Thursday, December 28, 2006

Now Hiring

I got an e-mail pointing me to a TPMCafe sub-site appropriately named Your Massive Election Central Guide to Prez Campaign Staffs (re-affirming that there is now indeed a website dedicated to everything imaginable), which lists the personnel hired to date by the various campaigns (and potential campaigns) for President.

So with no particular point in mind, other than to pass on somewhat interesting information, here is the information from the site as it pertains to our native son. It is safe to say that this list will be growing quickly in the near future.

Barack Obama:

* Steve Hildebrand: accompanied Obama to Iowa and has been reaching out to potential staff behind the scenes, Daschle's campaign manager in '04 and Tim Johnson's in '02. Ran the Iowa caucuses for Gore in '00.

* Lou Susman: will fundraise for Obama if he runs, Kerry's national finance chair in '04, formerly worked for Vilsack.

* David Axelrod: media consultant, formerly worked for Vilsack and Edwards.

* Paul Harstad: pollster, formerly worked for Vilsack.

* Matt Rodriguez: "friend" of the campaign who helped staff Obama in NH, political director of Gephardt's '04 pres campaign.

* Jim Demers: "friend" of the campaign, NH lawyer and strategist.

* David Plouffe: consultant, senior strategist for Gephardt in '04.

* Julianna Smoot: Obama's senior advisers have reached out to her about fundraising, current DSCC finance director.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reducing Crime

While it may not be an issue that grabs the attention of the public, it should be.
After nearly two years of closed-door study, a privately funded task force is sending a proposed rewrite of the state's criminal laws to Illinois legislators that would prune the massive code by about one-third.

A 1,100-page bill emanating from the Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform Commission would simplify the statutes, cut many archaic references and make other corrections, panel members said. The criminal code was last overhauled in 1961, and lawmakers and governors have been tacking on amendments ever since.
There is one provision of the commission's findings that needs some serious scrutiny however, and that is this:
To curb future add-ons, the commission is expected to recommend the creation of an independent, advisory body that would evaluate criminal legislation for the General Assembly.
While this is a well-intentioned provision that is aimed at applying a throttle to the annual and ubiquitous flurry of 'get tough on crime' bills, I am not sure that having an external panel injected into the legislative process is a necessary or worthwhile precedent. Between legislators, staff, bar associations, interest groups, and the like, there should exist sufficient checkpoints to corral imprudent legislation.

But as my friend and colleague Rep. Bob Molaro points out, there is often a strong driving factor on the other side of legislative rationality.

Molaro, who chairs the House Judiciary II Committee, conceded that lawmakers tend to be prolific sponsors of crime bills. But he said they often pursue such measures with good intentions, on behalf of a constituent who has been victimized.

"Their heart's in the right place," the Chicago Democrat said. He added: "What am I going to say, it makes for a bad press release? It makes for a good press release."

The CLEAR Commission is comprised of some excellent members who have put in countless hours in order to restore some cohesiveness and consistency to our behemoth of a criminal code. I look forward to reviewing, and hopefully implementing, their final bill.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

From Me to You

It's this time of year that hopefully lets us step back and remember those things that are truly important and for which we should really be thankful.

So putting aside politics and any other differences that any of us may have, let me extend my best wishes to friends, acquaintances and strangers alike for a happy and healthy holiday season and for good things in the upcoming new year.

May God bless you and your families.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Second in Command

Last week, had an article on the role of Lieutenant Governors across the country, and their varying roles in different states. In part, the article states that:
Lieutenant governors were more likely than any other officeholders to ascend to a governorship from 1980 to 2006, according to a study released Dec. 5 by the Florence, Ky.-based National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA). During that time period, about 25 percent of lieutenant governors became governor, whereas about 1 percent of state lawmakers became governor, the report said...

“In the last four to five years, I think you’ve seen a distinct trend in lieutenant governors becoming very visible and incredibly active in the day-to-day governance of their states,” she said.

Many governors relied heavily on their lieutenants after the states faced budget crunches earlier in the decade, Hurst said, and also when they first had to confront homeland security issues after the 2001 terrorist attack. Using lieutenant governors to tackle those comparatively new problems was a “natural next step,” she explained.

Chi agreed that more lieutenant governors have been playing more visible roles in recent years, but said he thought the degree of their prominence varies widely among the states. In states such as Indiana and Minnesota, the lieutenant governors play a “dual role” as both the governor’s next-in-line and the head of big cabinet departments, he said. In others, they serve in a ceremonial capacity and are often simply waiting for the opportunity to serve as governor, he said.

