05/18/2017 07:31 AM EDT
By Natasha Korecki (firstname.lastname@example.org; @natashakorecki) with Kristen East (email@example.com; @kristenicoleast)
Good Thursday morning, Illinois.
THE BUZZ - On the same day that Senate Democrats called the Grand Bargain for a vote, saying they were frustrated by a lack of progress with just two weeks left in session, news emerged that the governor's billionaire ally, Ken Griffin, pumped $20 million into Bruce Rauner's campaign account.
If Republicans weren't already clear on the message to stay in line during those votes, that probably did it.
It's easy to grow numb over the tens of millions of dollars going into state campaign funds. But consider this from Tribune's Rick Pearson: "The contribution by Illinois' wealthiest individual is believed to be the largest contribution ever given to a campaign by a noncandidate in the state." The story notes that Rauner himself has donated $95 million in total to his own campaign cause. From a Griffin statement, in the Tribune: 'Gov. Rauner cares deeply about the future of our state and making it a better place to live and work. He has the winning plan to create jobs, improve our schools and put Illinois on the right path forward.' Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, has been Rauner's largest donor outside of the governor himself. The latest contribution brings to nearly $33.6 million the amount of money and services Griffin has contributed to the governor's political fund since Rauner began running for office in 2013."
Of course this is also a signal to Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire himself who has vowed to fund his own campaign. Reports have pinned Pritzker's anticipated primary spending at $70 million.
"Bruce Rauner is a failed governor who has put politics over governing and passing a budget for our state," said Pritzker spokeswoman Galia Slayen. "Before once again dumping money into Rauner's campaign, Ken Griffin donated $100,000 to Donald Trump's inaugural. It's clear that Ken Griffin and Rauner's special interest allies want to force the Rauner-Trump agenda on our state, which attacks our working families and is decimating our economy."
Chris Kennedy's campaign called it a battle of the billionaires: "Democrats should not fall into the trap of replacing one billionaire for another. Party insiders might think that is the best way to beat Bruce Rauner, but voters know we can't afford more of the status quo."
Meantime, our unpaid bills jumped by $1 billion overnight - "Illinois' pile of unpaid bills reaches record $14.3 bln," by Reuters' Karen Pierog: "May 17 Illinois' unpaid bill backlog, a barometer of the state's deep financial woes, hit a new record high of $14.3 billion, as the legislature nears the May 31 end of its session without a budget deal, the state comptroller's office said on Wednesday. The bill pile jumped from $13.3 billion after the governor's budget office this week reported more than $1 billion in liabilities held at state agencies, the comptroller said." Story here
DEMS FOR IMPEACHING TRUMP - J.B. Pritzker early Wednesday called for the "impeachment process" to begin against Trump. "I understand that calling for impeachment is not something done lightly, but it is an action that I believe is necessary to protect our country's national security and preserve our democracy," the statement read. "With the revelation, backed up by his own Tweets, that President Donald Trump may have disclosed highly classified intelligence to our Russian adversaries and compromised our allies' ability and desire to share the most sensitive intelligence on ISIS, I feel a grave sense of urgency to get to the bottom of this threat to our democratic process and national security."
State Sen. Daniel Biss is already putting money behind digital ads calling for Trump's impeachment: "Trump's shameless abuse of power puts the safety and security of all Illinoisans in jeopardy. It's time for Congress to hold him accountable and begin drafting articles of impeachment."
Where another Rauner donor stands - "Billionaire Zell Says Trump 'Cacophony' Doesn't Make Him Unfit," by Bloomberg's Oshrat Carmiel: "Billionaire investor Sam Zell said he's concerned about the 'cacophony' surrounding President Donald Trump, but that none of the revelations this week suggest that Trump is unfit to hold office. 'I'm a citizen of the United States and I'm counting on the president to be a leader,' Zell said in an interview on Bloomberg Television from the SkyBridge Alternatives conference in Las Vegas. 'I think the president has the competence, and all this unfit-for-office stuff is a bunch of stuff.'" Story here
ILLINOIS GOP - The appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special prosecutor had some gun-shy Illinois Republicans stepping forward in support. U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren : "The appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel on Russia's involvement in the 2016 election is a welcome addition to the ongoing effort to establish the facts. Mueller proved himself as a well-respected and professional law enforcement official during his 12 years at the helm of the FBI. We all just want the facts to come out. Mueller's fair and even-handed approach will ensure he follows the evidence, brings forth the facts and illuminates the truth."
