<![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 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 04:47:50 -0500 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 04:47:50 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Opinion: Why Oberweis Is Pivoting on Gay Marriage]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:00:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/10P_PKG_OBERWEIS_LUNCHEON_13786509_1200x675_196265539512.jpg

In a stunning turnaround, Jim Oberweis has revealed that he would support a federal law for gay marriage though he'd rather states have the final say on the issue.

Previously the Republican state senator voted against legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois, so this apparent evolution in his mindset comes as a surprise—or does it? Consider where Oberweis made the statement: Onstage during his first official debate against Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, whom he's trying to knock out of office despite insurmountable odds. Durbin, by all accounts, will easily win a fourth term in the Senate on Election Day Nov. 4; he's out-fundraised the Sugar Grove dairy mogul by the millions, and bull-dozed him in a recent pseudo-debate at the Chicago Tribune's editorial board.

Oberweis dropped his gay marriage bombshell while the candidates sparred on the subject Wednesday night, saying recent court decisions paved the path for legalization in several states and he'd now back a federal law.

"Time has passed and I believe courts have said that that is the law and I will uphold the law of the land," declared Oberweis, later refusing to elaborate when reporters noted afterward that, no, there's actually not a federal law authorizing marriage equality across the nation.

Durbin, who has sought to link Oberweis to the tea party, said gay marriage should be legal in each state and on the federal level, too.

Given his dire circumstances—the election is right around the corner and he's got nothing to lose—Oberweis may have thought that a high-profile, media-attracting debate was be a pretty good time to steal some shine from Durbin and announce his pivot on the subject.

It perhaps had less to do with personal philosophy than with politics: After all, Republicans in 2014 are trying to shake off a negative view of the party as backwards and out of touch, especially on wedge social issues like gay marriage that are gaining a gradual cultural acceptance; making such a last-ditch declaration is a way to get Oberweis attention at a crucial moment and re-spin him as closer to a fiscally conservative, socially moderate brand of Republican. But that spin will only go so far, since Oberweis is forever tainted by that tone-deaf, anti-immigration ad from his previous failed Senate bid circa 2004.

His fellow Illinois Republican, 10th-district congressional candidate Bob Dold, is hogging much of the national GOP's resources, in addition to gobs of outside money from super PACS and deep-pocketed donors like billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Dold's district, up in Chicago's tony, Democratic-leaning northern suburbs, is a battleground and the outcome a toss-up. The Kenilworth businessman has moved to present himself as a political independent who is both—here we go again—fiscally conservative and socially moderate. He's been endorsed in a TV ad by like-minded Sen. Mark Kirk, a well regarded Republican centrist and Durbin ally serving the 10th, who's shied away from publicly campaigning for Oberweis.

Kirk was the second GOP senator to back gay marriage, with Dold coming around to change his mind ahead of its 2013 legalization in this state.

As he prepares to lose another senatorial campaign, Oberweis' flip-flopping can be viewed in several lights: A) A desperate attempt to rebrand (and rehab) his image in the vein of Kirk, Dold and other establishment GOP-ers; B) A noble, if not seemingly genuine, effort to propel forward on a popular and important civil rights issue; C) A cynical strategy to get on the good sides of GOP voters for whom the "tea party" is tantamount to  "Voldemort"; or D) All of the above.

Asked whether he intended to run against Kirk in 2016, Oberweis quipped recently: "I'm going to win in 2014, so I don't even have to think about that."

It's precisely that kind of outsized confidence that could beckon the ambitious "Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride" state lawmaker back for round four after three losing bids. Maybe he'll give away more ice cream next time.

<![CDATA[This Week in Mudslinging: Bruce Rauner Is An Alpha Bully; Oberweis Is Toast.]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:59:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/SKoreanMudFest.jpg

There's T minus 12 days to go 'til Election Day, and no clear winner in the close battle between Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner. Both men are in survival mode. The stakes are high. This cash-strapped state's future hangs in the balance. Cockroaches run amok.

Without further ado, This Week in Mudslinging:

Quinn vs. Rauner. The nemeses ripped one another to shreds in their final debate before Election Day, firing off the muddiest round of Quinn-sults and Rauner rips thus far in this knock-down, drag-out fight. Rauner, a finger-pointing "mansplainer" onstage, repeatedly bashed the incumbent Democrat as a "failure" and a "phony," to which Quinn responded: "He's a champion name caller." (If this were a kindergarten playground, Rauner would get a time out. Then he would try to buy his way out of time-out, by donating millions to build a new charter school for over-privileged children in Lincoln Park.) The multi-millionaire GOP investor then dropped his braggiest campaign ad yet, touting all of his mainstream media endorsements. Next came results of a Tribune poll showing the two rivals in "dead heat" with Rauner inching two percentage points ahead of Quinn, 45-43, thanks to growing support from white suburban collar-county women voters who tend toward the fiscally conservative and the socially moderate. Can Quinn out-campaign Mr. Mansplain heading into the home stretch? With the outcome in "toss-up" territory, the governor got some back-up this week from Democratic power brokers like President Barack Obama and ex-President Bill Clinton, slinging mud on his behalf in Chicago (where Quinn has a firm grip), as well as Veep Joe Biden, traveling north to Vernon Hills to stump in the battleground 10th district. Negative ads abounded.

Dave McKinney vs. the Sun-Times and Rauner. Sending shockwaves throughout the incestuous Chicago media-verse, McKinney—a veteran political reporter at the liberal-leaning Sun-Timesresigned in protest after brass allegedly cowed to pressure from Rauner's PR team to kill a controversial story he was working on and "yanked" him off his beat. In a letter addressed to Sun-Times owner Michael Ferro, whom he blamed for a "chilling effect in the newsroom," the journalist lamented that the candidate's aides had forwarded to higher-ups an error-ridden "opposition-research hit piece" falsely suggesting that his wife, a Democratic political consultant, was collaborating on the story. The final straw for McKinney? The paper's decision to break its no-endorsement policy, endorse Rauner over Quinn and support "the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared as a defamatory attack on me." Now he might sue, but in this case, a legal victory is an uphill battle. For more on this insidery yet significant media scandal, see my colleague Mark Anderson's excellent essay "Sun-Times Squanders Trust Right When City, State Need It The Most."

Dick Durbin vs. Jim Oberweis. The second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate has no competition whatsoever from the Illinois state Republican senator and ice cream tycoon. He's now 14 points ahead of Oberweis. Despite those long odds, Durbin's GOP rival keeps on swinging ... and missing. In the enemies' first and only televised debate Wedneday, he slammed the incumbent as "smooth" and out of touch with "people on the streets." Sniped Oberweis: "He's not the same man that he was 32 years ago when he first ran for Congress." Countering, Durbin linked the Sugar Grove politician to the much-maligned tea party and referenced Oberweis' past remarks encouraging a tea party group to "take over" the state Republican Party. Oberweis, pulling a Biden, made headlines by publicly supporting gay marriage, and Durbin—a strong proponent of marriage equality—had no mud to sling upon that surprising 180 from the guy who voted against making it legal here in the Land of Lincoln.

City Council vs. Cockroach. Having once lived in New York City, the sight of a cockroach gives me stress hives. I instinctively want to reach for a can of Raid and spray the vermin before it disappears underneath my bed never to be seen again until eight hours later, when it re-surfaces and FLIES ACROSS MY STUDIO APARTMENT. Cockroaches are prehistoric, resilient bugs. And they can smell fear. They also appreciate irony. On Thursday one was spotted climbing up the walls of City Council during testimony from Fleet and Facility Management Commissioner David Reynolds, the authority in charge of ridding the city of such pests. Reynold said afterward, "I was mortified. The timing is ironic, that in the middle of my budget hearing a cockroach decides to make itself known." That is exactly why I am dubbing it the very first "Mudslinger of the Week" for hilariously—and courageously—creeping into a notorious chamber of corruption and keeping aldermen on their toes.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Was City Duped on Interest Rate Swaps?]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:28:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+getty1.jpg

One of the most underreported stories to come out of the 2008 global financial crisis is the relationship between big Wall Street firms, local municipalities and budget decisions. 

In cities big and small across the country, city officials entered into complex financial deals known as interest rate swaps that in many cases have backfired on them, costing millions in potentially unnecessary payments and fees. 

Now, activists and others are calling on the City of Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools to come clean about their own dealings with interest rate swaps, charging the city and CPS are dragging their feet in doing all they can to challenge the terms of any bad deals they’ve entered into. 

The question becomes: what does the city have to hide? 

Boiled down to their basics, interest rate swaps offer a debt issuer, such as a city or school district, the opportunity to avoid higher interest rates on bonds they issue. They do so by typically exchange fixed rate interest payments for variable rates, determined in large part by how the economy is doing and how specific market indexes behave. 

Chicago has long used interest rate swaps as a potential hedge against higher interest rates. It even has a publicly listed “Swap Policy”, which details how and when swaps should or shouldn’t be used.

For it’s part, the Daley administration relied heavily on interest rate swaps as part of its overall strategy for issuing bonds and fixing the city’s budget. However, two factors have conspired to make at least some of those deals go bad: a drop in interest rates and downgrades in the city’s credit rating. 

The Chicago Sun-Times has reported the city could be on the hook for $200 million because of the deals if the city’s credit rating drops further. Bloomberg is reporting it could cost the city as much as $400 million to get out of the deals entirely. 

For it’s part, CPS is believed to have spent more than $800 million in payments to banks and financial services firms as part of interest rate swap agreements. 