Forty-two states now have a lieutenant governor; New Jersey will elect its first in 2009.

In 24 states lieutenant governors run on the same ticket as governors, but in 18 states they run independently. Of the eight states with no lieutenant governor, Maine, New Hampshire, Tennessee and West Virginia put the presidents of their state senates first in line to succeed the governor. In Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming, the secretary of state is responsible for taking over.

Now I happen to think a lot of Pat Quinn, our LG, and think that he has been a sincere and passionate advocate for countless causes. But at the same time, without naming names, we have also had our share of lackluster LGs.

While I could argue both sides of this issue, I think that there is a legitimate debate as to whether it makes sense to have a Lieutenant Governor in Illinois, and if so, what the role of the office should be.

While we're kind of on the subject, I think an equal debate could be had as to whether we should have a separate Treasurer's office and Comptroller's office. Bills have previously been filed on the issue, but the discussion has never gotten any real traction.

Just some thoughts.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Help Wanted

Five years ago, I started the Helping Hands Campaign drive in order to assist some of those who are less fortunate in my district. From now through the New Year, we’ll be collecting new hats, scarves, gloves, and other clothing, as well as toiletries and household items. Everything we collect will be given to local service agencies who will distribute the items to those who need it most.

With so many community organizations participating, I am confident that we'll be able to help a lot of families this year. I want to thank the following groups for helping to make this program a success.

Bucktown Community Organization

Greater Rockwell Organization

Lincoln/Belmont Branch Library

Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce

Roscoe Village Neighbors

Scents and Sensibility

South Lakeview Neighbors

Sulzer Regional Library

West Lakeview Neighbors

Wicker Park and Bucktown Chamber of Commerce

Wrightwood Neighbors Association

Young Chicago Lakefront

If you would like to donate items, drop boxes will be available at my district office, 2539 North Southport; Scents and Sensibility, 4654 North Rockwell, Lincoln/Belmont Branch Library, 1659 West Melrose; Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 North Lincoln Avenue; and the Wicker Park/Bucktownn Chamber of Commerce, 1601 North Milwaukee Avenue, 2nd floor.

Now You See It...

From tragedy springs renewed controversy. In the aftermath of Friday's law firm shooting, the Illinois State Rifle Association has announced that it is renewing efforts to legalize concealed carry in our state.

Executive Director Richard Pearson (who is actually a very nice guy) issued a statement which said in part:
One has to wonder how the outcome may have differed had any of the law office staff been trained and licensed to carry a defensive firearm. Unfortunately, the answer to that question will remain unknown as Illinois is one of only 2 states in the nation that prohibit law abiding citizens from carrying firearms as a means of self defense. Indeed, the outcome would be hard to predict, but at least the people in that office would have been given a fighting chance to survive.

In response to Friday's tragedy, the Illinois State Rifle Association will be drafting legislation that will provide well trained, law-abiding citizens the opportunity to carry defensive firearms. That legislation will be introduced into both chambers of the General Assembly early next year.

Whereas those lobbying against concealed carry laws can muster only invective and hyperbole to support their opposition, the facts undeniably demonstrate that reduction in violent crime accompanies the implementation of laws allowing citizens to carry defensive firearms. It is time for the Illinois General Assembly to recognize that citizens can be trusted with the awesome responsibility of defending themselves, their homes, and their families.

I understand the arguments, I have read John Lott's work, yet I remain unpersuaded. While I acknoweldge that the gun control pendulum may have overswung in certain instances, I simply cannot fathom a net societal gain stemming from the allowance of concealed carry, especially in urban areas such as the one I represent.

I will try to monitor this post, but I have a hectic couple of days ahead, so feel free to debate this amongst yourselves if you're so inclined.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Better Late Than Never

I've gotten several requests to post last week's press release about closing the Cook County pension loophole, so here you go:

Fritchey, Claypool Seek to End Pension Boondoggles

Measure Would Close Existing Loophole

State Representative John Fritchey (D-Chicago) and Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago) announced plans today to introduce legislation in the Illinois General Assembly closing the pension loophole used by retiring Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele to double her annual pension.

