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Post Illinois Politics: Plus Ca Change?
Created by John Eipper on 03/22/18 4:16 AM

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Illinois Politics: Plus Ca Change? (David Duggan, USA, 03/22/18 4:16 am)

The world did not change overnight.

Illinois' "pay-to-play" politics is as alive and well as ever, and Prairie State voters will face, for the first time in the history of the known universe, a choice between two billionaires to occupy the (leaky-antiquated-$#!+hole) Governor's Mansion next year: incumbent Bruce Rauner, and challenger J.B. (for "Jay Robert"--huh?) Pritzker.

Pritzker, the scion of the Hyatt Hotel chain family, which has essentially bought the naming rights for Chicago (Northwestern Law School, University of Chicago Medical School, the performing arts Pavilion in Millennium Park, and the Military Library), poured $63 million of his own money into the primary to defeat Chris Kennedy, son of Robert, and some suburban types, and came away with roughly 540,000 votes (45%) of the 1.2 million cast.

Assuming he drained the tank, Pritzker paid $116.66 for every vote. For that money, he could have had mine (I voted for Kennedy because he wanted to end the corruption and nobody else seems willing or able). And for the record, JB paid $100 million for the Northwestern Law School naming rights, or roughly $166,666 for each of the 600 students (I'm not counting the faculty: they're already on the take).

Rauner, a Dartmouth ‘79 alum, who actually made his fortune (in a venture capital firm, GTCR--he was the "R," in which Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was also a principal), coughed up $50 million of his fortune, but unlike Pritzker actually received outside donations, including $10 million from Illinois' richest man, Ken Griffin, a hedge fund guy (is there a theme here?). In the primary Rauner beat an Illinois state representative, West Pointer Jeanne Ives, who touted that she would not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do, a well-stated bromide to those who are nauseous because of the political stench, but by only 21,000 out of 660,000 cast (totals are preliminary--after all this is Illinois, home of the infamous "River Wards" from the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election). He claimed that he had heard the voices of the conservative opposition (The National Review labeled him the worst Republican governor in the nation), and promised to work to regain their trust. Good luck with that, Bruce.

Rauner had run ads claiming that Ives was backed by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, the most powerful legislator in the country and probably in world history since Robert Walpole. Madigan had rammed through a 40% state income tax increase over Rauner's veto which I will have to pay by April 15, coincidentally after the primary election. Since Rauner actually earned his money, it may be assumed that he didn't drain his campaign fund: let's say he spent $25 million, which works out to a cheap $73.50 a vote.  (A reform-Illinois-politics-source compared amounts raised per vote and not spent, giving the Croesus-nod to Rauner which is probably not valid, given that JB had deeper-pocketed opponents and an almost limitless family-fueled fund to wage the general election.)

The pundits have already handed the general election to JB, looking only at the primary results. Hello, it's the general election, idiots, and in 2014 Rauner won 1.8 million votes against an incumbent, and carried every county outside of C[r]ook, home of Chicago. The race will be won south of I-80, the road that bisects downstate from upstate, and I do not see LL Bean-fleece-vest-wearing-off-shore-trust-account-holding JB competing there against Carhartt-wearing, shotgun-toting Bruce. The big winners will of course be the media outlets (Rauner had invested in the Sun Times; it is suspected that Pritzker buddy Ed Eisendrath's money to buy the paper recently came from JB) who rake it in with campaign ad dollars.

Not to be overlooked is what happened in some of the down-ticket races. For the vacant Attorney General's seat (Mike Madigan's stepdaughter is stepping down after a lackluster 16 years on the job, where she refused to prosecute her father for running a protection racket through his domination of the property-tax-reassessment game in Chicago), State Senator Kwame Raoul (he of Barack Obama's old seat) defeated former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on the Democratic side. Raoul, who claims Haitian extraction (huh? Kwame is pure Ghanaian), said he will challenge Trump's policies right and left.

On the Republican side, former Miss America and Harvard Law grad Erika Harold beat a suburban politician to run against Kwame in the general election. I'll bet she gets Donald's votes if he registers in time, claiming an address in Trump Tower, site of the old Sun Times building, which has used another noteworthy Chicago attorney as its property tax reassessment attorney, City Council Finance Committee chairman Ed Burke (who with Mike Madigan controls the state-wide Democratic Party coffers).

But probably the most significant election victory was that of Fritz Kaegi over C[r]ook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios for the office of C[r]ook County Assessor. I know, it's only the primary, but no Republican has held a County-wide elected position in this millennium. It is the assessor's office's reassessment gauntlet through which every property must run every three years, and this is where the money comes in: well connected property tax appeal lawyers contribute to the assessor who reduces their client's property's assessment (and get one-third to one-half of the reduction as his fee). The party chairman then funnels the money to the various races, including for judges, who of course, are the ultimate arbiters of property values (there's an administrative body, but everything has to have a judicial remedy).

Oh, to live and die in Chicago.

JE comments:  At least when you die in Chicago, you can still vote!

Brilliant analysis, David.  Who said local politics are dry and insignificant?  The Land of Lincoln proves Eugenio Battaglia's observation of a few days back:  "Political freedom often means voting for the guy who can spend more money in the electoral campaign."  Consider $116 per vote, and in the primary no less.  A more transparent system would be to hold an eBay-style auction for the job, and use the proceeds for a new school or library.  Then after a few years, you incarcerate the Illinois governor and set up a new auction.

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