Organizations such as the Chicago Teacher’s Union, AFSCME Council 31 and SEIU Healthcare have called on the mayor and CPS leadership to file for arbitration with FINRA, the financial industry’s regulatory body, to seek a refund of payments for what they say were “fraudulent” swap deals.

As well, the Chicago City Council's Progressive Reform Caucus has called for an end to the interest-rate swap agreements with banks and private investment firms, including Bank of America and Loop Capital. 

Recently, former North Carolina Congressman and onetime member of the House Financial Services Committee Brad Miller testified before an open CPS meeting, calling on municipal issuers like Chicago and CPS to review the specific documents pertaining to their deals and explore legal options to recover their payments on the grounds that they likely violated state and federal laws. 

Yet, in another example of how politics and public policy are done in Chicago, the Emanuel administration has said the city has looked into the matter and decided there’s simply nothing to be done

According to Corporation Counsel Steve Patton, not only have city lawyers concluded that there's no provable case of fraud or misrepresentation here but city officials hired two outside hot shots to make sure: James Kopecky, a former supervisor in the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Chicago, and Daniel Collins, a former federal prosecutor. 

They just completed their work and found that “there's no claim to be filed,” Mr. Patton said. 

When it comes to municipalities, much of the success of financial firms leading up to the 2008 crisis and beyond depended on the mismatch between the financial expertise of Wall Street professionals and the lack of sophistication of many town and county administrators.  

Yet big cities such as Denver, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New York and others all are in the hole on swaps agreements they made with financial firms. 

In a letter to the editor of the Sun-Times, Saqib Bhatti, director of the ReFund America Project and fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, pointed out that it’s not like the city hasn't been duped before.

Although the mayor would have us believe that Chicago’s finance teams are too sophisticated to be swindled by banks, the parking meter fiasco demonstrates that city officials have the capacity to be duped. Interestingly, Morgan Stanley, one of the key banks involved in the parking meter deal, was also a major underwriter on the bonds underlying the city’s swaps. 

Activists such as Miller and the CTU have repeatedly asked both CPS and the city to disclose documents pertaining to the deals that would shed light on how they were made and what banks and financial services firms promised to the city to make the sale. Yet, repeatedly, they’ve been told their requests were too burdensome or the documents wouldn’t be delivered. 

Which is how things seem to work in Chicago: even as millions of dollars fly out the door, there’s no reason anyone should see how the deals were made.  

Photo Credit: Jeff Gentner/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Michelle Obama Stars In Another Pro-Quinn TV Ad: Video]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:31:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/169*120/Michelle-Obama-Ikram-thumb2.jpg

Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign has released a new TV ad starring First Lady Michelle Obama, this one with footage from her Oct. 7 rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The 30-second spot interweaves Obama's passionate pro-Quinn speech with images of the governor in Good Citizen Mode, visiting schoolchildren and talking to Illinoisians at a diner. She urges the crowd to vote early, saying "let's just get this done."

"I know Pat Quinn. His push for the minimum wage is essential," declares Obama. "If you think women should get equal pay for equal work, if you want our kids to have quality pre-school, have a chance to go to college, if you want a governor who shares our values, then we need Pat Quinn has governor of Illinois!"

Earlier this month, she appeared in Quinn TV and radio ads touting the Chicago Democrat's efforts to boost Illinois' minimum wage and improve the lives of military veterans.

The incumbent, locked in a tight race against Republican rival Bruce Rauner, has recruited a small army of political A-listers to stump on his behalf including the Obamas, the Clintons and Vice President Joe Biden. His political future in this state will be decided Nov. 4, on Election Day.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dold, Schneider Battle in Race for 10th District]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 18:40:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/brad+schneider+2014.jpg

Democrat Brad Schneider is the incumbent, having served one term in Congress, campaigning alongside Vice President Joe Biden, but he realizes the 10th District is quite Independent.

"I am a proud Democrat but I don't think either party has a lock on the good ideas,” he said.

Schneider’s challenger, Republican Bob Dold, replaced Sen. Mark Kirk in the 10th District and served one term in Congress when he narrowly lost two years ago.

"I was ranked the most Independent bipartisan member during my time in Congress,” he said.

This year is a rematch of the 2012 race and both candidates are spending millions on attack ads -- with outside money pouring in. They disagree on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Cuts and a minimum wage hike.

Dold won't give an exact number of where it should be.

"We have to recognize on a federal minimum wage, Democrats and Republicans get together and try to minimize job loss,” he said.

"I think we need to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years, then index it to inflation,” Schneider said.

They also differ on the decision to send ground troops to fight ISIS.

"I don't think ground troops are the answer right now,” Schneider said.

"Ground troops certainly have to be an option on the table, we don't know what tomorrow may bring, I can tell you ISIS won't want to stop just in the Middle East,” said Dold.

The race is much too close to call, much like the governor's race. The end result will likely come down to turnout.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Invites Jackie Robinson West to Washington]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:23:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/JRW_stage_Igram.jpg

While in Chicago earlier this week, President Barack Obama reportedly paid a visit to the Jackie Robinson West Little League national champions and told them: "I am inviting you to the White House."

The Sun-Times reports that Obama broke the news Sunday following a re-election rally he headlined for Gov. Pat Quinn at Chicago State University. Meeting with the team, he said: "I want you guys to do well in school. You guys are role models."

A Jackie Robinson West spokesperson did not immediately respond to Ward Room's request for comment.

The All-Star Little Leaguers from the city's South Side captured hearts—and a ton of media attention—during last summer's victorious U.S. championship run.

Treated like rock stars back home, the team was celebrated with a joyous rally drawing Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sox and Cubs brass and Chance the Rapper.

Said player Marquis Jackson: "We're African-American boys from the South Side. For so many people, the South Side is only about bad things. Something good can come from the South Side of Chicago, period."

Photo Credit: distractyourface/Instagram]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Sun-Times Squanders Trust]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:45:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sun-times-p1.jpg

Let’s take a moment and review the one question that isn't getting enough attention in the whole Sun-Times/Bruce Rauner/LeapSource/Dave McKinney saga: 

Specifically, why did the Sun-Times decide to reverse policy and endorse Republican candidate Rauner at the exact moment it was embroiled in a knock-down, drag-out fight over charges of a potential conflict of interest for the paper and McKinney, its Springfield bureau chief?

For those of you who missed the story, longtime reporter McKinney resigned from the Sun-Times after 19 years on Wednesday, citing a litany of problems stemming from his reporting on a controversial story reported in conjunction with NBC Chicago that involved Rauner and allegations of personal threats and “hardball” tactics against a former employee.

In his resignation letter, McKinney—an established and widely respected reporter—details a laundry list of repercussions stemming from the story’s publication. First, the Rauner campaign tried to get the story killed. Then, it charged McKinney with conflict of interest for being married to a Democratic political consultant. 

While the paper’s owners tried to figure out what to do, they pulled McKinney from his longtime beat without explanation. Then, they let him back on, but told him he couldn't report on the story any longer. Right in the middle of this, the paper reversed a three-year-old policy of not endorsing political candidates to come out hard for Bruce Rauner. In making their endorsement, the editorial board interviewed neither Rauner or his Democratic rival, Pat Quinn, simply letting fly with their backing without warning or real explanation. Or making any other endorsements in any other race.
In other words, it sure looks like the Sun-Times was trying to wriggle out of something when it decided to go all in on Rauner. And to even the most casual of observers, it’s hard to escape the conclusion the paper ended up trading its most precious journalistic asset to appease a political campaign breathing down its neck.
Which, for the outsized position the paper holds in setting the political agenda in Illinois and Chicago both, is a blow that goes beyond the specifics of one reporter, one story or one political campaign.
Few newspapers anywhere in the state have banked their survival on political reporting as much as the Sun-Times. As part of a strategy to turn the paper around, the Sun-Times created and heavily promoted Early & Often, its sponsored “political portal”. It was able to do so, in part, because the paper had a roster of outstanding journalists like McKinney and others who knew politics and weren’t afraid to follow a story wherever it led. As a result, most political stories in the city and state don’t get any traction without going through the Sun-Times at one point or another. Yet all of that is in danger in the wake of the editorial and McKinney’s resignation.
The minute a journalistic institution is even suspected of trading its influence in return for anything is the moment it begins to lose the trust of its readership, the people it covers and anyone interested in the paper’s survival.

Because the question becomes: if it happened once, what’s to say it won't happen again? It doesn't matter whether the paper had the purest of motives in endorsing someone like Rauner. What matters is appearance.

For proof, conduct a little thought experiment: what happens if, in late January or early February of 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel finds himself down 15 or 20 points in the polls and the paper decides to endorse him for re-election? The mayor has deep ties to a number of Sun-Times board members, just like Rauner. Members of the board, including Michael Ferro Jr. and Michael Sacks donated heavily to Emanuel’s 2011 campaign. The mayor parties with members of the board. Michael Sacks has been described as the mayor’s “go-to guy” on everything from the city’s parking meter deal to economic development.

That’s not to say a mayoral endorsement from the Sun-Times will be done in anything but the most transparent, above board way possible. But what if it’s not? This one certainly wasn't. There’s little doubt both the city and the state are facing an abundance of critical and difficult problems right now. Voters and concerned citizens need institutions like the Sun-Times to fulfill their role as unbiased, unimpeachable reporters of truth—even in the messy world of politics.

In his resignation letter, McKinney wrote:

Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper. They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times.

Doesn’t get any plainer than that. 

<![CDATA[Sun-Times Reporter Resigns, Criticizes Paper's Leadership and Bruce Rauner]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 17:50:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/chicago-sun-times-building1.jpg

Longtime Chicago Sun Times political reporter Dave McKinney has decide to resign from his job amid allegations that Bruce Rauner’s campaign interfered with his reporting on a controversial story. 

