‘Dishonest and shameful’ ad roils Illinois governor’s race

CHICAGO — A company that provides health services to immigrant detention centers is rebutting a claim in an incendiary new ad that accuses it and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner of profiting off family separations.

The ad, which Rauner has called “dishonest and shameful,” contends that the company, Correct Care Solutions, has been “paid millions to help keep children separated from their parents” at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers.

Rauner’s November opponent, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, began airing the spot this week. It follows a POLITICO report detailing Rauner’s financial ties to Correct Care Solutions, which provides health care services inside of correctional facilities, including family detention centers.

“We’re not a corrections company. We’re not separating anybody,” Correct Care Solutions spokeswoman Judy Lilley said Friday. “Until you are inside one of these — it’s truly like an urgent care center. We take care of patients. That’s Continue reading “‘Dishonest and shameful’ ad roils Illinois governor’s race”

Organized labor readies scorched earth assault on Rauner

CHICAGO — The blockbuster Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision handed down Wednesday is already shaping Bruce Rauner’s legacy as Illinois governor. But it also threatens to end his political career.

From the time Rauner first announced he would pursue the 2015 case that could financially cripple public sector unions — he was ultimately removed as a plaintiff by a judge for lacking standing — organized labor here has been on high alert.

Now, in the wake of the high court ruling stemming from that policy, Illinois unions — public and private — are committed to doing whatever it takes to send Rauner packing in November. And they say they’re more unified and strategically coordinated than ever.

Unions already stepped up political fundraising efforts and in anticipation of an unfavorable ruling, worked to increase recruitment and lock down membership, which stands at more than 628,000 in the Illinois public sector Continue reading “Organized labor readies scorched earth assault on Rauner”

‘We’re riding a tiger’: The Iowa GOP bets it all on Trump

DES MOINES — Donald Trump’s trade war with China could cost Iowa farmers hundreds of millions of dollars and do untold damage to the state economy.

But you’d never know it from talking to Republicans at the recent state GOP convention here. When Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann asked more than 1,100 delegates a defining question — who was still behind President Donald Trump? — there was no hesitation. In an exuberant display of unity, more than 1,100 delegates sprang to their feet, whistling, cheering and offering prolonged applause.

Far from being panic-stricken, Iowa Republicans remain committed to the president as negotiator-in-chief. They’re convinced they have a direct line to the administration, the result of 18 months of careful White House cultivation in this early presidential state.

“There’s got to be a little apprehension about trade, and I would paint it this way: I’ve been asking for years for Continue reading “‘We’re riding a tiger’: The Iowa GOP bets it all on Trump”

Illinois Republicans buck Trump over Blagojevich

The Illinois Republican congressional delegation is asking President Trump to call off any plans to commute ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence, saying it would "set a detrimental precedent and send a damaging message."

A copy of the letter obtained by POLITICO shows the state’s seven GOP House members in unified opposition to freeing the former Democratic governor.

“[W]e ask that you consider very carefully the precedent this may set and the impact it will have on acts of public corruption in the future. As you well know, the integrity of our democracy and the core of American values depend on our elected officials being honest in upholding the trust given to them by the American people. Granting clemency to Rod Blagojevich would go against this trust,” the letter concludes.

The letter was signed by Reps. Peter Roskam, Darin LaHood, John Shimkus, Mike Bost, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger and Rodney Continue reading “Illinois Republicans buck Trump over Blagojevich”

GOP megadonor: ‘I’m not writing one penny to any of them” until DACA is resolved

A billionaire Florida healthcare mogul and Republican megadonor says he will cut off contributions to elected officials and candidates who refuse to fix immigration laws.

Mike Fernandez, long at odds with President Donald Trump over deportations, told POLITICO in a phone interview he’s behind a broadening strategy among donors to punish politicians who will not sign a discharge petition in the House that would trigger a congressional showdown over the fate of hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers.

“Over the last 10 years, the Republican Party has received $47 million from me, in state, gubernatorial and party contributions,” Fernandez said. “I’m not writing one penny to any of them anymore.”

