Tag: campaign finance

Donald Trump violates U.S. federal election laws by sending fundraising emails to foreign politicians

Current and/or former elected officials in no fewer than six foreign countries have received campaign fundraising emails from the campaign of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Party nominee for President of the United States. The countries in which current and/or former elected officials have received fundraising solicitations from Trump include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom. In at least one case, a former head of government of a foreign country received a fundraising solicitation from Trump.

Trump has only recently started using emails to solicit campaign donations, and it first became clear that the Trump campaign’s email list had serious flaws when Katherine Clark, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts and a member of the Democratic Party, received a Trump email, despite the fact that Clark is a known supporter of the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. However, no laws were violated by Trump when his campaign sent an fundraising solicitation to Clark, because Clark is a United States citizen.

However, numerous current and former members of parliament in at least six foreign countries have clearly indicated that the Trump campaign has sent fundraising solicitations to individuals who are not United States citizens. Under the federal election laws of the United States, it is illegal for an American presidential candidate to solicit campaign donations from individuals who are not United States citizens.

At least two members of the Australian House of Representatives, Tim Watts and Joanne Ryan, reported via Twitter that they had received emails from the Trump campaign asking for campaign donations:

Both Watts and Ryan are members of the Australian Labour Party.

In case you are wondering who the former head of government who received a Trump campaign fundraising email is, it is former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who was the last member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which is now defunct, to serve as prime minister:

The fact that the Trump campaign tried to sell the Brooklyn Bridge, which is not owned by Trump, to Campbell for a big discount proves that the Trump campaign is completely incompetent.

Ida Auken, a member of the Danish Parliament, also received a fundraising email from Trump:

Auken is a member of the Danish Social Liberal Party.

Anders Adlercreutz, a member of the Parliament of Finland, confirmed to Josh Marshall of the American political website Talking Points Memo that members of the Finnish Parliament have received Trump fundraising emails:

Adlercreutz is a member of the Swedish People’s Party of Finland.

The Iceland Monitor has reported that Katrín Jakobsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament, was one of at least three members of the Icelandic Parliament to receive campaign fundraising emails from Trump. Jakobsdóttir is the leader of the Icelandic Left-Green Alliance.

However, the strongest critic of the Trump fundraising emails to foreign politicians is Natalie McGarry, a member of the British House of Commons from the Glasgow area in Scotland. After receiving a fundraising email from Donald Trump, Jr., who was acting on behalf of his dad’s presidential campaign, McGarry wrote a response to the younger Trump in which she strongly criticized the elder Trump’s hateful, bigoted rhetoric and told the younger Trump that she hoped that American voters “reject your father fundamentally at the ballot box”. McGarry is not a member of any political party, although she was a member of the Scottish National Party until 2015. An online friend of mine posted to her social media page McGarry’s letter to the younger Trump, and it has been shared online over 1,700 times:

None of the foreign elected officials donated any money to Trump, to the best of my knowledge.

Donald Trump has proven that his presidential campaign is absolutely incompetent when it comes to operating an email list, and he has broken the law by attempting to solicit campaign donations from foreign politicians.

Hillary donors claim that Bernie is raising more money than Hillary

Well, this is interesting, to put it mildly…many of Hillary Clinton’s campaign donors expect Bernie Sanders to raise more money than her when the next round of federal campaign finance reports are filed next month, according to this POLITICO report:

Hillary Clinton’s donors say they think Bernie Sanders will raise more money in the fourth quarter than their candidate for the first time ever — a testament to the underdog’s online cash juggernaut and a harbinger of donor fatigue among the front-runner’s backers.

[…]

…Over the past few days, Clinton’s advisers have taken steps to stoke donor enthusiasm: Bill and Chelsea Clinton, who on Monday announced she is pregnant with her second child, have stepped up their fundraising for the campaign. They are expected to become even more involved in the campaign beginning in January.