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus was more cautious in his statement (though it preceded news of Mueller's appointment): "There is a well-established and time tested process for situations in which a president is accused of wrongdoing. The Constitution empowers Congress to investigate, and multiple House and Senate committees have already started, and will continue, to fulfill their oversight responsibilities. A rush to judgement may score political points or sell newspapers, but gathering all the facts, and taking the time to see where they lead, is the only way to learn the truth."
BACK TO THE SENATE
We've gone back and forth on the collapse of a Grand Bargain compromise in the Senate. Rauner's administration has twice pulled Republican votes off the deal, saying reforms didn't go far enough. Senate President John Cullerton has said he's worked on this since last year; it's time to take a vote.
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats passed: a school funding overhaul, public pension reform, local government consolidation, government purchasing and contracting reforms and gaming expansion.
From Cullerton's spokesman: "We passed a Republican inspired spending plan today on Democratic votes alone. That was SB 6. The budget authorization act, SB 42, failed. That legislation contained many of the budget cuts that Republicans brought to the table. It failed to pass the Senate when no Republicans voted for it. Or, Democrats were unable to pass the Republican cuts without Republican support."
On School funding - The Governor's office was clearly not happy with SB1, the school funding overhaul. The statement from Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis: "This bill is not consistent with the framework of the bipartisan, bicameral School Funding Commission. Senator Manar abandoned our bipartisan process, departing from agreements already finalized in the commission and forcing a Chicago bailout at the expense of every other school district in the state, some of which are in worse financial straits than CPS."
Democratic State Sen. Andy Manar responds: "Here's the bottom line: The only opposition that exists to Senate Bill 1 is from Bruce Rauner and his enablers, who for some reason refuse to show independence from the governor when it comes time to do the right thing," Manar said in a statement. "Gov. Rauner and his team can put out all the statements they want claiming I abandoned the bipartisan process. I can sleep at night knowing I've never abandoned Illinois students or leveraged the state's future for a political agenda."
TODAY - The Senate is trying for a vote on "agreed workers compensation reform."
WHERE TO CUT? - At a time that state lawmakers are battling over how much fat to cut from Illinois spending, the BGA is out with a report saying that the Land of Lincoln is surprisingly lean when compared to other states. Take a look:
- "Everyone thinks they have an answer to solve Illinois' budget mess - and they are all wrong," by Tim Jones: "Perhaps the biggest impediment to an agreement is that the conventional stereotype of Illinois government as marbled with big ticket, easily cuttable fat defies reality. On a per capita basis, no state government employs fewer people than Illinois. No state picks up a smaller percentage of local education bills. Per patient Medicaid spending is well below national norms. And the pile of debt now owed to state administered public pension systems is staggering.'There's not a lot of room to easily maneuver' said James Nowlan, a former Republican state legislator and co-author of 'Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State. 'You can't do as much as you think you can.' Illinois is far from the only state staring at blood-red balance sheets. The Kansas legislature, for example, is caught between a horrible balance sheet and a defiantly supply-side Republican governor as it struggles to crawl out of a self-dug deficit crater from huge tax cuts gone bad." Story here
- "Immigrants in detention centers are often hundreds of miles from legal help," by ProPublica's Patrick G. Lee: "One morning in February, lawyer Marty Rosenbluth set off from his Hillsborough, North Carolina, home to represent two anxious clients in court. He drove about eight hours southwest, spent the night in a hotel and then got up around 6 a.m. to make the final 40-minute push to his destination: a federal immigration court and detention center in the tiny rural Georgia town of Lumpkin. During two brief hearings over two days, Rosenbluth said, he convinced an immigration judge to grant both of his new clients more time to assess their legal options to stay in the United States. Then he got in his car and drove the 513 miles back home. ... His clients that day were lucky. Only 6 percent of the men held at the Lumpkin complex - a 2,001-bed detention center and immigration court - have legal representation, according to a 2015 study in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review." Story here
- "Chicago Sun-Times editor: A deal with Tronc 'made the most sense,'" by WTTW's Paul Caine: "... In a letter to readers published online Monday evening, Sun-Times Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk wrote: "Wrapports agreed to enter into discussions with Tronc after seeking alternative arrangements with other media companies both locally and outside of Chicago. After those efforts were exhausted, it became clear that a business combination with Tronc made the most sense, especially since Tronc and Wrapports already have some business ties. For example, the Chicago Tribune has handled all of the Sun-Times' printing and distribution for the past several years."" Story here