The Cuban-born Fernandez is one of a growing number of GOP donors who are demanding Congress take action on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump canceled last year. Last week, former Exelon chairman John Rowe Continue reading “GOP megadonor: ‘I’m not writing one penny to any of them” until DACA is resolved”

Trump unleashes Blagojevich on Illinois governor’s race

CHICAGO — Rod Blagojevich is cast as a crook in a new television ad in the Illinois governor’s race, the latest political repercussion of President Donald Trump’s suggestion that he might commute the ex-governor’s 14-year prison sentence.

Blagojevich, whom Trump thrust back into the spotlight last week, plays a starring role in the debut general election TV spot from incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, which features a secretly recorded call between the incarcerated governor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee J.B. Pritzker.

Rauner is spending at least $1 million over the next two weeks on the ad, which begins airing across Illinois today.

Rauner had already sunk millions of dollars on TV and digital spots earlier this year highlighting FBI wiretaps of 2008 conversations between Pritzker and Blagojevich. But the effort had little effect on the billionaire Democratic challenger, who won his March primary by close to 20 percentage points.

The Continue reading “Trump unleashes Blagojevich on Illinois governor’s race”

Illinois governor’s race spending surges past $200 million

CHICAGO — Billionaire J.B. Pritzker dropped $25 million into his campaign this week and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign is preparing to air at least $1 million in attack ads beginning Tuesday, keeping the Illinois governor’s election on track to be one of the most expensive in U.S. history.

After a brief ceasefire, the two wealthy businessmen restarted their frenzied pace of spending this week for an election that’s still five months away.

Pritzker, who has already pumped $100 million of his own personal wealth into the contest, has not set a limit on what he’s willing to spend.

In fact, a source close to the Pritzker campaign said, the Democratic businessman is vowing to spend double whatever multimillionaire Rauner puts into the contest.

“For every dollar he spends, we’re ready to spend two,” the source told POLITICO on Monday.

In response, Rauner spokesman Will Allison alluded to recorded Continue reading “Illinois governor’s race spending surges past $200 million”

Ex-FBI honcho blasts Trump over Blagojevich

CHICAGO — A top former FBI official accused President Donald Trump of acting out of spite against federal law enforcement after the president suggested Thursday he might commute former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year prison term.

Robert Grant, a longtime colleague and friend of special counsel Robert Mueller who headed the FBI’s Chicago office at the time of the Blagojevich investigation, told POLITICO in an interview that Trump is working to upend the FBI’s work as personal revenge for the special counsel probe he’s facing.

“It’s so disheartening to think that the president of the United States would overturn the evidence heard by a judge and jury, all out of an animus toward Bob Mueller, James Comey and [former U.S. Attorney] Pat Fitzgerald,” said Grant, who is now retired from the FBI. “Blagojevich got caught by wiretaps and microphones and he was engaging in a practice that we believed Continue reading “Ex-FBI honcho blasts Trump over Blagojevich”

Roseanne Barr apologizes for racially charged Valerie Jarrett tweet

Facing a fevered backlash over social media, Roseanne Barr apologized Tuesday for making a racially charged comment at longtime Barack Obama adviser and close friend Valerie Jarrett.

Over Twitter, the irascible star of the newly relaunched ABC sitcom “Roseanne” launched a firestorm by writing of Jarrett: "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj."

Jarrett was born in Iran and is African-American.

Barr initially responded to criticism suggesting the remark was a “joke.” But as calls quickly grew for both ABC and sponsors to drop the sitcom, she later offered a full-throated apology.

“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” Barr wrote. “I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.”

Jarrett, who is now a University of Chicago Law School senior fellow, declined comment Continue reading “Roseanne Barr apologizes for racially charged Valerie Jarrett tweet”

Trump donor to cut off GOP contributions over DACA

CHICAGO — A Chicago-area businessman who has donated more than $1 million to President Donald Trump is threatening to deny contributions to Republican candidates unless they act on an immigration bill before Congress.

David MacNeil, who employs more than 1,100 people through his Bolingbrook-based WeatherTech automotive company, told POLITICO in an interview that the issue has grown deeply personal, given that a top employee in his company could face deportation if a deal isn’t reached for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

MacNeil is the second prominent Chicago-area businessman and GOP donor in a week to cut off or threaten to withhold campaign contributions over the immigration debate. On Wednesday, former Exelon CEO John Rowe told POLITICO he would cut off resources to Republicans who refuse to sign onto a discharge petition that would force a vote on legislation related to so-called “Dreamers,” while rewarding those who did Continue reading “Trump donor to cut off GOP contributions over DACA”

Prominent donor threatens GOP over DACA

CHICAGO — An influential, multi-millionaire GOP donor is threatening to choke off campaign resources to Republican congressmen who haven’t engaged in the latest immigration battle in Congress.

