Secretary of state candidates spar over ethics issues
While questions of ethics roiled a Thursday forum among Democratic candidates for Illinois secretary of state, their Republican counterparts fought over competency issues Wednesday at a Daily Herald editorial board session.
At a Union League Club of Chicago event, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia accused former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias of Chicago of attack ads manufacturing a conflict of interest. They join Chicago Alderman David Moore on the Democratic primary ballot.
"He didn't have a record to run on, so he wanted to make up one for me," Valencia said of Giannoulias. While treasurer, Giannoulias lost millions from Bright Start, the state's college savings fund, she charged. "That hurt working families like the one I grew up in."
She also said Giannoulias' former family business, Broadway Bank, made "sketchy loans to mobsters," an issue that arose during his campaign for U.S. Senate in 2010.
Giannoulias defended his record.
"I am very proud of the work I did as state treasurer," Giannoulias said. "We ran one of most ethical offices in the country."
He added the bank his father started in 1979 "helped tens of thousands of people achieve the American dream."
During the recession, certain Bright Start investments lost significant funds, but Giannoulias said he "was one of the first state treasurers to recoup funds for families, and it was re-ranked as one of the top programs in the country."
Valencia is under fire over whether she used her office to secure contracts for companies her husband, Reyahd Kazmi, is affiliated with.
"She misused her office," Giannoulias said. "She clearly is married to someone who lobbies the city of Chicago which she serves on. Yet she says if she gets elected, 'Don't worry, he won't do it then.'"
Valencia responded that she and her husband "have separate careers."
"My husband does not speak for me; I am my own independent person," Valencia said.
Emails exchanged between Valencia and her husband have given rise to the speculation, and she acknowledged there were some "growing pains" when she began as city clerk in 2017. "I wish I had been more careful with my personal and professional emails."
Moore told the audience, "I'm the only who hasn't had any ethics issues. I believe that serving the people comes first. I'll make sure we expand the inspector general's office."
Moore also wants to change Illinois law to include spouses and close family members in disclosures of economic interest, and to add "hefty" fines for noncompliance.
A day earlier, the Republicans in the race -- state Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington and former federal prosecutor John Milhiser of Springfield -- traded jabs.
Milhiser said the position is meant "for a public servant, not a career politician." Illinois has a history of corruption at the agency but that "can be fixed by having a strong public servant who has the ability to go in Day 1 and get the job done ... to root out whatever corruption there is in state government," he explained.
Brady objected, suggesting that Milhiser should run for attorney general instead.
"The office doesn't prosecute people. It's about providing services, being a hands-on agent for change that the office needs," said Brady, adding he would reduce wait times at driver services sites.
The winner of each race in the June 28 primary will vie to fill outgoing Democrat Jesse White's position in the November election.