operate two beach properties.

Prosecutors also said Williams paid $15,000 in catering expenses when one of the McDonnells' daughters got married. And they claimed Maureen had developed a close relationship with Williams, exchanging more than 1,200 texts and calls over a nearly two-year period, including 52 in one day.

In his defense, Bob McDonnell testified he did nothing more than extend routine political courtesies to Williams. Before the indictment, he had apologized for what he described as bad judgment and said he had repaid about $120,000 in gifts and loans, but denied breaking any laws.

A key part of the defense strategy was the claim that the McDonnells couldn't have conspired, because their marriage had deteriorated to the point that Bob McDonnell had moved out and was now living with a priest, who is a family friend. Maureen McDonnell's lawyers called Williams her "favorite playmate."

Both the prosecution and the defense called Maureen volatile and emotional. One prosecution witness called her a "nut bag." Bob McDonnell himself said his wife didn't take well to the role of first lady, calling her handling of behind-the-scenes matters "a disaster." Testimony revealed staff members at the governor's mansion had threatened to resign en masse.

Judge: 'Can't Take Another Second'

After lengthy days of intense testimony -- on day four, the judge in the case said he was stopping testimony because he "can't take another second" -- the jury faced the task of deciding the McDonnells' guilt or innocence.

Judge James R. Spencer issued lengthy instructions to the jury Tuesday morning, including the warning that the testimony of a witness who is granted immunity must be more closely examined than testimony of other witnesses.

The heightened scrutiny was required to determine whether the testimony of the immunized witness is "affected by self-interest," Spencer said.

To be found guilty, Spencer said, a defendant must understand the nature of the conspiracy and deliberately join it.

However, Spencer said a conspiracy does not have to achieve its goals, which could have undercut a defense claim that Williams never received anything of substance, including the research he took preliminary steps to seek.

He also said an agreement need not be stated explicitly by the conspirators and that it didn't matter whether the defendant would have done those favors absent a bribe.

Spencer also told jurors -- who heard from three character witnesses, two for Bob McDonnell and one for his wife -- that "evidence of good character alone may create a reasonable doubt as to a defendant's guilt."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Emanuel Repays City $14,623 for Taxpayer-Funded Trips]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 17:32:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-budget-102313-1.jpg

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel confirmed Wednesday that he repaid the city $14,623 in costs from taxpayer-funded business trips.

"Over the last three years, we had a series of trips and we've done the things we've needed to do to make it right," he told reporters at a news conference.

"We made a policy. It's fully transparent. We've gone beyond the law and paid back what we owed to the taxpayers," said Emanuel, referring to newly minted, vaguely defined rules that restrict the mayor from spending public money on unspecified "campaign-related business."

Earlier the Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel paid back the five-figure sum after the city found that he used tax dollars to cover expenses related to seven trips of political orientation—including an expensive four-night hotel stay in DC for the 2013 presidential inauguration. (That bill amounted to $8,811.)

According to the Trib, he didn't reimburse cash from three trips wherein he spent time with political donors and six trips wherein he spent almost no time on Chicago-related work. The paper previously reported Emanuel had banked some 56 out-of-town trips since taking office in 2011, with City Hall footing a $325,000 travel bill for the mayoral entourage plus $30,000 in private car expenses.

Also on Wednesday, Emanuel signed an executive order requiring city contractors and subcontractors to pay employees a $13-an-hour minimum wage. Officials said it will apply to city contractors advertised after Oct. 1 and will affect about 1,000 contracted employees including landscapers, maintenance workers, security officers and custodial workers.

Seeking re-election next year, and dogged by low approval numbers, Emanuel has recently stepped up a commitment to progressive causes like increasing the minimum wage and expanding universal pre-K in city schools.

<![CDATA[Jeb Bush to Stump for Bruce Rauner Amid 2016 Buzz ]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:29:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP787051363500.jpg

Jeb Bush is hopping aboard the Bruce Rauner bandwagon.

Weeks after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's pro-Rauner tour in Chicago, Bush—who governed Florida for an eight-year stretch ending in 2007—will travel here to stump for the Republican venture capitalist as part of a national GOP effort to flip Illinois from blue to red.

Bush will headline a Sept. 18 fundraiser at the Hilton Chicago alongside Rauner, who's shifting focus toward wooing Windy City voters in an increasingly successful campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Tickets for the lunch event range from $500-$5,000, with the most generous donors getting VIP roundtable access to the politicians as well as a photo-op.

The brother of W., Bush has stoked buzz over whether he'll stage a run for president in 2016. The self-professed policy nerd and self-styled GOP reformer, embraced as a potential candidate by many inside the party establishment, remains tight-lipped on his plans amid concerns that his sibling's legacy might hinder a play for the Oval Office.

Bush's Chicago visit will certainly keep people talking. It could also give him an opportunity to hobnob with Rauner's well-heeled, Forbes-branded billionaire campaign contributors.






Photo Credit: AP]]>