McKinney along with NBC5’s Carol Marin and Don Moseley reported on allegations made by a former Rauner employee who said in a deposition that Rauner used hardball tactics at one of his investment companies, LeapSource.  
The former CEO alleged in a lawsuit that Rauner threatened her personally.   
“If you go legal on us, we’ll hurt you and your family,” the CEO said that Rauner said about her.    
The Rauner campaign pushed back vigorously before the story aired.

On Wednesday McKinney revealed that prior to publication, the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block the story.
 ... including having campaign staffers vowing to “go over” our heads. We are accustomed to such tactics.

But what does not come with the territory is a campaign sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece–rife with errors–about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation.

Yes, Ann does political consulting work for Democrats. But she has not been involved in the Illinois’ governor’s race and has focused on out-of-state campaigns. She and her business partner have gone to great lengths to prevent potential conflicts of interest, including creating a legally binding firewall that prevents Ann from participating in, strategizing in, or financially benefiting from the Illinois governor’s race. For that work, her partner formed a separate corporation with its own bank account that didn’t involve Ann in any way. In January, before we were even married, I presented this information to Sun-Times management and received approval in writing to move forward.”   
McKinney notes that he was “yanked" from his beat, but after he contacted former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to investigate the matter, he was reinstated.  
But McKinney found he was not permittedwork the way he had for decades.  During his first day back on the job, he was pulled from writing a follow up the original Rauner story. 
The final straw, McKinney said, was the Sun Times' decision to reverse its three-year-old no endorsement policy and endorse Rauner whom McKinney sees as “the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun Times management had declared as a defamatory attack on me.”
Sun Times publisher Jim Kirk  addressed the resignation in an emailed statement.
 “It is with reluctance that I accept Dave McKinney’s resignation. As recently as this Monday on our Op/Ed page, I stated that Dave is among the best in our profession.  I meant it then and I mean it now. The pause we took last week was to ensure there were no conflicts of interest and was taken simply to protect Dave McKinney, the Sun Times and its readers as we were under attack in a heated political campaign. We came to the right result, found the political attacks against us to be false and we stand by our reporting, our journalists and this great newspaper. I disagree with Dave's questioning the integrity of this newspaper and my role as editor and publisher.  I call the shots. While I've been here, our ownership and management have never quashed a story and they have always respected the journalistic integrity of this paper.”
The Rauner campaign released a statement from spokesman Chip Englander who doubled down.
"While we disagreed with him on this matter, we are saddened to see Dave leave the Sun-Times.  We wish him the best."

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Emanuel Names Kurt Summers Jr. To City Treasurer Post]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:41:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/emanuel+summers.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday appointed Kurt Summers Jr. to the City Treasurer post being left by Stephanie Neely.

“Kurt Summers has the experience, the values and the integrity we need of everyone who holds public office,” Emanuel said in a statement. “I am confident that he will become a vital member of the city’s financial team and help manage the city’s investments effectively, efficiently, and in a way that promotes opportunity for every Chicagoan.”

Summers previously served as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's chief of staff.

Neely announced her resignation, effective at the end of November, to her staff Monday morning, telling them she plans to return to the private sector. In a statement released Monday afternoon, Neely confirmed "with mixed emotions" that she will not seek re-election.

"When I came into this office nearly 8 years ago I vowed to become the best Treasurer this city has ever had," she said. "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my hometown as its Treasurer."

Neely's resignation allowed Emanuel to appoint her successor, and many speculated Summers would be chosen.

“I intend to bring to the Treasurer’s office a focus on financial stewardship, accountability, innovation and investment," Summers said in a statement. "This is not a short-term investment for me. I am committed to having a long-term impact, and I will work to earn the support of Chicagoans."

Summers' appointment is pending City Council approval.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Bloomberg Pours $1.9 Million Into Pro-Dold Ad Buy]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:47:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_michael_bloomberg_anuncia_indices_de_crimen.jpg

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political action committee Independence USA is pouring $1.9 million into an television ad buy backing Illinois congressional candidate Bob Dold.

Crain's Chicago Business reports that the donation from billionaire Bloomberg, who returned to lead his namesake company after relinquishing his three-term post last year, is the "largest outside spending by a wide margin in the race," besting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's now-quaint, six-figure contribution to Dold earlier this year.

Dold is running a tight toss-up race against Rep. Brad Schneider in the battleground 10th district on suburban Chicago's tony North Shore.

The Republican businessman from Kenilworth previously held Schneider's position until the Deerfield Democrat ousted him from office in 2012. Millions in outside money is flooding in on both sides, with Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS a benefactor for the Dold campaign.

Meanwhile, Dold has sought to reinvent himself as a fiscally conservative/socially moderate independent in the vein of the popular GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, who previously repped the 10th. Last week, Dold and Kirk appeared in a TV ad together wherein the latter gushed: "He's like me!"

Bloomberg is worth some $34 billion, so (obviously) he has dollars to drop. According to the New York Times, this month the ex-Republican city boss (whose politics cross over into Democratic territory on social issues) intended to earmark even more dough—$25 million—to prop up political centrists ahead of Nov. 4's midterm elections. Beyond Dold, this cycle he's supported a bipartisan array of candidates in states from Massachusetts to Michigan and was also directing cash to back a Washington State referendum on gun control.

"He wants to elect people who are open and actually inclined to work with people across the aisle," Bloomberg's political adviser Howard Wolfson told the Times in early October.

Angling to influence last year's showdown for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s House seat, the Independence USA PAC earmarked over $1.4 million on gun control-themed ads that successfully helped Rep. Robin Kelly defeat a rival bid from former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson.

The PAC's Dold spot touts Dold's endorsements of gun-shop background checks as well as gay marriage. It takes a positive tone, slinging no mud in Schneider's direction.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rivals Debate in NH Senate Race]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:06:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2014-10-21-21h11m54s10.jpg

Scott Brown continued to hammer away at Democrat Jeanne Shaheen's record in Washington as the incumbent repeatedly accused her Republican opponent of fear mongering during a debate in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race Tuesday.

Brown accused Shaheen of "outsourcing independence" by voting for policies backed by President Barack Obama. Shaheen, meanwhile, sought to distance herself from the president, who has low approval ratings in New Hampshire.

"In some ways I approve, in some ways I don't approve," of the president's decisions, Shaheen said when asked to answer "yes or no" if she approves of Obama's job in office.

The latest efforts to contain and prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the United States also became a hot topic, as Brown pushed for a travel ban from West Africa. Shaheen reiterated a comment from a day earlier that she would consider one if it would make a difference. That position was a reversal from last week, when she said she didn't think the idea "makes sense." 

The Democratic incumbent accused her rival of fear mongering on the Ebola virus, border security and the threat of terrorism posed by ISIS.

The two rivals remain locked in a close race as they headed into Tuesday's televised debate, which was hosted by New England Cable News, the Concord Monitor and the University of New Hampshire. A recent WMUR Granite State poll showed Shaheen leading her GOP challenger 44 percent to 38 percent among likely voters at the start of the month. Seventeen percent remained undecided.

The competitive race has attracted campaign cash and headlines from across the country, as one of several competitive seats Republicans are targeting in their bid to win control of the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

Chuck Todd, NBC's "Meet the Press" host, moderated the debate from the Capitol Center for the arts in Concord.

Shaheen said she was proud of her vote for the Obama's landmark heath care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, while Brown insisted Granite Staters wanted to repeal Obamacare.

Sparks also flew on the topics of immigration and border security.

"The border is secure when people don't come across it," Brown said to the applause of supporters after Todd asked him to define a secure border.

Shaheen attacked Brown's record on abortion rights, which he says he supports; Brown, while senator for Massachusetts, supported the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed any employer with moral objections to opt out of requiring to cover birth control in 2012.

When Brown said Shaheen was anti-nuclear as the subject of rising energy costs came up, she countered, "No, I'm not!"

Brown suggested repeatedly that Shaheen backs a new national energy tax, an assertion PolitiFact has deemed "mostly false."

In a final lightning round, Shaheen said her priority after being re-elected would be to refinance student loans; Brown said he would push the U.S. Senate to come up with a budget. Both declined to say they'd back their respective party heads in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for another term in leadership. 

Barbs were also thrown after Brown defended his decision to run in New Hampshire this year instead of seeking to win back the Massachusetts seat he lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012 by saying he didn't run "because I live here." 

"I don't think New Hampshire is a consolation prize," Shaheen said.


This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Forgot to Clean His Chicago Home Before Leaving For Washington]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:18:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/203*120/obamalax.jpg

President Barack Obama says his home on Chicago's South Side is a 2008-era time warp of sorts, with old newspapers and unpaid bills left behind in the First Family's move to DC six years ago.

"We always thought we'd be back every month and we'd kind of get everything in order and filed, and it hasn't happened," he told The Associated Press Monday night, at a fundraiser for Illinois Democrats. "But it's useful, actually, to take a look at some of these old articles to remind ourselves of where we were when we took office and to think about the progress we've made."

According to the AP, the president—who's reportedly looking to make his home base New York City, not Chicago, when he leaves the White House—took some time in between midterm-campaign obligations to revisit the Hyde Park mansion he and Michelle Obama bought in 2005.

On Sunday night, he headlined a rally for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn at Chicago State University, attracting more than 6,000 supporters and imploring them to vote early. Obama himself cast a ballot the next morning, when he jokingly teased a guy who said, "Mr. President, don't touch my girlfriend."