And many of the donors POLITICO has interviewed over the last few months say the widespread perception that’s she’s a shoo-in is prompting would-be donors to remain on the sidelines — waiting to throw their financial support behind her for the only race they believe truly matters — the general election.

It’s also worth noting that the Bernie fundraising strategy of relying virtually entirely on small donors has one big advantage: Bernie can get many of the same small donors to donate to his campaign over and over again. This stands in contrast to the Hillary fundraising strategy, as many of Hillary’s big-money donors have already donated the maximum amount of money that one can legally donate to a federal campaign committee.

Does Scott Walker want to put elected officials in charge of administrating elections in Wisconsin?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The blog post includes a word, Nixcarthyism, that has, to my knowledge, never been used before. Nixcarthyism is defined as a corrupt, vindictive style of politics that combines the style of politics of Richard Nixon and the style of politics of Joe McCarthy.


Scott Walker’s Nixcarthyism knows no boundaries. As Governor of Wisconsin, he’s used a recall petition against him as a political enemies list, enacted disastrous political policies designed to make the lives of Democrats and progressives in Wisconsin a living hell, and has gotten away with blatant political corruption.

Now, he’s pushing to eliminate the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), an officially non-partisan agency, compromised of a board of six retired judges, that would be a great model for non-partisan state election administration panels across the country, and replace it with a yet-to-be-determined state government board or agency. The GAB is responsible for state-level regulation of elections, campaign finance, and lobbying in Wisconsin, as well as handling ethics complaints filed against state elected officials in Wisconsin. This is Walker’s way of retaliating against the GAB for authorizing the unsuccessful 2012 recall attempt against him and for referring the John Doe II investigation, which was recently struck down by the majority-female, far-right Wisconsin Supreme Court, to a special prosecutor and five district attorneys.

However, I do have one hint as to to what kind of entity Walker wants to replace the GAB with: Walker has stated that he wants “something completely new that is truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin” to replace the GAB.

I’m guessing that “something completely new” is Walker-speak for something significantly different than the GAB or the former Wisconsin State Elections Board that was replaced by the GAB. By “truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin”, I’m guessing that’s Walker-speak for putting elected officials in charge of administrating elections, handing ethics complaints, regulating campaign finance, and regulating lobbying in Wisconsin, while, at the same time, allowing said elected officials to retain their elected offices and serve on whatever entity replaces the GAB simultaneously. I do not know of any state that has incumbent elected officials serving on or in a state office, board, or agency responsible for administering elections, handling ethics complaints, regulating campaign finance, and/or regulating lobbying.

If Walker wants to put elected officials in charge of state-level election administration in Wisconsin, that would be comparable to asking Cookie Monster to guard cookies. The vast majority of, if not all, elected officials in Wisconsin benefit in some way from campaign donations and/or outside spending on their behalf. Because of that, a state elections board compromised of elected officials in some form or another would be absolutely rife with conflicts of interest and would likely be very supportive of big money special interests having tons of influence over the political system.

About the only change I’d make to the Wisconsin GAB is to put the responsibility for appointing GAB board members in the hands of the Wisconsin Secretary of State (currently, the Wisconsin Governor makes the appointments to the GAB).

An open letter to America about Scott Walker from an Illinoisan who has blogged about Walker

My fellow Americans,

Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.

Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:

  • Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
  • Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
  • Drastically cut the pay of public employees
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
  • Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
  • Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
  • Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
  • Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
  • Weakened environmental protections
  • Arrested people for singing
  • Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
  • Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
  • Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
  • Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
  • Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government

Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:

  • Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
  • Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
  • Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
  • Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
  • Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
  • Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America

However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.

You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp
Westville, Illinois

Bernie Sanders draws massive crowd to Madison, Wisconsin rally, lays out progressive vision for America

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America’s future in front of a roaring capacity crowd at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (also called the Alliant Energy Center) in Madison, Wisconsin last night.

