The Spin: Pritzker at the White House today | Giannoulias wins endorsement from progressive group tied to Bernie Sanders | Two top Lightfoot staffers announce retirement – Chicago Tribune


Gov. J.B. Pritzker was among a handful of elected leaders from across the country who met with President Joe Biden at the White House today for a bipartisan meeting on the president’s ambitious infrastructure plan.

For Biden, it offered a chance for a group of Democrats and Republicans to gather round the table in public support of the $1.2 trillion package, even as debate continues in Washington, D.C., over how to bankroll it. For Pritzker, it’s an opportunity to show he’s got the ear of the White House after battling Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

First in Spin: Our Illinois Revolution, the political action offshoot of Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns, just announced it will endorse Democratic former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias’ bid to replace retiring Secretary of State Jesse White. The Giannoulias camp says the vast network, boasting 40,000 members, will give him a boost in the four-way race for the Democratic nomination.

It also shows he’s gaining support across the Democratic spectrum.

And a late-day ouch: The state’s top state official charged with policing allegations of wrongdoing by Illinois lawmakers and legislative staff announced she’s quitting, called the job “a paper tiger” and says lawmakers have shown “true ethics reform is not a priority.” More from Dan Petrella’s report below.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to the media at the formal opening of the K-Town Business Centre on West Polk Street in Chicago on June 28, 2021.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to the media at the formal opening of the K-Town Business Centre on West Polk Street in Chicago on June 28, 2021. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Illinois’ Democratic governor was among a bipartisan group of elected leaders who sat down with President Biden at the White House today to hear how his roads and bridges plan will help their communities.

Heading into the 2022 elections, it’s something tangible elected leaders on both sides of the aisle can tout on the campaign trail.

For the president, it was a chance to showcase how he’s bridging the political divide with his infrastructure plan.

“For Illinois’ billionaire governor, the trip offered an opportunity to spotlight strong ties to the Democratic White House ahead of an expected 2022 reelection bid,” the Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart wrote today.

Passage of Biden’s plan would give a leg up to the governor’s own six-year, $45 billion “Rebuild Illinois” infrastructure program to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, university buildings, state facilities and more. Ruthhart explains that “Pritzker has said the state’s program, which was funded largely by an increase in the state gas tax, means Illinois will immediately have the money available to match federal funds made available through Biden’s infrastructure plan.” Full story here.

Other Democrats in the Roosevelt Room: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Mayors Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio; Kate Gallego of Phoenix; and Michael Hancock of Denver. They will be joined by three Republicans — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and Mobile, Alabama, Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

Chicago police Superintendent David Brown was part of a group of top law enforcement and elected leaders across the nation who met with Biden on Monday at the White House to brainstorm on crime-fighting as violence escalates across the nation. You can read more about what he shared with Biden here.

The Illinois State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 in Springfield. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

The Illinois State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 in Springfield. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune) (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Here’s an excerpt from my Tribune colleague Dan Petrella’s piece about the legislative watchdog calling it quits: “In a two page resignation letter, Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope leveled criticisms echoing those of her predecessors, who also raised concerns about the office’s limited powers. She resigns amid an ongoing federal corruption investigation that has led to charges against a slew of former lawmakers.

“Pope, a former judge and Menard County state’s attorney, blasted an ethics overhaul proposal that was passed by lawmakers this spring and is sitting on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk. The measure, which she cited as a driving force behind her departure, has been widely criticized by good-government groups for failing to go far enough to address the state’s pervasive public corruption, and Pritzker himself has said more work remains.”

Pope wrote to members of the Legislative Ethics Commission, an eight-member panel that oversees her office: “I thought I might be able to make a difference working from the inside. I thought I could be useful in improving the public’s view of the legislature and help bring about true ethics reform. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do so. This last legislative session has demonstrated true ethics reform is not a priority.” Full story here.

Then-Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Then-Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. (Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante)

The Bernie Sanders-inspired Our Illinois Revolution’s endorsement of Giannoulias may be a good omen for him.