(For the record, he would not reveal whether he checked off the box for Quinn or GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner; let's all take a wild guess and assume the former. Election Day is Nov. 4, but early voting has commenced here and Obama—still revered in his adopted hometown—is eagerly recruited by local politicians to help their campaigns.

Non-Illinoisians running for office and/or hoping to hold onto their Washington posts—especially in the Senate—have distanced themselves from the president, who's less popular late in his second term.)

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Hurricane Bill Clinton Hits Chicago to Shake Up the Quinn-Rauner Race]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:15:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/194*120/AP844735183084.jpg

Remember when Bill "Explainer-in-Chief" Clinton waltzed into the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and proceeded to give the best speech of the election season thus far? 

The silver-tongued speaker, with his practiced man-of-the-people folksiness and enviable ability to condense a complicated issue into effectively simple terms, managed to argue the Democrats' case better than anyone else on that stage. He even out-shone President Barack Obama, the more introverted "Professor-in-Chief" and an oratory marvel in his own right, who lost some of that swagger from 2008, when "change" was in the air.

If Clinton didn't drop the mic afterward, he should have.

The former president, whose wife may soon launch a bid for the White House, relishes politics and the political spotlight—when Obama essentially ignored him during his first term, he felt slighted. Then 2012 rolled around, and suddenly his campaigning prowess—not to mention a rebound in goodwill from a public feeling nostalgic for the '90s—came into high demand. The Obamans knocked on his door. He jumped at the chance to spin the election in his party's favor.

Two years later, Clinton is doing just that for embattled Democrats here in Illinois. Earlier this summer, he stumped for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a splashy fundraiser downtown, lending his ex-adviser—up for re-election next February and struggling to win back Chicago voters he's alienated, especially African-Americans—a welcome dose of star power.

Today, in the city's South Side, he was addressing a crowd of workers, business and labor leaders at a manufacturing plant on behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn, who's locked in a tight race against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. The theme: The economy and the state's economic "comeback."

While Quinn touts a decline in the unemployment rate, Rauner counters that the rate remains among the highest in the county and that the Democratic incumbent has "failed" as a leader. The governor, prone to social awkwardness and blustery delivery, has strived to streamline—and sell—his message on Illinois' fiscal woes (and how he can best salvage the post-crash wreckage) amid tough competition from Rauner, who projects an aura of competence and reason honed from years leading boardroom meetings as a veteran venture capitalist.

Here's where Clinton steps in to shake things up, attempt to reframe the issue and drop the mic. Again.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The 11 Biggest Quinn-sults and Rauner Rips From Monday's Debate]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 06:00:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/quinn-rauner-wls-debates.jpg

Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican opponent Bruce Rauner squared off Monday night in their final debate before the Nov. 4 election. Per usual in this wildly hostile, closely matched gubernatorial showdown, things got more than a little testy as the two attacked each other's leadership skills and moral character. Eleven of their most toxic Quinn-sults and Rauner rips, from the F-word to the B-word and everything in between:

1. "He's a failure. Governor Quinn has failed. He's failed on what matters. ... Pat Quinn has been a disaster." — Rauner, dropping the F-word with merciless abandon.

2. "Pat Quinn's a PHONY."

3. "He's a champion name caller." — Quinn, on his rival's nonstop failure-and-phony disses.

4. "I'm running against a billionaire. ... Savage, radical, extreme cuts." — Quinn, deploying his favorite B-word to cast Rauner as an out-of-touch Mr. Burns cartoon villain.

5. "We have a massive economic failure in Illinois. Gov. Quinn, he’s running on scare tactics. ... The truth is Illinois is failing on jobs, failing on taxes." — Rauner.

6. "You’ve got to take on hard things, tough things, on behalf of the common good. My opponent is all about easy street." — Quinn.

7. "He's a phony on the minimum wage. He's playing political football." — Rauner.

8. "He has a plan to give himself a million-dollar tax cut while slashing the education budget of this state. I’m against giving tax cuts to the wealthy and hurting our schools.” — Quinn.

9. "Let me be clear, you don’t judge a person’s heart by the size of their wallet." — Rauner.

10. "You are taking the African American vote for granted. You had a superstar who could have been your lieutenant governor: Stephanie Neely." — Rauner, referencing the outgoing Chicago Treasurer, who resigned her post for a job in the private sector.

11. "My question is 'Where’d ya look?'" — Quinn, addressing Rauner's past remarks that his private equity firm had not hired African-Americans because he couldn't find any who were qualified.

<![CDATA[The Chicago GOP's Chris Cleveland Sounds Off on Quinn, Rahm and Daley]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:09:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lucky-the-elephant-flickr.jpg

As Illinois' GOP gubernatorial contender Bruce Rauner focuses attention on Democratic Chicago, the state's most powerful voting bloc and one cornered by incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, the Chicagoan who heads up the city's Republican Party—yes, it actually exists—says he thinks the wealthy Winnetka investor stands a decent chance at winning over at least some voters in a one-party town.

"If we here in Chicago get 25 percent, then we've hit our numbers," Chris Cleveland, vice chairman of the Chicago Republican Party and 43rd Ward committeeman, told Ward Room in a recent interview. "Thirty percent would be outstanding. That would really mean something. Getting 30 percent is definitely a stretch."

Ald. Michele Smith, a Democrat, oversees Ward 43, which spans the tony North Side nabes of Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast. Cleveland, her GOP foil, is hosting uber-conservative Texas tea party Sen. Ted Cruz at a DePaul University breakfast funder on Wednesday to raise money for local Republican candidates. (Cruz, who may run for president in 2016, no doubt aims to hustle up campaign cash from well-heeled Chicago supporters while he's here.)

Meanwhile, Rauner, who's steering clear of the polarizing Cruz ahead of Election Day, isn't exactly hurting on the financial front: He raised $20.5 million last quarter, ending it with $3.5 milion cash on hand. He's poured a large chunk of that dough (which includes millions from his own deep pockets) into Windy City-centric media attacks upon the governor, specifically targeting Quinn-fatigued Democratic swing voters and independents as well as African-Americans frustrated with the status quo. (Quinn on Sunday got some welcome campaign love from President Barack Obama, who urged the largely black crowd at a South Side rally to support the party at the ballot box Nov. 4.)

"Bruce Rauner is making a very big push into black neighborhoods. He's opened some offices. He's got people on the street. He has endorsements from a number of ministers. You know, a lot of the thought leaders are starting to say, 'Hey, we've been loyal Democrats for a long time and what has it got us?'" said Cleveland.

Touting Rauner's strength in the 43rd, won by ex-Republican Gov. George Ryan in 1998, Cleveland said: "That was the No. 1 ward for him during the (March) primary. He got 68 percent of the vote. And he's got a real appeal. Because he's (fiscally conservative) on the economic issues and he's moderate on social issues, which reflects the ward."

Other potential pockets of voters who could destabilize Quinn's grip on the city—and tip the balance of the election outside of it—exist in wards 42 (Loop-centric), 32 (Lakeview/Wicker Park) and 41 (near O'Hare), which is "white, ethnic, working-class, lot of private trade union people, cops, firefighters. And those are swing voters," he declared.

Asked about Rauner's recent public missteps, which include owning up to having previously pitched the idea of eliminating the minimum wage altogether, among other bouts of foot-in-mouth-disease, Cleveland insisted voters' personal priorities supercede all the bad PR.

"The Democrats have engaged in class warfare since the days of Andrew Jackson. It's an old, old, old game that they play," he said. "But ultimately, people care about their families, their community and whether they have a job. And when people look objectively at the two candidates, and they realize that Quinn has messed up the state in embarrassing different ways over the last eight years, and that Bruce Rauner has the credentials to bring business and jobs to our different neighborhoods ... you know, they'll vote their own interest."

Cleveland's claws come out, big-time, on the subject of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who seeks a second term in 2015. His biggest competitor thus far? Political progressive Bob Fioretti, the 2nd Ward alderman. His least threatening competition? GOP spotlight-chaser William Kelly.

"He's a pretty terrible mayor. He is fully part of the Machine. He operates slush funds, particularly the TIF funds, for his own benefit," sniped Cleveland, adding: "He's just a sad, sad mayor."

Reps for Quinn and Emanuel did not immediately respond to Ward Room's request for comment.

Despite Emanuel's pro-business streak, a quality Republicans would generally like, "He is not a conservative," lamented Cleveland. "He is a man who is completely, utterly inept and unable to confront the problems that we have—and on issue after issue after issue. Jobs. Controlling spending. Doing something about pensions. Handling public safety. Having some sort of reasonable school choice programs so we can pull CPS up. He's an utter failure on all of them. I mean, that's what people used to say about Daley too. 'Oh, he's really a Republican.' Well, that was utter nonsense about him. And even he was more conservative than Rahm Emanuel."

Does Cleveland have anybody lined up to challenge Rahm on the Republican ticket?

"I don't! Do you? ... Some people have been sniffing around it but no, I don't currently have a credible candidate."

Photo Credit: Flickr/Amanda Richards]]>
<![CDATA[Man to President: "Don't Touch My Girlfriend"]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:54:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/obama-vote-girlfriend-1.jpg

While taking part in Early Voting in Chicago on Monday, President Barack Obama was interrupted at his electronic polling station by a man with a lighthearted word-of-caution.

"Mr. President, don't touch my girlfriend," the man, later identified as Mike, quipped as he crossed the room.

Standing beside Obama at her own polling station was Mike's clearly embarrassed girlfriend, Aia Cooper.

"You know, I really wasn't really planning on it," Obama replied with a chuckle. "There's an example of a brother just embarrassing me for no reason."

Obama added: "Now you'll be going back home and talking to your friends about this. ... I can't believe Mike, he is such a fool."