Here’s a couple of photos of the crowd at the event:

Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie's appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie’s appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Bernie Sanders Madison WI Rally Crowd Doug Cvetkovich
Massive crowd at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin during Bernie Sanders speech. Sanders is standing at the podium on the stage at the bottom left of the picture. (photo courtesy of Doug Cvetkovich)

I’m going to share a video of Bernie’s speech from the YouTube channel Bernie2016.tv (which is not directly affiliated with the Sanders campaign), but I want to make two notes before I do so: First, I’ve set the video to start playing at around the 42:20 mark, which is about 20 seconds or so before Nichols takes the stage to introduce Sanders. Second, several technical glitches occur during the video, most notably the first part of Nichols’s introduction not having any audio at all and an audio echoing issue occurring in at least one segment of Sanders’s speech.

Here’s the video of Bernie’s speech:

Bernie did a masterful job outlining a progressive vision for America. In his speech, Bernie called for reducing income inequality in America, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, expanding workers’ rights, protecting women’s reproductive rights, getting big money out of politics, ensuring that women are paid the same as men for the same amount and type of work, reforming the criminal justice system, opposing free trade deals, providing high-quality education to Americans without burdening them with student debt, raising the minimum wage, and enacting many other progressive policies. Bernie energized a large crowd in Wisconsin’s second-largest city, and I think he can win the general election for president.

According to arena officials and Sanders campaign staffers, the attendance was 9,600, although I’ve seen reports on social media that so many people tried to show up at the 10,231-seat arena, some people had to be turned away from the event because the venue couldn’t handle any more people than the stated capacity. Sanders was introduced at the event by John Nichols, a progressive political author and columnist for The Nation magazine. Nichols mentioned during his introduction of Sanders that Ed Garvey, the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Wisconsin and the founder of the annual Fighting Bob Fest progressive gathering, Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), and Wisconsin State Representatives Terese Berceau and Melissa Sargent (both D-Madison), were present at the event. Of those four, Sargent livetweeted Sanders’s speech, in which Sanders talked about issues like money in politics, climate change, education, higher education, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, income inequality, poverty, criminal justice reform, the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, breaking up “too big to fail” banks, and international trade. Here’s every one of Sargent’s tweets about Sanders’s speech in Madison:

Note that there is an apparent typo in one of Sargent’s tweets (the one she sent at 8:05 P.M. about Sanders talking about how climate change affects our future; Sargent likely meant to type “We must leave this planet in a condition that is habitable for our children”); other than that, Sargent did an absolutely fantastic job paraphrasing Sanders’s speech and livetweeting the key points that Sanders made. Please also note that Sargent has, to my knowledge, not formally endorsed a presidential candidate.

It is perfectly fitting that Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America in the hometown of Wisconsin progressive legend Fighting Bob La Follette.

How taxpayers effectively subsidized the Charleston shooting

You might be shocked to find out about this, but taxpayers effectively subsidized the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, which was perpetrated by 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Storm Roof and claimed the lives of nine people, including Reverend and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney (D-Ridgeland).

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a non-profit investigative news organization, detailed how taxpayers effectively subsidized the mass murder at Mother Emanuel in their report:

Alleged Charleston gunman Dylann Roof wrote that he was never the same after discovering a website with “pages upon pages of these brutal black on white murders.”

The pages that left Roof in disbelief were the product of a white-nationalist group subsidized by American taxpayers.

The Council of Conservative Citizens Inc. is listed by the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit organization that promotes social welfare, also known as a 501(c)(4). Such groups pay no federal taxes, a form of government subsidy.

To summarize all of that, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist organization, incorporated as a nonprofit “social welfare” organization, legally exempted itself from federal taxation, and published racist screeds on its website that prompted Roof to perpetrate a mass murder in a place of worship. In other words, the federal government effectively subsidized the Charleston shooting by exempting the CCC from federal taxes.