- "Progressives pressure Rauner to force Trump to release his taxes," by Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky: "As progressives in Illinois wage what amounts to a two-front war against President Trump and Governor Rauner, they're always on the watch for a two-birds-with-one-stone kind of weapon. That is, one issue with which they can stymie Trump's assault on, well, everything, while damaging Rauner's chances of winning reelection in the 2018 campaign. They have a potentially versatile weapon in Senate Bill 982. Having passed the Illinois senate last month, it now heads for the house. And if it passes there, its ultimate destination will be Rauner's desk, where it would at least make him squirm." Story here
- "Editorial: A wrist slap for a clouted auditor: Call the bill, Mr. Speaker, to oust Frank Mautino," by Chicago Tribune: "Add another fiasco to the "Only in Illinois" file: For failing to comply with state laws that govern campaign fundraising, the state's top auditor will pay a meager $5,000 fine. Actually, he probably won't. The campaign committee that would pay the fine dissolved in 2015 when Auditor General Frank Mautino left his job as a state lawmaker to become the state's top auditor. At the time, lawmakers who overwhelmingly voted to promote him probably didn't know that questionable expenditures in his lawmaker campaign account would provoke a federal investigation. That probe is ongoing." Story here
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- "Small and mid-size public universities feeling brunt of budget stalemate," by NPR Illinois' Sean Crawford: "Higher education has been among the areas feeling the state budget impasse as funding has been cut. It has forced some schools to reduce classes, lay off employees and, in some cases, close for several days. But a review of enrollment indicates small and mid-sized public universities are taking a double hit. ... The small and mid-sized schools are seeing declines, meaning not only less state funds, but also fewer tuition dollars. Over both 2 year and 5 year time frames, some schools have seen big drops in the number of students who attend." Story here
- "Sounding the alarm," by Gatehouse Projects: "Illinois is the only state in America without a budget, a failure that digs it deeper into debt each day. But the lack of a budget is not the only serious problem that the state's leaders must take action on. Here's a look at some key numbers to compare." Story here
- "Pass a state budget for the sake of kids and public safety," by Tom Dart, sheriff of Cook County, in a letter to the editor in the Chicago Sun-Times: "The truths in your recent editorial in which you demand a budget for Illinois are undeniable. It's clear, any political points being scored pale in importance to the palpable damage being done to our state due to the lack of a budget. The effects are being keenly felt by families and service providers in Cook County and beyond. I know first-hand that law enforcement agencies throughout the state have been negatively affected. With funding for research-based crime-prevention programs currently being left to wither on the vine, the blow to public safety will be felt for years to come." Story here
- "Susan Mendoza: Accountability, transparency needed if state changes health care landscape," by Susan Mendoza for the State Journal-Register: "Our national health care system is undergoing a seismic shift as politicians in Washington, D.C., weigh a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. That debate has received a lot of attention, but here in Illinois plans are also underway to alter the health care landscape. Earlier this year, by executive order, Gov. Bruce Rauner started a process to restructure our state's health care delivery network and shift nearly half a million Medicaid recipients into the crowded managed care organization (MCO) system. The Rauner plan will affect 3 million Medicaid recipients as well as every doctor and health care provider in Illinois." Story here
- "GOP senators: 'Grand bargain' vote today could derail negotiations," by the State Journal-Register's Doug Finke: "Several Republican senators said Wednesday another planned vote on "grand bargain" bills this afternoon could derail progress that's been on reaching a compromise. "We believe we've made great progress," said Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington. "We're concerned about whether or not (another vote) would derail progress we've made." Senate President John Cullerton has indicated the Senate will vote again on the components of the grand bargain this afternoon. He's said time is running out for something to happen to resolve the two-year old budget stalemate. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn the spring session on May 31." Story here
- "Ari Emanuel contributes to NYC mayor, but not to his own brother," by Chicago Tribune's Bill Ruthhart: "Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel is a reliable Democratic campaign donor, including with a recent maximum contribution to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. But there's one Democratic politician he's yet to give money - his own brother, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Ari Emanuel's $4,950 check to de Blasio, who is up for re-election in November, surfaced in a campaign finance report released this week. And a review of federal campaign records shows Ari Emanuel has contributed more than $300,000 to various Democratic candidates and committees at the national level. But in Chicago, none of the $42.6 million Rahm Emanuel has raised since he first ran for mayor has come directly from his brother's wallet." Story here
- "New study: Chicago City Council is growing a spine - ever so slowly," by Chicago Sun-Times' Fran Spielman: "The City Council is making "glacial progress" toward shedding its reputation as a rubber stamp because Mayor Rahm Emanuel is "undeniably weaker" and the city's recalcitrant problems are requiring more painful solutions, a new study shows. There's almost nothing that angers Emanuel more than being reminded that he's been "weakened politically" by being forced into Chicago's first-ever mayoral runoff and by his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video shortly after being re-elected. But that's the unmistakable conclusion of the new study released Wednesday by the political science department of the University of Illinois at Chicago." Story here