After a moment the pair finished with their ballots and the president went toward Cooper for a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"Now you're really jealous," Obama said, smiling and pointing at Mike.

The president was in Chicago on Sunday and Monday attending fundraisers and offering support to Gov. Pat Quinn, who is in a challenging campaign against Republican Bruce Rauner.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[City Continues to Walk Fine Line on Police Overtime]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:49:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_rahm_emanuel_chapo_guzman_chicago.JPG

During the first day of City Council hearings on Mayor Emanuel’s 2015 budget proposals, City Budget Director Alexandria Holt revealed the city is once again spending millions of dollars beyond what was budgeted for police overtime.
Holt told aldermen the city expects to spend $95 million on police overtime this year, which is $23 million more than the $72 million already set aside.
It’s the second year in a row the city has exceeded its police overtime budget by millions. Last year, the city spent more than $100 million on police overtime after estimating it would spend $32 million.
The figures come amid growing concern in Chicago over the police department’s overall effectiveness in addressing spiraling shootings and murders, particularly in a number of poorer and more disadvantaged neighborhoods across the city.
In response to the city’s ongoing gun violence, community leaders, neighborhood activists and several alderman have called for the city to hire more police to patrol the streets and attack high crime areas. According to the city, 12,533 sworn positions are budgeted for 2015, including about 9,700 positions for beat officers.
A number of aldermen, including members of the Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus, have called for 500 additional police hires above and beyond what is currently budgeted.
“We need to find $50 million in the budget to fund the additional officers because as it is, [the police department] is understaffed,” Alderman Rick Munoz (22) told Ward Room. “If the city can find money for other projects, they can find the money for more officers.”
However, the Emanuel administration argues that hiring more police officers actually hurts the city’s budget more than simply asking existing officers to work more overtime. At Monday’s hearing, Holt said overtime costs less than hiring new officers, saying the average full-time officer costs the city about $100,000 a year in pay and benefits.
“If you look at the $40 million, say, in overtime for operation impact, that buys you about 570,000 hours of policing work,” Holt said. “If you were to do it on straight time, it’s about 150,000 hours less.”
Yet the city’s calculations appear to ignore potential human costs and ineffectiveness such a policy can create. In a statement on the proposed 2015 budget, the PRC expressed concern that “over-reliance on police overtime could exacerbate community-police conflicts and increases the risk of problematic interactions.”
“We should be hiring more officers to minimize the amount of time these officers are working,” Munoz told the Tribune. “Human beings do get tired, and we want to protect the men in blue.”
Nevertheless, the city stands by its policy, at least as expressed in the current 2015 budget proposal.
Holt pointed to $40 million of the $95 million in overtime costs as being devoted to special Impact Zones targeted for reductions in street crime and gun violence, saying “the issue is really one of flexibility for the Police Department."   

Photo Credit: Archivo Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[City Treasurer Stephanie Neely Stepping Down]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:29:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Stephanie+D.+Neely+1.jpg

City Treasurer Stephanie Neely will step down after eight years in office, effective at the end of November.

Neely announced her resignation to her staff Monday morning, telling them she plans to return to the private sector, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Neely confirmed "with mixed emotions" that she will not seek re-election.

"When I came into this office nearly 8 years ago I vowed to become the best Treasurer this city has ever had," she said. "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my hometown as its Treasurer."

Looking back on the accomplishments of her two terms, Neely touted her office's annual Small Business Expo, micro-loan program for small businesses, workshops for entrepreneurs, financial education for Chicago Public Schools students and six clean external audits in a row, "something no other Treasurer can claim," she said.

"I have been humbled by the brilliant individuals I have met along the way," she said, "and am forever grateful to my staff and to the people of Chicago for electing me to serve the City I love."

Neely's resignation allows Mayor Rahm Emanuel to appoint her successor. Some speculate he will choose Kurt Summers, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's former chief of staff.

Neely had been considered as Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate, but he choose Paul Vallas instead.

"I was honored when Gov. Quinn spoke to me," she said in an interview with NBC Chicago's Mary Ann Ahern. "He decided to go a different way and that is his choice and I'm not sour on him or politics because of it."

GOP candidate Bruce Rauner mentioned Neely’s name to her surprise at last week’s debate focusing on African American issues.

"I was sitting there in the audience and I was like, 'What?'" she said.

As for her future in politics, Neely says "never say never."

"I've enjoyed serving, but it's just time for me to do something else," she said.

<![CDATA[Bruce Rauner Won't Campaign With Rand Paul, Ted Cruz]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:57:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Rauner_black_ministers.jpg

The GOP touts Bruce Rauner as The Next Best Thing to rescue Illinois from fiscal doom. The media often touts Rand Paul as The Second Coming to rebrand and energize the party, saving it from its stodgy self.

Last week, Time christened Paul, the libertarian senator from Kentucky who might stage a run for president in 2016, as "The Most Interesting Man in Politics," following a slew of similar accolades in other mainstream media outlets including The New York Times Magazine and Politico. (Not among them: Mother Jones.)

But Rauner, the super-rich Republican candidate running a super-close race to dethrone Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, will apparently have nothing to do with Paul ahead of Nov. 4's election. At least not in public. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Rauner opted not to enlist the buzzy-yet-polarizing politician (and former eye doctor) for a campaign photo-op even though he was in town Monday to speak at an American Academy of Ophthalmology conference at McCormick Place.

Neither will he make an appearance alongside arch-conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas tea partier, who's doing a fundraiser with the Chicago's Republican Party on Wednesday, reports the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet.

Both Paul and Cruz are among the high-profile GOP names being bandied about as potential presidential candidates to face off against the likes of Hillary Clinton. Both are too risky, too extreme, to be seen with Rauner before Election Day, especially in Chicagoland, where the tea party is frowned upon and Democratic ideals run deep. Both are certainly aware that this city, home to some of the richest Republicans in the nation, boasts a deep reserve of donor cash in the event that, say, somebody wants to launch a bid for president. The money: That's why they're here.

And so Rauner is aligning himself with politicos who play better here in Chicago, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—two other 2016 possibilities. (Interestingly, Rauner previously distanced himself from Christie following the George Washington Bridge scandal earlier this year. Now that's all ... water under the bridge.)

As early voting begins in Illinois, the Winnetka investor-turned-political rookie campaigns this week with stalwart state Republicans including Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Sen. Mark Kirk.

Quinn, meanwhile, is wrangling A-listers like: President Barack Obama, who headlined a packed-house rally at the South Side's Chicago State University on Sunday night; ex-President Bill Clinton, who gives a pro-Quinn, economy-themed speech on Tuesday at Wheatland Tube's Chicago branch; and Vice President Joe Biden, who's flying out for a Wednesday event in the northern 'burb of Vernon Hills, the scene of a battleground race between Democrat congressman Brad Schneider and GOP rival Bob Dold.

<![CDATA[Obama Casts Early Ballot in General Election]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:22:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/obama-early-vote-2.jpg

President Barack Obama on Monday morning took advantage of early voting and cast his ballot for next month's General Election.

Monday was the first day Illinoisans could cast their votes in advance of the Nov. 4 election.

"Love voting. Everybody in Illinois: early vote. It's a wonderful opportunity," the president said as a polling worker prepared his ballot inside the Martin Luther King Center in Chicago's Grand Boulevard neighborhood. "This is the most important office in a democracy: the office of citizen."

Election law precluded Obama from answering a reporter's question about which candidates would get his vote, but the president on Monday night headlined a rally for Gov. Pat Quinn. He's also a supporter of Sen. Dick Durbin, who is being challenged for his seat by Republican Jim Oberweis.

Obama later shook the hands of other voters and got in a photo with a group of poll workers.


This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Karen Lewis Returns to Twitter After Brain Tumor Diagnosis]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:37:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Karen_Lewis_9-2.jpg

Karen Lewis is back on Twitter.

Until yesterday, the Chicago Teachers Union president, former mayoral contender and avid tweeter had been silent on the social media platform since Oct. 5, when she checked into the hospital and was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. A week later, she took her name out of the running as a potential candidate to challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015.

The 61-year-old CTU rabblerouser, who would often use Twitter to rib Emanuel (whose tweets are boring by comparison), resurfaced on the site Sunday to retweet several missives from supporters and fellow pro-teacher progressives. One of those was Michelle Gunderson, a CPS educator who oversees elementary schools at the union and wrote: 

Others sending well wishes were the Badass Teachers Association, an East Coast-based liberal group, which said: "BATS are praying hard for your health & happiness! We adore U #Love4Karen."

Fiery, charismatic and a born leader, Lewis would have shaken up the mayor's race in exciting ways—especially during a time when progressive issues like the minimum wage are gathering steam throughout the country.

At the moment, Emanuel's biggest competitor is 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, another of his most vocal critics. Many possible candidates are less-than-willing to go up against his $9-million-and-counting election warchest; Lewis, however, recently launched a nascent fundraising campaign to gather enough donations to battle the super-connected celebrity city boss.

Lewis' allies say "instead of fighting Rahm, she'll be fighting for her life" with many calling the turn of events "tragic."


<![CDATA[Rival Gets Hands on Campaign Book]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:40:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/carl+demaio+scott+peters.JPG

A new bombshell dropped Friday in the race for California’s 52nd Congressional District when both candidates confirmed a Carl DeMaio campaign strategy book, allegedly stolen during an office break-in, found its way into the hands of incumbent Scott Peters’ staff.

It is the latest revelation in an already ugly race peppered with attack ads and sexual harassment allegations.

The two had a chilly meeting Friday morning at a taping of NBC 7’s Politically Speaking, as DeMaio walked right by Peters’ hand outstretched for a handshake.