The CCC may legally be a “social welfare” organization, but, in reality, they are not a social welfare organization. The CCC is a white supremacist organization that, among other things, publicly supports far-right, anti-immigration politicians and political parties, glorifies black-on-white violent crimes, absurdly blames Chicago’s high murder rate on a misperceived lack of guns in the city, and has posted ads from at least one company selling Confederate flags online to its website. Furthermore, the CCC’s president, Earl P. Holt, has donated to many Republican politicians, including, among many others, Joni Ernst, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Jim Oberweis, Louie Gohmert, Todd Akin, Tom Emmer, Allen West, and Steve King; in fact, in some campaign finance reports, Holt listed himself as a “slumlord”. For the federal government to effectively subsidize such a hateful organization is, in my opinion, absolutely disgusting.

Hillary Clinton’s “Scott Walker” problem

Hillary Clinton has a “Scott Walker” problem on her hands.

Specifically, CNN is reporting that Hillary Clinton apparently intends to violate federal laws by raising money for a SuperPAC that is supporting her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination:

Hillary Clinton’s decision to personally raise money for a super PAC supporting her campaign is agitating her progressive critics, who see the move as further proof that the Democratic presidential frontrunner doesn’t share some of their values.

[…]

Within days of announcing her White House bid, Clinton had called out wealthy investors for paying too little in taxes and pledged to get big money out of politics. At the time, it was a welcome message for liberal Democrats who are uncomfortable with Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street and find the prominent role of super PACs in elections utterly distasteful.

But the recent revelation that Clinton will personally fundraise for a super PAC supporting her campaign — a decision to play by the rules of a system she has condemned as “dysfunctional” — has invited fresh eye-rolling. It has also exposed a core tension for Democrats, who have increasingly embraced super PACs at the same time that they decry the explosion of soft money in national politics.

The name of the SuperPAC in question is Priorities USA Action, a SuperPAC that was originally formed to support Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, but is now one of many pro-Hillary SuperPACs for the 2016 presidential election. No criminal charges have been filed against Hillary at this time, and there doesn’t appear to be any kind of criminal investigation into this matter at this time, apparently because the Priorities USA Action fundraisers featuring Hillary haven’t been held yet.

Hillary Clinton is a total hypocrite when it comes to money in politics. While she’s publicly complained about the ridiculous influence of big-money politics, she’s embracing that same ridiculous influence of big-money politics by intending to apparently violate the law to fundraise for one of the SuperPACs that are supporting her campaign. Hillary does not appear to be playing by the rules at all. In fact, she’s made it clear that she wants to apparently violate federal laws that prohibit illegal coordination between SuperPACs and candidates for federal elected office.

When I said that Hillary has a “Scott Walker” problem on her hands, what I mean by that is that Hillary intends to do is no different that what Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, himself an unofficial candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, did when he knew that he and several of his allies were going to face recall elections. Walker illegally solicited $700,000 from Gogebic Taconite, a mining company that has never actually operated a mine, but bought weaker environmental laws in Wisconsin, to the Wisconsin chapter of the right-wing political front group Club for Growth. Here’s how The Progressive magazine’s Rebecca Kemble reported that story when documents from the ongoing, but stalled, John Doe II investigation into Walker and his allies showing that Walker illegally solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit a right-wing group were released last year:

Even though all limits on the size of direct campaign donations are removed for candidates facing recall elections in Wisconsin, the Walker campaign still found it necessary to hide the source of the millions it solicited during 2011-2012 to keep him and his legislative allies in power.

According to emails between Walker campaign staff, the Wisconsin Club for Growth was the dark money clearinghouse that apparently coordinated “issue advocacy and “correct messaging” with the Walker campaign. Much of the money that came in the WiCFG door went back out to other political operatives like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Citizens for a Strong America and the Jobs First Coalition to back Walker and Republican state senators facing recall or special elections in 2012.

GTac bought weaker environmental laws in Wisconsin by supporting anti-environment politicians so they could build an iron ore mine in Northern Wisconsin in violation of Native American treaties, but GTac recently decided to scrap the project entirely.

