Renato Mariotti: Candidate Profile

Attorney general (Democrat)

  • Renato Mariotti, running for Attorney general

    Renato Mariotti, running for Attorney general

Updated 2/13/2018 12:20 PM

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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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City: Chicago


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Office sought:

Attorney general

Age: 21

Family: I was born in Chicago to parents who both worked two jobs to make ends meet. Neither of them went to college

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my dad didn't graduate high school and he's a cashier at Walmart. Most of my family resides in the Chicago area. I'm divorced and have no children.

Occupation: attorney

Education: J.D., Yale Law School

A.B., Political Science, University of Chicago

Civic involvement: Co-Chair, Lawyers4Choice

Board Member, Men4Choice

Board Member, Lakeview YMCA

Board Member, Abolition Institute

Board Member, Chicago Lincoln Inn of Court

Board Member, Retail Organized Crime Coalition

Executive Committee, Yale Law School Association

Climate Victory Council, League of Conservation Voters

Member, Sierra Club Illinois

Member, International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators


Elected offices held: None. Former Assistant United States Attorney.

Questions & Answers

What personal background and experiences particularly qualify you for the role of attorney general?

I have been a litigator, prosecutor, and trial lawyer my entire career. ÊAfter law school, I clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. ÊI worked in private practice as a litigation attorney for five years. ÊI then spent over nine years as a federal prosecutor, investigating and prosecuting hundreds of cases in a wide variety of areas. In 2016, I became a partner at the Thompson Coburn law firm, where I work today, representing clients in many types of high-stakes litigation matters.

As part of the Department of Justice's Securities and Commodities Fraud Section, I handled the first-ever prosecution and conviction of a high-frequency trader for using computer-aided trading to defraud others. I also secured the convictions of the Bogdanov crime family, Block 37 developer Larry Freed, and convicted bank robber Jose Banks, who later escaped from prison and threatened to kill me. Ê I was twice featured on American Greed, Bill Kurtis's show about white-collar criminals.

I have volunteered with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, Cook County's largest provider of civil legal services to people who cannot afford them. ÊI co-chair Lawyers4Choice and serve on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society. ÊI am an environmental advocate, and I volunteer with the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

Following the election of Donald Trump, I began speaking and writing against the President's discriminatory and unconstitutional policies, contributing to several major media outlets and advising Congress.

What do you consider the chief responsibility of the state attorney general and how would you conduct the office to achieve it?

The primary responsibility of the Illinois Attorney General is to represent Illinois citizens who can't fight for themselves in court. The Illinois Attorney General should take action when wrongdoers harm large numbers of Illinois residents, violating environmental, consumer protection, or anti-discrimination laws. The Attorney General is the attorney representing the interests and protecting the rights of everyone in Illinois, and should be an independent advocate for the people that is insulated from political considerations.

I am not a politician or a political insider. I am not beholden to special interests or the political apparatus. I'm an attorney who has spent my career protecting people and prosecuting those who try to abuse the system. The other candidates in this race will argue amongst themselves over which of them is the least ethically challenged. I believe Illinois voters deserve more.

Like many Illinois residents, I'm concerned about the threat that the Trump Administration poses to our way of life. The next Attorney General must protect our democratic system, our constitutional rights, and our fundamental values. State Attorneys General have used the legal system to challenge Trump's travel ban, his Administration's decision to end net neutrality, and the rule limiting access to contraception in the Affordable Care Act, and other actions. I'll be a leader in these efforts going forward.

Is the office of public information public access counselor important? What should be the attorney general's role in ensuring that state and local governing bodies operate in an open and transparent manner?

The best disinfectant to misconduct and poor leadership is sunshine. The Public Counselor's office has played a significant role in enforcing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inÊIllinoisÊbut more work needs to be done. Local governments and agencies hide behindÊFOIAÊexemptions and other loopholes to avoid revealing information that may be politicallyÊembarrassingÊor compromising. That practice has to end, andÊFOIAÊneeds be the check on corruption in government it was intended to be.Ã

I think a glaring example of the lack of transparency at the local level is the 13 months it took to release the dashcam tape of the Laquan McDonald killing. Ultimately, the Attorney General's office issued an advisory opinion that the tape should be released, but it was a disgrace that it took as long as it did to do so. I will work to ensure to increase transparency surrounding police shootings. The public, and grieving families, have a right to know the circumstances around shootings so we can hold police departments accountable and reform the system.

The office is stretched thin, with 14 lawyers receiving 4,720 requests last year. I will analyze current staffing levels to determine how to further increase the office's efficiency. I will evaluate opportunities to create public databases that will allow individuals, media and academics to proactively access and evaluate information. I will also evaluate ways to streamline the review and response process, so responseÊtimesÊwill be quicker and costs can be reduced.