During the session, DeMaio discussed the burglary and vandalism at his campaign headquarters on May 28. Cords and cables were cut, water was poured over laptops and printers, computer screens were smashed in and one important item was taken: DeMaio’s campaign playbook.

The candidate confronted Peters about the book on “Politically Speaking.”

“And Mr. Peters, I just want to ask a very simple question. Did your campaign come into possession of our strategy book, all of our direct mail pieces in the last five months?” asked DeMaio.

Peters responded with: “In early June, information was forwarded to our campaign which we immediately turned over to the police.”

DeMaio pressed the issue, asking Peters why he did not let his opponent’s campaign know that he had seen DeMaio’s playbook all along.

“I’ve obviously never seen it,” said Peters. “We turned it directly over to the police within 24 hours of getting it because what was contained in it was potentially part of a criminal investigation.”

He added his campaign manager “looked at it enough to know what it was.”

On Friday evening, Peters' Communication Director Alex Roth sent out the following statement about the revelation:

"To clarify, we do not know what a campaign playbook is; nor has our campaign ever received anything that could be characterized as 'a campaign playbook' as Mr. DeMaio called it. To reiterate, our campaign staff received information in early June that we immediately transmitted in its entirety to the police.This is nothing more than an attempt by Mr. DeMaio to divert attention away from the Filner-esque sexual harassment allegations that have been made against him.”

During the show's taping, Peters said he felt as if he had been cast as the perpetrator of the break-in, which was portrayed with Watergate-like overtones when it first happened.

DeMaio told his opponent he does not believe Peters had anything to do with the burglary.

Instead, he blames former aide Todd Bosnich.

Bosnich has publicly accused DeMaio of sexually harassing him while he worked for the former San Diego City Councilman, releasing the results of a polygraph test that he says support his claims.

Called the allegations “outrageous lies,” DeMaio said Bosnich is trying to get revenge for being fired as a suspect in the break-in.

However, the candidate said he will not take a polygraph exam to rebut Bosnich’s allegations.

CNN reports Bosnich's lawyers sent the news outlet the results to a second polygraph test Friday in which Bosnich was asked if he broke into the campaign headquarters last May. The test shows Bosnich's "no" answers were "truthful and found "no deception."

Bosnich confirmed the story to NBC 7 via text message.

DeMaio's spokesman David McCulloch defended the candidate, saying in a statement, "Both Carl DeMaio and Tommy Knepper — named in a series of vile smear attacks — have taken lie detector tests that have shown these smears are baseless. Meanwhile, Mr. Peters admitted on NBC7/39 this morning that his campaign received stolen property from our campaign — begging the question: who provided this sensitive campaign material?"  

McCulloch later clarified that statement that the lie detector test taken by DeMaio was one in August 2013 after a former colleague accused DeMaio of lewd acts in San Diego's City Hall.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Governor's Race Too Close to Call, New Poll Shows]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:52:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Quinn-rauner-p1.jpg

A new poll by the Paul Simon Institute at Southern Illinois University showed the race for Illnois governor is too close to call. Republicans have more enthusiasm while Democrats have more voters the poll showed.

“I suspect it will be a close race but I am very confident Bruce will win,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said Friday outside a GOP fundraiser.

Christie was in town for yet another GOP fundraiser, a closed downtown affair with tickets topping at $1,000.

“He’s someone who can win in a blue state,” said Congressman Peter Roskman.

What Christie did in New Jersey is something Rauner is attempting to replicate in Illinois.

“Voters are going to have clear choice this year, really clear choice between Pat Quinn and myself. We have to get more jobs, we have to get taxes,” Rauner said.

But as Rauner---who took no questions---was talking about jobs, the final unemployment numbers prior to the election were announced. They showed a drop from 6.7 percent to 6.6 percent, the seventh month of jobless decline.

“Unemployment is down, down in Illinois, jobs are up,” Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday.

Quinn toured Spring-CM, a cloud software company that will add 500 jobs in the next five years, thanks to a state infusion of $2.25 million. Quinn also defended the use of state money.

“This is a good way to leverage faster job creation,” he said.

The parade of political stars into Illinois continues on Sunday with President Obama returning to rally for the Democrats at an event at Chicago State University.

It will be the President’s 2nd recent trip for Quinn, who just like Christie today, hopes to stir the Illinois electorate to vote.

“I think we motivate people to get out. I think we motivate people to get out, that’s what we do,” Christie noted.

The election is 18 days and counting.

“It will be a very close race. It always is in Illinois,” Christie said.

The latest poll does nothing to challenge that.

<![CDATA[Rahm Touts $23.5 Million Affordable Housing Complex for Homeless Veterans]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:57:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_alcalde_rahm_emanuel1.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday touted the opening of a brand-new, $23.5 million affordable apartment complex for homeless veterans—and those at risk of homelessness—on the city's South Side.

Emanuel cut the red ribbon at Hope Manor II Apartments, a 73-unit "housing and supportive services complex" in the Englewood neighborhood, alongside U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (a fellow high-profile Illinois Democrat running for re-election) and 16th Ward Ald. JoAnn Thompson.

"Hope Manor II is a down payment on our promise that if you fight for the homeland of America, you will always have a home here in the city of Chicago," declared the mayor. "Whether it is housing or health care, educational opportunities or job opportunities, we are making the city of Chicago the gold standard for meeting our obligations to our veterans and their families."

Chiming in, Durbin added: "I applaud the opening of this unique facility that will not only provide assistance to Chicago area veterans in need, but their families as well. The rate of homelessness among veterans with families has been increasing by more than 5 percent every year for the past four years—a troubling trend that makes this project all the more important."

One of Emanuel's lofty goals for 2015—the year Chicagoans decide whether to elect the polarizing boss to a second term in office—is to completely wipe out homelessness among veterans, a pledge previously made by President Barack Obama. His newly minted city budget earmarks $800,000-plus toward subsidized housing for needy vets; meanwhile, the U.S. government will foot over 80 percent of the $5 million in annual costs required to pull off a project like Hope Manor.

Aforementioned "supportive services" include job training and counseling for mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Photo Credit: Archivo Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Activists Refuse to Take ‘No’ on Elected School Board Vote]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:45:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-city-council.jpg

If a coalition of activist groups have their way, it looks like Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his City Council allies won't have the final say over whether Chicago voters will get to weigh in on the contentious issue of an elected school board in Chicago.
As you may remember, earlier this month Council allies of Mayor Emanuel used parliamentary maneuvers to deny a non-binding resolution intended to place the question of an elected school board on the February, 2015 municipal ballot.  
The resolution asked a simple question: Shall each member of the board of School District 299, known as the Chicago Board of Education, be elected by voters of the City of Chicago, State of Illinois?
It’s an issue that’s been important to many education activists, community groups, Chicago Public School parents and opponents of Mayor Emanuel. Chicago is the only city in Illinois without an elected school board, as the current system allows the mayor almost complete control over who is nominated and installed on the CPS board. 
Proponents of an elected board believe the move would allow for greater democracy and community input over issues such as class size, length of school day and opening and closing schools. 
Following the move to kill the question in Council, a coalition of 25 organizations is taking the issue to the streets. Led in part by Grassroots Collaborative, the coalition spans community, parent and labor groups, including the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), Action Now, Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE), Grassroots Illinois Action (GIA) and United Working Families (UFW) and more. 
Their goal? Get the question of an elected school board in front of voters across the city with a ward-by-ward strategy that places the question on the ballot in each of the city’s 50 wards. 
Illinois election law allows only three referendum questions on a ballot at a time. However, the limit exists independently for city-wide referendums, and for local, ward-based referendum. The goal of a 50-ward strategy is to break the city down into 50 separate ballots, and raise enough signatures to get the question on each one. 
"Actions have consequences, and United Working Families is committed to a fifty ward strategy to ensure voters have their say,” Kristen Crowell, executive director of United Working Families, told Ward Room. “The City Council may not want [the question of an elected representative school board] on the ballot—but we are determined to put this on the ballot so all of Chicago has a voice."
As part of the drive, the coalition is putting hundreds of workers on the streets, knocking on doors, explaining the issue and getting petition signatures. The threshold for getting a referendum question on the ballot at the ward level requires support from eight percent of a ward’s registered voters, or approximately 50,000 signatures city-wide. 
In many ways, the issue of an elected school board in Chicago acts as a kind of a litmus test for whether someone—particularly political figures and aldermanic candidates—stands with Mayor Emanuel or not, both on education issues and his wider agenda. 
That’s why, for example, aldermanic candidates who have aligned themselves with the elected school board issue are in some cases also working directly with members of the coalition to carry petitions as part of their own campaigning.
Some of the groups involved in the coalition have been working on the issue for years, and are confident the latest effort is a winning strategy for getting the question in front of voters. Particularly in light of the mayor’s and City Council’s intransigence on the issue.
“Action Now members are actively collecting petitions to ensure our voice is heard on February 24th election,” Katelyn Johnson, executive director of Action Now, tells Ward Room. “We’re one of many community organizations fighting together to ensure that Rahm Emanuel is held accountable for closing down our schools."  