Hillary Clinton is just as unethical as the odious Scott Walker is, and that’s why progressive-minded Democrats can’t afford Hillary being our party’s presidential nominee.

New Hampshire GOP Congressman Frank Guinta should resign immediately

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has ruled that U.S. Representative Frank Guinta of New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District violated federal campaign finance laws by accepting $355,000 in illegal campaign donations from his parents.

It’s 100% clear to me that Guinta should resign before you finish reading this blog post.

I have zero tolerance for those in positions of power who abuse the trust of the people they represent, and Guinta has abused the trust of the people of the 1st District of New Hampshire. That’s because he violated federal campaign finance laws by accepting $355,000 in campaign cash from his parents and claiming that the money came from his own pocket in the form of a loan to his own campaign, when, in reality, it came from a bank account in his parents’ name. What Guinta did is a form of money laundering.

It’s not just Democrats who are sick and tired of Guinta’s Chicago-style corruption. Kelly Ayotte, the far-right Republican U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, is also calling for Guinta’s resignation, likely because she knows that she already has little chance of winning re-election next year without the Guinta scandal dragging down the GOP in her home state, but would have nearly zero chance of winning re-election if Guinta were on the same ballot as her in half of New Hampshire.

If Guinta resigns from office, that would result in a special election for Guinta’s House seat, which includes much of eastern and southeastern portions of New Hampshire, including places like Manchester, Portsmouth, and Laconia. I would love to see Carol Shea-Porter run for her old seat in Congress again, as she’s a wonderful, progressive-minded person who has staunchly opposed the culture of big-money politics that Guinta has long been a part of.

Under Scott Walker’s failed leadership, Chicago-style pay-to-play politics is alive and well in Wisconsin

According to a Yahoo News report by Michael Isikoff, John Menard, Jr., the wealthiest individual in Wisconsin and founder of the Menards chain of big-box hardware stores, donated a whopping $1.5 million to Wisconsin Club for Growth, an right-wing political organization that apparently violated campaign finance laws and is currently subject to an ongoing criminal investigation, in support of Scott Walker’s efforts to fend off a 2012 recall attempt against him:

John Menard Jr. is widely known as the richest man in Wisconsin. A tough-minded, staunchly conservative 75-year-old billionaire, he owns a highly profitable chain of hardware stores throughout the Midwest. He’s also famously publicity-shy — rarely speaking in public or giving interviews.

So a little more than three years ago, when Menard wanted to back Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — and help advance his pro-business agenda — he found the perfect way to do so without attracting any attention: He wrote more than $1.5 million in checks to a pro-Walker political advocacy group that pledged to keep its donors secret, three sources directly familiar with the transactions told Yahoo News.

In return for donating to a pro-Walker front group, Menard got corporate welfare and weaker environmental regulations:

Menard’s previously unreported six-figure contributions to the Wisconsin Club for Growth — a group that spent heavily to defend Walker during a bitter 2012 recall election — seem to have paid off for the businessman and his company. In the past two years, Menard’s company has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records.

And in his five years in office, Walker’s appointees have sharply scaled back enforcement actions by the state Department of Natural Resources — a top Menard priority. The agency had repeatedly clashed with Menard and his company under previous governors over citations for violating state environmental laws and had levied a $1.7 million fine against Menard personally, as well as his company, for illegally dumping hazardous wastes.

This is the kind of corrupt, pay-to-play politics that one would normally associate with Chicago, but has become far too commonplace in Wisconsin under the failed leadership of Scott Walker and his Republican cohorts. It’s 100% clear to me that John Menard bought influence in the Walker Administration in Wisconsin by donating money to an outside group that supports Walker’s political campaigns and apparently violated campaign finance laws by accepting money that Walker illegally solicited from the mining company Gogebic Taconite (GTac).

If elected president, Scott Walker will bring corrupt, Chicago-style pay-to-play politics to the White House, which is something America simply can’t afford.

The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.