- "Chicago police finalize tighter rules on when to shoot, other uses of force," by Chicago Tribune's Dan Hinkel: "Chicago police officials on Wednesday announced policy changes intended to cut back on the kinds of questionable shootings and other uses of force that have haunted the department for years. The changes, made after months of debate and back-and-forth revisions, will tighten many of the department rules that experts and advocates have criticized as too permissive of unnecessary uses of force. The policy changes represent a milestone for a department upended nearly 18 months ago by the release of video of a white officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times." Story here
- "The growing threat to municipal bonds," by Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) for Governing: "Buildings, roads and bridges: These are the Legos that, when snapped together, create the communities we all call home. President Donald Trump has promised to make improving our infrastructure a centerpiece of his administration, and we are eager to work with him to promote infrastructure investment, job growth and community prosperity. This includes defending a key financing tool that for the past several years has faced growing uncertainty. For more than a century, tax-exempt municipal bonds have been the single most important means for financing new roads, bridges, schools and hospitals. These are a lifeline without which state and local municipalities would find it far more expensive to finance capital improvements and other infrastructure that benefit everyone." Story here
- "Conservative Indiana town rallies around immigrant facing deportation," by Chicago Tribune's Marwa Eltagouri: "Election results alone might paint this small town as no more than another conservative bastion that helped elevate Donald Trump to the presidency. Its residents say they value Trump's businessman approach to politics, especially those who struggled during the recession, when Elkhart County had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. It would seem an unlikely place for a groundswell of support to rise up for an immigrant who is in the country illegally and scheduled for deportation Wednesday. But politics here aren't black and white." Story here
- "Pritzker, Pawar impress local Dems at library forum," by OakPark.com's Bob Skolnik: "Our billionaire is better than your billionaire. That may become the unofficial slogan of Illinois Democrats in the 2018 race for governor. J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune and venture capitalist, made a favorable impression in his first appearance before Oak Park Democrats on May 13 and seems to be emerging as the early front runner in the Democratic primary race for governor. State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the chairman of the Democratic Party of Oak Park (DPOP), referred to Pritzker's wealth when introducing him to an overflow crowd of about 150 Democrats meeting in the Veterans Room of the Oak Park Public Library Saturday morning." Story here
- "Pritzker defends property tax reduction application," by NBC 5 Chicago's Mary Ann Ahern: "Democratic candidate for Governor JB Pritzker defended Tuesday his decision to ask for a property tax reduction on the Gold Coast home that he purchased next to his mansion. Pritzker tells NBC 5 by phone "everyone that appeals is attempting to get an accurate assessment on their property." He says "we had plans to renovate the house" but then "it came to a standstill." Pritzker argues the home next door to his is uninhabitable. Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios approved reducing Pritzker's property taxes by 83 percent. He received three refunds checks worth more than $123,000." Story here
- "Jimmy Fallon was on top of the world. Then came Trump," by The New York Times' Dave Itzkoff: "... He is weathering the most tumultuous period in his tenure there - a predicament for which he has himself to thank, and one that raises the question of whether the multitalented but apolitical Mr. Fallon can ride out the current era of politicized, choose-your-side entertainment, when he just wants to have a good time. Once the undisputed juggernaut of the late-night category, Mr. Fallon's "Tonight Show," a celebrity-friendly cavalcade of games and gags, has seen its ratings decline in recent months. Meanwhile, his politically pointed competitor Stephen Colbert, who hosts CBS's "The Late Show," has closed what was once a formidable gap of nearly one million viewers." Story here
- "The James Comey Show," by WSJ's Daniel Henninger: Story here
- "Washington tumult jolts stocks, sends dollar lower," by Wall Street Journal's Riva Gold: Story here
- "Chelsea Manning is a free woman: Her heroism has expanded beyond her initial whistleblowing," by the Intercept's Glenn Greenwald: Story here
- "Alarm spreads among Hill Republicans over Comey scandal," by POLITICO's Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade and Kyle Cheney: Story here
- "Trump: No politician 'has been treated worse or more unfairly,'" by POLITICO's Nolan D. McCaskill: Story here
- "Poll: Trump approval rating hits new low," by POLITICO's Steven Shepard: Story here
- "State Department condemns violence by Erdogan security guards at D.C. protest," by POLITICO's Louis Nelson: Story here
Tuesday, May 23 - Illinois Campaign for Political Reform hosts: Cyber Security: Its Impact on Our Daily Lives: Sign up
WHERE'S RAHM? No public schedule.
WHERE'S RAUNER? In Chicago, announces new CEO of Intersect Illinois and New Business Recruitment efforts in Illinois.
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