<![CDATA[This Week in Mudslinging: Sugar and Spice Makes Everything Nasty]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:24:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/224*120/Lolla+mud+8-3.jpg

With less than three weeks 'til Election Day, the mud pies are flying fast and furious. (It's messy out there.) The week's most notable moments in the endlessly entertaining circus sideshow that is Illinois politics:

Quinn vs. Rauner. The spendy political nemeses took the stage Tuesday night for another televised debate, this one more bitter than the last. The showdown, held at the DuSable Museum of African American History, centered on who could best improve conditions for black Chicagoans—especially concerning crime and gun control. (Quinn wants to ban military-grade assault weapons; Rauner won't say whether he supports such a ban but vows to ensure "we keep guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill.") Claws out, the GOP nominee dug in, lecturing Quinn: "I cannot keep up with the baloney and lies that you spread. You can't run on the truth. The truth is you're the worst governor in America." BURN. "All my opponent does is grow his bank account and that hurts everyone," the incumbent Democrat shot back, making a dig at the super-rich Winnetka investor's vast fortune (some of which is stashed in the Caymans). Good thing Eileen Quinn is in his corner. Not missing an opportunity to bash Rauner, the governor's spry 97-year-old mother told NBC Chicago in an interview Wednesday, "I don't consider him very polished." The Republican challenger, meanwhile, recruited wife Diana, a self-avowed Democrat, to help woo the mom vote in a TV ad so softly lit, it could be a Barbara Walters special. "If you're ready to turn our state around, and create new opportunities for our kids, and our future, then I hope you'll vote for Bruce," cooed Mrs. Rauner, sporting a tasteful maroon sweater that's cute but not as adorable as Eileen. The best way to sling mud? With sugar. And a heaping dose of salt. See: "Nice guys do not threaten women. Ever."

Schneider vs. Dold. The battleground 10th congressional district in Chicago's northern 'burbs remains up for grabs as Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider struggles to fend off a potent challenge by GOP-er Bob Dold, who's angling to win back the seat Schneider stole from him last election cycle. Team Schneider has gone hard against the Kenilworth candidate's voting record on Obamacare—notably his previous attempts to strike down the health care law. But Dold, aiming to present himself as a fiscially conservative/socially moderate independent, has got on his side a relatively well liked (and like-minded) fellow North Shore Republican, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who disses the Deerfield congressman in a new ad that dropped Tuesday. "Brad Schneider's part of the problem in Washington. He just votes the way party leaders order him to," declares Kirk, handing Dold the ultimate compliment from one egotistic politician to another: "He's like me."

The day after that spot hit, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched an anti-Dold attack that casts the contender as an aforementioned tea party sympathizer on Schneider's behalf. "With features that include lockstep voting with Republicans, the tea party counts on Bob Dold," proclaims a narrator, in a jaunty morning-show radio voice. "Fully loaded with Republican ideas like raising the retirement age and privatizing social security."

Since the 10th skews more blue than red, the tea party thing might leave an impression on Democrat-leaning voters who disdain the conservative movement.

Michael Madigan vs. the Liberty Principles PAC. Speaking of conservative groups, someone over at the Liberty Principles political action commitee—is that you, Dan Proft?—has A) intense hatred for Illinois' Machiavellian House Speaker and B) a twisted sense of humor as well as C) way too much time on their hands. The result: Jazzercise Mike Madigan. The stoic Democrat power broker, looking like Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu:

Apologies for the nightmares.

<![CDATA[Campaign Ad Featuring James Foley Pulled]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:58:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_james_foley_ejecucion_isis_syria.jpg

A conservative ad campaign that featured James Foley, the New Hampshire journalist slain by ISIS, moments before his execution, will be pulled, the group responsible for the ad said.

Secure America Now President Allen Roth said in a statement that his group didn't intend to upset Foley's family with the ad attacking Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and that they "apologize for any pain we inadvertently caused.“

“It has been brought to our attention that a news report image of American hostage James Foley that appeared in a Secure America Now video has upset his parents, so we have decided to take the video down," the statement continued. “The purpose of the video was to draw attention to Washington’s failure to secure our borders from real threats by terrorists. That remains our objective and we will continue to engage in this public debate.”

Foley, a Rochester native, was beheaded by Islamic State militants in August, nearly two years after he was kidnapped in Syria. His parents say the ad was "deplorable" and told NECN in an emotional interview that they were demanding that the ad be pulled from New Hampshire.

Secure America Now used the image in a 15-second Internet ad attacking Shaheen, who is locked in a tight race against Republican Scott Brown, and other Democratic incumbents in critical Senate races nationwide.

"It makes me very sad that people would use the brutality of our son's death for their own political purposes," Mrs. Foley said.

Shaheen issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon condemning the ad.

"This is a disgraceful ad that dishonors the memory of a respected journalist and New Hampshire native," she said. "It hurts all who loved and knew Jim, and the people behind this ad owe the Foley family and apology."

According to Elizabeth Guyton, communications director for Scott Brown, Brown said, "This is completely inappropriate and disrespectful to the Foley family.”

Roth says the group did not contact the Foley family before making the ad public.

Secure America Now emphasized that the Foley execution video and the image have been used in other campaigns across the country several different times.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Putnam County: Illinois' Political Bellwether]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:54:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/258*120/Putnam+screenshot+p1.jpg

Want to know who will win the governor’s race in November between Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner?

Forget the polls. Watch Putnam County.  It’s the smallest county in the state in geography with a population of 5,800 and an unusual knack for picking the winner.

“As the vote goes in Putnam County, so goes the state,” said Democrat and Putnam County Clerk Dan Kuhn.
It’s not just that they pick the winner, the winning percentage in Putnam County mirrors the winning percentage statewide.
In the 1998 governor’s race when George Ryan defeated Glenn Poshard, Ryan won 51% of the state vote.  He won Putnam County with 49.3%.
In 2002 Rod Blagojevich beat Jim Ryan statewide with 52% of the vote.   Putnam County voters gave Blagojevich 51%.
Four years later it was eerily similar with Blagojevich winning 49% statewide over Judy Barr Topinka.  Putnam County voters backed Blagojevich with 46% of the vote.
The only hiccup was four years ago when the losing republican---Bill Brady--- beat Pat Quinn in Putnam County.   Voters, according to reporter Ken Schroeder of the Putnam County Record could not get past Quinn being a part of the Blagojevich administration.  “He was part of that regime” Schroeder said, “that’s more than likely why the first time around against Brady, no, they didn’t take him.”
This time around the governor’s race is---so far--- quite quiet, taking a back seat to local race for judge.
“Nobody’s talking about it. Nobody’s talking about the governor’s race,” said Alma Toedter, the Republican County chair.
Dan Kuhn, the Democrat, agrees.  “I don’t see a lot of enthusiasm about the governor’s race,” he said.
The reason says Schroeder is simple.  “There is very big resentment against Chicago politicians or rich politicians,” he said sitting on the steps of the 175-year old county courthouse. “Neither one plays real well in Putnam County.”
There are a few more Democrats than Republicans in Putnam County, a split of 58-42 says the county clerk.
Neither Governor Pat Quinn nor his Republican challenger Bruce Rauner has visited the county during this election season.
If either came here they would find this part of the state in trouble.
“I would say the biggest issue right now is unemployment,” said Denise Boggio, owner of Boggio’s Orchard a destination for visitors buying pumpkins, visiting a corn maze or stocking up on apple cider donuts.
The latest unemployment rate in the county is 7.8%, a full point higher than the state average.
The county’s largest employer, a steel mill closed, in 2009 and with that 600 jobs disappeared and disappointment has lingered.
Alma Toedter says voters tell her there is bi-partisan discouragement.  “I think they are so fed up with the one we have now and then the other one he’s got so much money he doesn’t know what to do with it all,” she said, adding,  “So I don’t know how this is going to go. I really don’t. “ 
Both Toedter and Kuhn predict their respective guy will win
In part because people here will go to the polls next month the way they always do.
In the March primary 46% of registered voters in Putnam County cast ballots compared to just 16% in Cook County.
“That’s one of the things about Putnam County, people do get out and vote,” Dan Kuhn said.
Or as Alma Toedter put it: “If you don’t vote don’t complain afterwards that your guy didn’t get in or he’s not doing a good job.  You vote, then you got a right to bitch.”

<![CDATA[Emanuel Brings Microsoft Ignite Conference to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 17:32:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/microsoft3.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to rack up tourism successes for the city. 

On Thursday, Emanuel announced that Microsoft would bring its "Ignite" conference would head to Chicago during the week of May 4-8, 2015. 

Ignite plays as something of a meta conference for Microsoft, who will combine a series of smaller conferences  -- TechEd, Microsoft Management Summit, The Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Project -- into one. 

The conference, which will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center, is expected to draw upward of 20,000 tech entrepreneurs, engineers and investors. 

It could be worth up to $47 million in revenue for the city. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Illinois General Election Guide 2014]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:18:40 -0500 Governor | Pat Quinn vs. Bruce Rauner
Both Quinn and Rauner have raised and spent millions of dollars for their campaigns for Governor. Read more here]]>
Governor | Pat Quinn vs. Bruce Rauner
Both Quinn and Rauner have raised and spent millions of dollars for their campaigns for Governor. Read more here]]>
November 4 is election day for Illinois residents to vote for who they would like to represent them. Take a quick look at who is running for what, where and who they are running against. ]]>
<![CDATA[Rauner Recruits Black Supporters for Video Testimonials]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:09:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_bruce_rauner_republicano_illinois.JPG

As race becomes a defining theme of 2014's hyper-competitive Illinois governor showdown, Republican Bruce Rauner—angling to dethrone Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn—has recruited African-American allies to film video testimonials endorsing him.

The GOP hopeful has attracted an unexpected wave of support from several leaders within Chicago's large and electorally powerful African-American community on the South and West sides. Urban black voters are among Gov. Quinn's core base of supporters; without them, he's essentially toast. Following Rauner's recent endorsements from pastors Corey Brooks and James Meeks, and his controversial donation of $1 million to a South Side credit union owner, Quinn enlisted longtime congressman Bobby Rush to charge up the base with allegations that the wealthy Winnetka investor is trying to buy the election.

