Lester: Election hack likely not by a campaign, official says

Your voter registration information might have been stolen when the online database of the State Board of Elections was hacked earlier this month, though it's expected to take more than a week for officials to get a handle on just who was affected.

“I think everyone in our IT department spent the weekend mixing their Maalox with Jim Beam,” the board's general counsel Ken Menzel cracked after I phoned him following a tip from the Kane County clerk's office. “Nobody likes to be hit.”

'Lengthy prison terms'

Could this be the work of a political campaign, I asked Menzel? Not likely, he said.

“It would be rather foolish to commit such a significant felony to get the few bits of information they can't obtain openly and directly by just paying a small fee,” he said. “While strange things do occasionally happen in Illinois politics ... it would pretty much doom the careers of everyone involved, not to mention generate some lengthy prison terms.”

The agency shut down its voter registration online database for more than a week. Menzel says the site is back up, but the board is still figuring some things out.

“No voter history got out, and none of the signature imaging got out,” he said. The agency doesn't store financial information on voters, he said, but “we're looking at the extent that names and addresses and that sort of thing were taken.” Along with notifying the Illinois attorney general's office, the board of elections briefed members of the General Assembly and county clerks on the situation. “As soon as we're at the point of knowing who's affected we'll send notice,” Menzel says.

Smoke-filled rooms

I found myself sitting in a smoke-filled room last week, and this time, it had nothing to do with politics.

Chris Nichols of Long Grove recently bought the Arlington Pipe and Cigar Shop on Northwest Highway and Walnut Avenue, a local fixture owned for the past 40 years by Hank Pietruszka of Palatine. Nichols, a cigar aficionado, tells me running his own business centered around a leisure activity he enjoyed and became a goal after decades in corporate retail.

He's spent recent weeks cleaning and organizing the store and cutting margins on cigars and pipe tobacco with the aim of building loyalty among customers. Eventually, he says, he'll give the shop a facelift — new hardwood floors and updating the lounge area — to lure locals in to hang out and relax.

Roof over veteran's head

Jim Peterson Jr. of Mount Prospect's Peterson Roofing tells me his business, founded by dad Jim Sr. in 1978, is giving another free roof to a local veteran family.

This time, the recipients are David and Yosi Puma of Buffalo Grove. David recently left the Air Force and the couple bought a home, but the birth of their second child put a new roof on hold.

Peterson has scheduled the work for Aug. 6, weather permitting, and is inviting neighbors to join in an “installation celebration” as the project begins.

'Righteous anger'

Days before former congressman Joe Walsh posted a controversial tweet reacting to the Dallas shooting that killed five police officers, he was telling a crowd at a Republican fundraiser he was headlining for GOP state Senate candidate Mike Amrozowicz not to “shy away from anger.”

“Righteous anger is a good thing,” Walsh said June 28 at the Brae Loch Golf Club in Grayslake, according to audio I obtained.

In the July 7 Twitter post, which has been deleted, Walsh wrote, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”

Amrozowicz' Democratic opponent, Melinda Bush of Grayslake, has called on Amrozowicz to distance himself from Walsh. Amrozowicz, of Gurnee, has declined to comment.


It beats summer school any day. Two Aurora University students are attending this summer's political conventions for college credit. Christine Williams, 19, of Chicago, is at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Pontiac native Erica Brown attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week.

They were chosen from among 40 applicants through the Washington Center, an independent nonprofit. They're required to attend daily classes, interview six people, complete daily journals, write two essays and share experiences with fellow students later.

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Peterson Roofing is providing a free roof to the Puma family of Buffalo Grove. Courtesy OF Peterson Roofing
Joe Walsh's July 7 tweet.
Today's snap: Here's former state Rep. Al Salvi's 23-year-old daughter, Mary, on the last night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Mary Salvi, who grew up in Mundelein, spent the summer working as an executive assistant to the RNC's platform committee before starting law school in the fall. Courtesy OF Al Salvi
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