The organization, which touts a “reform-minded influence in recent local elections” also has backed the winning campaigns of Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss and Fritz Kaegi, who defeated longtime Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios.

The June 2022 Democratic primary is just under a year a way, and so far it’s still a four-way race, with Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and city aldermen Pat Dowell, 3rd, and David Moore, 17th, also in the mix.

In a statement, Clem Balanoff, emeritus chair of the organization, called Giannoulias a ” true progressive in this race … (who) has been a proven leader in the progressive movement for a long time.”

“Alexi is an innovative problem solver who is building a broad-based coalition and is committed to the progressive principles that serve as our core values,” Suzanna Ibarra, co-chair of Our Illinois Revolution, said in a statement.

It’s worth reminding that the secretary of state’s office is largely a clerical office that issues driver’s licenses and license plates, along with serving as a receptacle for business and government documents and filings.

Giannoulias’s camp is cheering the endorsement, pointing to the organization’s vast network. The endorsement also shows Giannoulias is able to mine support from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He’s previously pocketed endorsements from the Teamsters and other powerful unions who lean more moderate.

“Having always supported progressive ideals, I’m so proud to have earned the endorsement of Our Illinois Revolution, which is a huge boost to our campaign,” Giannoulias said in a statement. “Our Illinois Revolution is leading the fight to ensure working families benefit and thrive in our growing economy. They can count on my commitment to always protect civil rights and fight for racial and social justice as a constitutional officer.”

Former state Rep. Peter Breen.

Former state Rep. Peter Breen. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

Former Illinois state Rep. Peter Breen and his family have just moved to Wheaton — two towns to the west of Lombard, where he lived when he served in the General Assembly, the Tribune’s Bob Goldsborough writes.

“A Republican and a onetime Lombard village trustee, Breen represented the state’s 48th district for two terms, from 2015 until 2019. He was defeated for reelection in 2018.

There’s already a Republican elected to the 42nd District House seat, and Breen’s not interested in mounting a primary challenge. But asked whether he’d run for another office, he gave the old “Never say never” answer. Read the full story here.

State reviewing use of DuPage River after complaint about tubing company: Specifically, a riverfront property owner complained to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that customers were leaving trash and otherwise trespassing on private land. The complaint has triggered a battle because it could result in part or all of the waterway being shut down to public use, Rafael Guerrero writes for the Naperville Sun.

Waukegan City Council gives Mayor Ann Taylor the nod to offer early retirement to 61 eligible city employees, the Lake County News-Sun’s Steve Sadin writes. It’s being billed as an efficiency plan, but that’s code for cost-cutting. Because it’s voluntary — and it’s not known how many people will take City Hall up on the offer, it’s unclear how much savings the far north suburban city will realize.

A Chicago police officer stands outside the Chicago mayor's fifth-floor office at City Hall in Chicago.

A Chicago police officer stands outside the Chicago mayor’s fifth-floor office at City Hall in Chicago. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune / Chicago Tribune)

Mayor Lightfoot’s revolving City Hall door: Mark Kelly, the City of Chicago’s widely admired commissioner of cultural affairs and special events, is retiring in the fall, my Tribune colleague Chris Jones writes.

Kelly, 70, runs the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and was appointed to the position by former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2016 and kept aboard by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. More here.

Meantime, Rosa Escareno, Chicago’s commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection under Mayor Lori Lightfoot, is also retiring. The Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman writes about her remarkable 30-year career with the city, here.

Daley’s law firm hit with big lawsuit: “Chicago-based Katten Muchin Rosenman faces what could be one of the largest legal malpractice claims to date — up to $950 million, if a jury finds the law firm erred while advising a former client,” Crain’s Elyssa Cherney writes. That’s the same Katten Muchin Rosenman where former Mayor Richard M. Daley is “of counsel.”

Katten spokeswoman Jacquelyn Heard, the onetime City Hall press secretary to Daley, tells Cherney: “We’re limited in what we can share due to pending litigation, but we can say that the allegations made against our firm are without merit.” Full story here.

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