Former Exelon chairman John Rowe, a prominent Chicago business leader who’s donated to dozens of GOP House and Senate members, first told POLITICO in an interview he is tightening the spigot — and in some cases, completely turning off the flow — of money to Republican lawmakers who refuse to sign onto a discharge petition that would force a vote on legislation related to so-called “Dreamers.“

“Every member of the Illinois delegation knows this is one of the most important issues facing them and it determines how much money I’m giving them,” said Rowe, who heads a pro-immigrant business group in Illinois. This is the home state of Abraham Lincoln. We’re betraying our entire heritage if we don’t get this done. Continue reading “Prominent donor threatens GOP over DACA”

New Illinois news site designed to counter Breitbart, IPI

CHICAGO — A new Illinois news platform that launches Monday says its mission is to battle all forms of “fake news” and sites designed to stoke the angry American political divide.

One Illinois is a response to Breitbart News and the libertarian-oriented Illinois Policy Institute said Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, a onetime progressive Illinois gubernatorial candidate who serves as president and executive director.

“Our fundamental belief is people are good. The way you counter the IPI and Breitbart is you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water,” Pawar said. “Getting people angry is easy. But making people angry maintains the status quo.”

One Illinois says its mission is driven by one theme: tell stories that bring people together through long-form journalism, videos and one-on-one interviews.

But the very creation of a site intended to serve as a counterforce to the agenda-driving Illinois Policy Institute is a Continue reading “New Illinois news site designed to counter Breitbart, IPI”

Illinois GOP governor calls for Missouri GOP governor to resign

CHICAGO — Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling on a fellow Republican governor, Missouri’s Eric Greitens, to step down in the wake of a sex scandal.

Rauner on Thursday said he was “deeply troubled” by allegations facing Greitens and said calls for the governor’s resignation seemed like a “reasonable request” after new details emerged this week from a woman with whom Greitens had an affair.

Greitens was indicted on Feb. 22 for felony invasion of privacy and documents made public this week allege he used violence as part of the ongoing affair. He faces trial May 14.

Rauner’s resignation call is particularly stinging considering that for months Greitens was among a trio of neighboring Republican governors who appeared in a TV ad plugging Rauner’s reelection bid.

“I have to say I am deeply troubled by, now there has been an investigation and the investigation has brought forth some very Continue reading “Illinois GOP governor calls for Missouri GOP governor to resign”

Newman: My family will never forgive Lipinski

CHICAGO — The sting of defeat is still fresh, but just days after narrowly losing to longtime incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski, progressive challenger Marie Newman isn’t ruling out a rematch.

In her first public remarks since falling short of ousting Lipinski, a “ridiculously proud” Newman, sounded like someone who wasn’t about to end her foray into politics.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” she said Sunday in an exclusive interview with POLITICO. “I’m not closing any doors on anything. The next month will be about looking at where I can be most impactful. I’ve already been offered many things. I’ll be looking at a wide variety of things.”

Lipinski was able to claim victory Tuesday evening with a roughly 2,000-vote lead — a number Newman believes will narrow even more once official tallies are in.

As Democrats continue to debate the meaning of a congressional primary that was Continue reading “Newman: My family will never forgive Lipinski”

Top takeaways from the Illinois primary

The nation’s second primary election produced a stunning result Tuesday — little-known conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives nearly upset GOP Governor Bruce Rauner. Even in defeat, Ives’ performance raised serious questions about Rauner’s ability to win reelection in November in a blue state with President Donald Trump serving as the backdrop.

Democrats, meanwhile, got the result the party establishment has long sought in the governor’s race: J. B. Pritzker cruised to victory in his primary, putting a free-spending billionaire at the top of ticket in the general election.

But that wasn’t the only closely watched Democratic race on the ballot. In a hard-fought primary viewed as a test of whether there’s still a place in the Democratic Party for cultural conservatives — especially those who oppose abortion rights — veteran Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski squeaked to victory over challenger Marie Newman, who was backed by major abortion rights and progressive Continue reading “Top takeaways from the Illinois primary”

Illinois primary: 5 things to watch

The attention of Illinoisans is fixed on the cash-drenched, record-shattering governor’s race. But it’s a typically-under-the-radar congressman’s bid for reelection that’s being closely watched across the nation for clues about the direction of the Democratic Party in the post-Obama era.