How aggressive should the attorney general be in seeking consumer protections through the courts?

The Attorney General needs to be aggressive in seeking consumer protection through the courts, and that need is heightened due to the Trump Administration's efforts to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has removed rules that give consumers an opportunity to use the court system to enforce these laws themselves.Ê For that reason, the_ _responsibility_ _to_ _protect_ _Illinois_ _consumers_ _now_ _falls_ _squarely_ _on_ _the_ _Illinois_ _Attorney_ _General._ __ _I respect_ _Lisa_ _Madigan,_ _who_ _has_ _done_ _an_ _admirable_ _job_ _for_ _Illinois_ _consumers._ __ _We_ _must_ __ _do_ _more.Ê I'll aggressivelyÊ_enforce_ _Illinois'_ _consumer_ _fraud_ _statutes and I will_ _fight_ _against_ _provisions_ _compelling_ _arbitration,_ _in_ _court and_ _in_ _Springfield._Ê_ ÊI also will fight to expand the right of Illinois_ _consumers_ _to_ _pursue_ _class_ _action_ _relief,_ _and_ _take_ _up_ _causes_ _on their_ _behalf_ _when_ _they_ _cannot._ __ _I_ _will_ _fight_ _to_ _protect_ _the_ _interests_ _of_ _consumers_ _against_ _large_ _corporations_ _and special_ _interests,_ _and_ _ensure_ _a_ _level_ _playing_ _field_ _for_ _consumers_ _and_ _small_ _business._ __ _My_ _office_ _will_ _work_ _in_ _concert with_ _Attorneys_ _General_ _across_ _the_ _country_ _to_ _protect_ _the_ _interests_ _of_ _consumers.

How efficiently do you think the attorney general's office operates currently. What, if anything, would you do to streamline the office?

I will launch an internal evaluation of the Office of the Attorney General to determine the best approach to staff organization and reporting structures. I'm concerned that the Office is split into units that don't work as cooperatively or share information as well as they should. I want teams of attorneys focused on key priorities such as Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Election Security and Public Corruption. I also intend to enhance the role of the Public Access Counselor.

On day one, I would immediately do the following: (1) initiate an investigation into the Russian attack on our election systems, the extent to which any have been breached, and how we can prepare ourselves for the next attack

(2) launch a top-down review of the wage theft epidemic in Illinois, including the systems in place within the Governor's office and the Illinois Department of Labor to enforce, evaluate and respond to wage-related complaints

and (3) establish a Public Corruption task forceÑincluding Attorney General staff and outside experts with backgrounds in law enforcement, constitutional law, and government ethicsÑto establish comprehensive legislative recommendations that would transform the Office of the Attorney General into an independent watchdog responsible to the voters, with the power to issue subpoenas and indictments in criminal corruption matters.

During my first term as Attorney General, I would have three primary areas of priority: fighting back against the Trump Administration, Economic Justice and Election Security.

What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?

Illinois' Attorney General needs to be an environmental leader for the state, the region and the country. Trump's EPAÑled by Scott Pruitt and Midwest Director Cathy SteppÑare weakening environmental protections, ignoring climate change research and handing over our environment to the highest corporate bidder.

As Attorney General, I will investigate pollution that puts our clean water at risk, and pursue civil and criminal relief when appropriate. There are recent reports of companies disposing toxic waste in Lake Michigan and toxic chemicals that leech into our ground water and aquifers, yet the federal government hasn't acted. As Attorney General, I will aggressively defend our clean water and pursue all appropriate enforcement actions in state and federal court.

I will be a forceful advocate for fairness and equality in our water policies. There are reports that the poorest communities in Illinois pay as much as six times more for their water than the most affluent communities, and minorities routinely pay more for water than their neighbors in predominantly white communities. As Attorney General, I will fight to ensure that clean water is available equitably to everyone in our state.

I intend to stand up to special interests harming our environment, including the coal industry and agribusiness. I will evaluate and investigate the coal industry in Illinois to ensure it complies with appropriate standards, and will pursue additional legislative and regulatory directives to protect our environment.

Please name one current leader who most inspires you.

Pope Francis

What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?

That I could do anything if I worked hard enough and took responsibility for my own actions and choices.

If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?

I was morbidly obese for most of my life. I wish I did something about that sooner. Becoming fit changed my life.

What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?

I loved philosophy. It taught me to think analytically and deeply about some of life's big topics.

If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don't live your life based on what society expects you to do. Do what you think is right and what will make you happy.