"I don't know him," Rush sniffed of Rauner earlier this month. "But he thinks that just because he is rich and got a lot of money that he can buy these people and people who look like these people. Well, he is mistaken. We're not for sale. We are for Pat Quinn."

Meanwhile, Team Rauner has accused Quinn of basically the same thing: Leveraging an anti-violence program, the now-defunct Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, as a "political slush fund" that funneled money into predominantly African-American wards in exchange for votes amid 2010's gubernatorial race.

In a televised debate this week at the DuSable Museum of African American History, the rivals squared off on the subject of who can best upgrade conditions for black Chicagoans. "Gov. Quinn in my opinion is taking the African American vote for granted," charged Rauner, drawing a group of anti-Quinn protesters who were reportedly paid to stand outside the debate. Quinn countered: "All my opponent does is grow his bank account and that hurts everyone."

Earlier Rauner's campaign released a series of ads featuring Brooks, Meeks and businessman Dr. Willie Wilson explaining why they're breaking rank to vote for a guy from the northern suburbs. All three make a strong case, with Brooks lamenting: "The economy is worse, more people are out of jobs, our educational system is definitely failing and there's a lack of hope in our community."

Taking a dig at Quinn, Meeks opines: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. ... Why would we do the same thing again?"


Here's Wilson, an entrepreneur-philanthropist: "I've been a Democrat all my life. It changed when I got kind of, like, wise enough to understand that we're being taken for granted."

All told, do the trio's pro-Rauner remarks hold much sway over a diehard Democratic voting bloc? Not really. Quinn's connections run deep—and so does party loyalty—but as we've seen from the racially charged backlash brewing against him, the governor is learning that some votes are not his for the taking.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn vs. Rauner: Candidates Rack Up $35 Million Campaign Tab]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:39:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Quinn-rauner-p1.jpg

Heading into the final stretch, Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican nemesis Bruce Rauner have each racked up hugely expensive campaign tabs ahead of Nov. 4's election.

In the period from July to September, the super-rich Rauner—who recently replenished his war chest with another $3 million from his own pocket—spent $20.4 million in his bid to dethrone Quinn, while the incumbent shelled out $15.2 million in part on increasingly negative media attacks against his formidable foe, according to the Illinois Board of Elections.

Rauner ended the third quarter with about $3.7 million in cash at hand; Quinn had $4.8 million. The former raised $20.5 million in donations over that three-month span; the latter collected $8.3 million.

"Our campaign is gaining supporters every day and we've picked up even more momentum since Pat Quinn admitted that he wants another massive tax hike in exactly three weeks," the Winnetka venture capitalist says in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Though Rauner touts thousands in small-time individual contributions, the multi-millionaire has raked in big money from deep-pocketed donors including hedge fund mogul Ken Griffin, who's given a collective (and record-breaking) $3.57 million.

Where does all the dough go? Here, here and here.

<![CDATA[Opinion: Kelly Campaign Stunt Matters Little in Mayor’s Race]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:48:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/billkelly.jpg

If you’re not paying extra close attention to the Chicago mayor’s race, you might not know the name William Kelly.
If you pay any attention at all to political gadflies who like to draw attention to themselves, however, then William Kelly is probably right up your alley.
A Republican, Kelly is one of a handful of little-known candidates for Chicago mayor in 2015. He recently made news by donating $100,000 of his own money to his campaign, effectively lifting the cap on the amount of donations any candidate in the race can receive at any one time.  
Kelly says he did it to “level the playing field” in the mayor’s race, meaning his move will somehow allow opponents of Rahm Emanuel a leg up on matching the mayor’s considerable fundraising prowess.
Don’t believe it. By any measure, Kelly’s move is unlikely to alter the race in any substantial way, regardless of how much any given candidate raises in campaign contributions.
That hasn't stopped him from earning a day’s attention in the Chicago media news cycle, however. In fact, Kelly has made something of a name for himself pulling media-oriented stunts designed to get his name in the spotlight.
His history of befriending noted conservative figures in Illinois and Chicago politics only to turn on them later is well-known.
He likes to accuse mainstream media outlets of conspiracies in supporting his political opponents, such as Rahm Emanuel.
A few years ago, he nearly got into a fistfight with political reporter Jay Levine as Kelly tried to sandbag then-candidate Emanuel during a street interview. That one earned him a day in court, where a judge found his claim Levine threatened him unfounded.
Kelly is touting his latest move something of a game-changer in the 2015 mayor’s race. Illinois election law says once a candidate self-funds to the tune of $100,000, other donation limits are no longer valid. Theoretically that means any campaign donor wanting to write some candidate a really, really big check is now free to do so.
Yet Kelly’s logic doesn’t make sense on its face. In an announcement accompanying his donation, he argued by lifting the cap, “any donor or corporation or PAC that wants to defeat Rahm Emanuel [now has] the opportunity to donate to my campaign without limitation.”
Besides the unlikely notion that any major funder was simply waiting in the wings to give Kelly a massive check but was held up by election law, implicit in his argument is the idea that any donor who wanted to offer funds beyond the previous caps couldn’t find some other way to do so.
If that was the case, how did Rahm Emanuel already raise more than $8 million from only a relative handful of wealthy friends?
Actually, donors looking to support any of Emanuel’s other opponents, such as Ald. Bob Fioretti, are already making decisions about how much they’re willing to offer in support. If the amount under consideration was more than previous cap allowed, big-ticket donors such as unions or wealthy individuals had other ways to support their candidate, such as bundling, building a super PAC and more.
As well, it simply doesn't take $8 million to defeat Rahm Emanuel. Candidates such as Fioretti didn't get into the race on the hope that it would only take a few donors writing $1 million checks to their campaign to win. Instead, for a more grassroots campaign such as Fioretti’s or Amara Enyia’s, reality dictated that a strategy would have to be developed relying on smaller, individual donations coupled with a more modest amount of institutional donors, such as unions.
Some progressives and political opponents of the mayor worry this means Emanuel can now really start to ramp up his fundraising, blowing his challengers even farther out of the water. The truth is, there’s only so many checks for $100,000 or more that get written in a mayoral campaign. And, chances are, Rahm Emanuel already had all of those locked up.
Besides, if Emanuel had felt at any time he was being hamstrung by election law, all he had to do was drop $100,000 of his considerable personal wealth into his war chest, and the issue would have already become moot.
So William Kelly can crow all he wants that he’s somehow a power player in the 2015 race. And if reporters want to cover his claims, all the more power to them.
Chances are, however, is that all William Kelly did was spend $100,000 of his own money to buy a day’s worth of the media spotlight.    

Photo Credit: williamjkelly.wordpress.com]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn-Rauner Showdown Drives Voter Registration in Chicago Area]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 09:47:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/I+Voted+Today+sticker.jpg

Forget what you've heard about rising voter apathy—wait, there's an election in November?—because, in the Chicago area at least, more residents are registering to have a say at the ballot box, a pattern that suggests a higher level of engagement perhaps sparked by Illinois' contentious governor race.

Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz reports a 1.9 percent uptick in Chicago voter registration from four years ago, when Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn battled Republican challenger Bill Brady for Springfield's highest office. The 2014 GOP nominee Bruce Rauner, endorsed by Crain's last week, is running a close campaign to unseat Quinn on a vow to reform state government and bust up the Democrats' dominance. Despite his efforts to undermine the incumbent's firm grip on Windy City proper, the largest voting bloc in Illinois and one that bleeds blue, Rauner stands no chance of stealing a winning chunk of urban votes away from Quinn.

According to Hinz, there's been a registration spike in six Latino-dominated city wards as well as in two wards whose constituents are primarily white. Not so much in the African-American wards whose support is crucial for Quinn. "One wild card," notes Hinz, "is same-day voter registration, which goes into effect for the first time in Illinois on Nov. 4."

State Republicans recoiled when Quinn approved the same-day law in July, slamming the move as a political tactic to entice Democratic voters to the polls.

But Rauner, the wealthy Winnetka investor-turned-rookie political candidate, resonates strongly within the Republican-leaning collar counties like DuPage, where registration is up 588,000 from 559,000 circa 2010. Lake County, another GOP-heavy bloc, has seen a minor boost while numbers for the Cook County 'burbs—which skew more Quinn than Rauner—are also on the rise.

Quinn and Rauner, meanwhile, are neck and neck in an increasingly competitive, expensive and outright nasty showdown that pits an unpopular governor against a shiny new upstart whose platform—"I'm a Reformer, And Most Importantly, I'm Not Pat Quinn"—is undermined by a series of PR gaffes including his confession that he once supported wiping out the minimum wage entirely. At the moment, Quinn leads Rauner by several percentage points in the polls, but as we've seen during this ever-evolving toss-up of a race, which previously favored Team Rauner before Team Quinn launched a full-scale media blitz last month, anything can happen in the span of a week or two, let alone a few days.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn's Mother Talks Governor's Race]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 20:28:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/eileen+quinn.jpg

Eileen Quinn isn’t about to gloss over how she feels about Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner.

“I don’t consider him very polished,” she said.

The mother of Gov. Pat Quinn says this year’s race has been a tough one to watch.

“I’ve never ever in all the years seen anything like Bruce Rauner,” she said.

Much like Eileen Quinn lobbies for her son, Diana Rauner, Bruce Rauner’s wife is pushing voters for her husband.

Diana Rauner has most recently appeared in a new, more positive campaign ad in the closing weeks of the race.

But with just three weeks to election day, Eileen Quinn, who’s almost 97, says she’s ready.

“You never know about elections, but I feel positive,” she said.