Steele resigned the county commissioner seat to which she won re-election on November 7, so that she can collect a retirement benefit based on her four month salary as President ($170,000) instead of her salary as county commissioner ($85,000). The move will boost her annual pension to $136,000 a year, with annual cost of living increases as well. Steele’s exercise of the pension law loophole will likely cost taxpayers in excess of $1 million in additional pension payments.

Six years ago, the General Assembly amended a nearly identical passage in the state pension law that applies to elected officials in every county in Illinois except Cook County. The amendment based pension payout on the average highest salary over a four-year period and not the final salary at the date of employment termination. Fritchey’s amendment would require Cook County to follow the same rules as the rest of the state.

“When you have a system that is ripe for abuse, it should come as no surprise when it gets abused,” said Rep. Fritchey. “Taxpayers in Cook County deserve the same accountability from their elected officials as do the taxpayers in every other county in Illinois. Closing this loophole is one step in that direction.”

Claypool noted that pensions for elected officials are by far the most generous—and that the addition of “sweeteners” or loopholes in the laws has often added even more generous returns to enterprising politicians.

“Politicians have consistently rigged the pension laws for their benefit, leaving taxpayers holding the bag,” said Claypool.

Both the Sun-Times and Tribune have revealed similar pension abuses. Former state Senator and County Commissioner Ted Lechowicz, for example, retired with a $130,000 pension despite never making more than $61,000 as an elected official. Similarly, former Sen. Art Berman’s yearly pension is $164, 612, almost three times higher than his salary with the state. Berman paid $109,292 into the state pension plan in his 31 years in the Senate.

After public disclosures of such pension manipulations, the General Assembly amended pension laws to prohibit similar abuses for officials elected after the date of the law. The Illinois Constitution prohibits pension rights from being modified retroactively.

In 2005, Cook County had $2.2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, up from $85 million in 1996. The state is no better off. Years of scrimping on contributions, coupled with benefit increases, has left Illinois with an estimated $45.8 billion pension shortfall, which is among the worst funding records in the county according to the Chicago Tribune.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Running Man

I am passing along the following at the request of good friend and State Comptroller Dan Hynes. (I will briefly add that among the many qualities that I admire about Sen. Obama is that, despite the unimaginable amount of attention and adulation that has been lavished upon him, he is as solid and genuine now as he was when we served together in the General Assembly. No small feat. He is indeed a unique man in unique times that demand a unique man.)

Dear Friends,

I would like to first thank you again for your support in securing my re-election as Illinois State Comptroller. Because of your help, I will continue fighting for working families, life saving medical research and real ethics reforms in Illinois. I am excited and invigorated for another term as your State Comptroller. However, the reason for my letter today is to ask for your help in what seemed like a very unlikely scenario 2 ½ years ago.

Many of you probably remember that I ran for the U.S. Senate against Barack Obama in the 2004 Democratic Primary, along with several other candidates. While we both ran spirited campaigns, Barack's message of hope and change in Washington captivated voters across Illinois. While I was disappointed in our second-place finish, I quickly realized that Barack had the capability of offering our country something more.

As Barack's opponent in 2004, I had a unique perspective to observe Barack emerge from a State Senator from Chicago into what can best be described as a national phenomenon. Throughout our 2004 campaign, I was able to witness firsthand how people from all walks of life were drawn to Barack and his message. Like many other Americans, I witnessed the culmination of Barack's emergence at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when his keynote address captured the sense of hope and optimism that people across the country have long been yearning for.

Since he was elected to the Senate, Barack has proven himself as someone who tackles difficult issues, successfully works in a bipartisan fashion, and isn't afraid to articulate his true convictions. The real belief that Barack could serve our country well as President was never more evident than during his trip to Africa this past summer. The images of thousands of people flooding the streets in adoration of the Illinois Senator made me realize that not only can we count on Barack on the domestic front, but he can restore the United States' image around the globe.

It was for these and other reasons why I decided to write Senator Obama in September and urge him to run for the President of the United States.

On the eve of his first trip to the state of New Hampshire, I encourage you to join me and other Americans in demonstrating to Senator Obama how much support he enjoys in Illinois. Please go to and sign the petition urging Senator Obama to run for President of the United States. You can help the folks at achieve their goal of 10,000 signatures to present to Senator Obama this Sunday when he arrives in New Hampshire. Together, we can ensure that we have the best candidate in 2008 who will be able to bring positive change for all Americans.

Thank you and God bless you and your family during this holiday season.


Daniel W. Hynes
Illinois State Comptroller