On the eve of Tuesday’s Illinois primary, veteran Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski’s opposition to abortion rights had thrown into question whether there’s still room for him in his party as he faces challenger Marie Newman, who’s backed by major abortion rights and progressive groups.

The outcome won’t have much bearing on the battle for the House majority, since the eventual Democratic nominee is expected to win easily in November in the solidly Democratic, Chicago-based 3rd District. But it will reveal whether conservative, Blue Dog Democrats like Lipinski have a future in a party that continues to veer leftward.

The big-money governor’s race is a different story. At the top of Continue reading “Illinois primary: 5 things to watch”

Donald Trump’s other attorney general problem

CHICAGO — Turn on any TV in Illinois and you’ll see ads from a slew of candidates for state attorney general who are vowing to battle a notorious tyrant, a racist fear-monger whom they view as a threat to democracy itself.

They’re talking about Donald Trump.

In the state’s first primary election of the Trump era, the president has turned the race to be Illinois’ top lawyer upside down, with the traditional focus on consumer protection, law enforcement and legislation taking a backseat to promises to fight tooth-and-nail against Trump.

The eight Democrats running for the party nomination in this solidly Democratic state have tapped Trump as the bogeyman in campaign material, debates and TV ads, promising to serve as the tip of the spear in a war against the White House.

“Sharon Fairley’s been taking on bullies and bigots her whole life,” says a narrator in one typical ad Continue reading “Donald Trump’s other attorney general problem”

Primary challenge squeezes Illinois GOP governor

CHICAGO — Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner insists he is “100 percent” focused on the November general election, and not worried about the conservative challenger trying to unseat him on Tuesday.

His actions, however, seem to suggest otherwise.

His campaign has increased TV ad spending in Chicago. But the biggest signal that the Illinois Republican primary might be closer than anyone expected came when Rauner vetoed a major piece of gun reform legislation Tuesday that members of his own party joined in sending to his desk.

Rauner — whom the right has repeatedly hit as too liberal on social issues — had more than a month to consider the bill, but chose to use his veto power one week before the primary election. And he announced his veto intention on a conservative radio show popular in Republican-heavy downstate Illinois.

In this solidly blue state, it’s a decision that’s certain to haunt Continue reading “Primary challenge squeezes Illinois GOP governor”

Team Obama settles score with Lipinski

CHICAGO — Congressman Dan Lipinski was no friend to President Barack Obama when his fellow Chicago Democrat occupied the White House.

On Thursday, Lipinski got his comeuppance.

A collection of former Obama aides and supporters banded together to deliver some Chicago-style payback, just days before the embattled congressman faces a tough Democratic primary challenge that could end his career.

A campaign mailer from a super PAC backing Lipinski gave the group the opportunity to pile on Lipinski at the worst possible moment. The mail piece featured a photo of the former president on one side, and the words “Known for Leading.” The flip side offered a picture of Democratic opponent Marie Newman under the headline, “Known for Misleading.”

The idea that Lipinski — who voted against the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature achievement, and declined to endorse Obama’s re-election in 2012 — would try to use the former Continue reading “Team Obama settles score with Lipinski”

A Dem incumbent’s 2018 struggle: The Trump-emboldened challenger from the left

CHICAGO — Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) is facing the most daunting primary challenge of his nearly 14-year career — but you wouldn’t know it from his campaign spending.

While the conservative Democrat is under assault from the left with the best-organized and best-funded opponent he’s faced, Lipinski (D-Ill.) sat nearly dormant on the airwaves for three weeks as newcomer Marie Newman leveled attacks.

Newman began 2018 with less than $237,000 in her campaign account to mount a primary challenge, while Lipinski had six times that at $1.7 million.

Yet it was Newman who was first in the race to air TV ads during a critical period in the primary, the same period when polls showed the little-known candidate made huge gains in name ID.

It’s the latest illustration of Lipinski’s struggle to hang on to his seat as longtime Democratic incumbents across the country face challengers from Continue reading “A Dem incumbent’s 2018 struggle: The Trump-emboldened challenger from the left”