More: ‘I am ex­pe­ri­enced and I want to do’ state’s at­tor­ney’s job

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NEWS - JOHN KASS jskass@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @John_Kass Lis­ten to “The Chicago Way” pod­cast with John Kass and Jeff Car­lin — at www.wgn­ra­dio.com/cat­e­gory/wgn­plus/thechicago­way.

Donna More, an ex­pe­ri­enced lawyer and prose­cu­tor, isn’t as well known as her op­po­nents in the March 17 Demo­cratic Party pri­mary for Cook County state’s at­tor­ney.

Bill Con­way has his fa­ther’s money to buy all that TV time. In­cum­bent Kim Foxx has all that no­to­ri­ety over Jussie Smol­lett (for bet­ter or worse) and her pa­tron, Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle, the boss of the Cook County Democrats.

What More brings is a life­time in the law, as a lo­cal and fed­eral prose­cu­tor.

On Fri­day, she sat for an in-depth interview on my pod­cast, “The Chicago Way,” on WGN Plus.

“I bring three things my op­po­nents don’t have,” More said. “Le­gal cre­den­tials, felony trial ex­pe­ri­ence and in­de­pen­dence. And that in­de­pen­dence is from a po­lit­i­cal ma­chine (Foxx) or an ATM ma­chine (Con­way). I am ex­pe­ri­enced and I want to do this job. This isn’t a step­ping­stone for me. I don’t want to run for the Se­nate in the fu­ture. I want to be the lawyer for the peo­ple of Cook County.”

Foxx is cer­tainly more well known, even as the butt of jokes, and ev­ery day it seems she high­lights an­other en­dorse­ment en­gi­neered by Preck­win­kle.

The one en­dorse­ment Foxx has yet to an­nounce is from the grate­ful ac­tor Jussie Smol­lett. But there’s still time for Jussie.

Chal­lenger Con­way keeps spend­ing his fa­ther’s mil­lions on snazzy cam­paign ads and savvy po­lit­i­cal/ me­dia strate­gists. He’s al­ready been given $5 mil­lion, and there are mil­lions more if he needs it, from dad, who founded the Car­lyle Group, the gi­ant multi­na­tional in­vest­ment firm.

The Car­lyle Group gave mil­lions to Repub­li­can in­sider and lob­by­ist Big Bob Kjel­lan­der (pro­nounced $hel­lan­der), along the way win­ning teacher pen­sion fund deals and feed­ing top Re­pub­li­cans of the bi­par­ti­san Illi­nois Com­bine.

But the feds be­gan peel­ing back the onion, even­tu­ally re­veal­ing a pay-for-play scheme in­volv­ing Repub­li­can boss Big Bill Cellini, who was sen­tenced to fed­eral prison, and Tony Rezko, the con­victed former fundraiser for im­pris­oned Gov. Rod Blago­je­vich and real es­tate fairy for former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

The firm was not charged with wrong­do­ing, and nei­ther was Con­way’s fa­ther. But all the Car­lyle Group had to do was snap its fingers in Washington and Illi­nois po­lit­i­cal weasels from Chicago to Spring­field would dance the dance of grace and fa­vor.

On “The Chicago Way,” More fo­cused on Foxx’s Smol­lett fi­asco and Con­way’s con­nec­tions to the Car­lyle Group.

“The Car­lyle Group, Con­way’s fa­ther’s com­pany, paid $4.5 to $5 mil­lion dol­lars in what we’ll call ‘lob­by­ing fees’ to Bob Kjel­lan­der — who had ties to Cellini and Rezko,” More said. “The Car­lyle Group was able to get more than $100 mil­lion of teacher pen­sion funds to in­vest. It was a big con­spir­acy for pay-to-play pol­i­tics.”

Is it fair to tie the son to his fa­ther’s com­pany?

“If he doesn’t want to be tied to his fa­ther, he should give back the money and raise money like I’m do­ing, on the grass­roots level,” More said. “Ex­cept for his fa­ther’s money, Bill Con­way is not a rel­e­vant can­di­date in this race.”

For fair­ness’ sake I called Con­way’s of­fice. Spokesman Jake Strass­berger of­fered this state­ment:

“While Bill’s op­po­nents en­gage in wild con­spir­acy the­ory ped­dling and the worst kind of Trumpian guilt by as­so­ci­a­tion smears, Bill’s fo­cused on bal­anc­ing our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, get­ting after our gun crime epi­demic, and get­ting pol­i­tics out of an of­fice it never be­longed in.” Trumpian?

Nice, but I’ve made a study of the bi­par­ti­san Com­bine that sav­aged Illi­nois for years, long be­fore Don­ald Trump was pres­i­dent, when he was still friends with Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

This isn’t More’s first try for the of­fice. She ran the last time, against Foxx and then-in­cum­bent Anita Al­varez, and fin­ished third.

So is she a vi­able can­di­date? “Times have changed,” More said. “Kim was the hand -picked per­son that Toni Preck­win­kle wanted in that job. Toni Preck­win­kle picks the public de­fender, she now picks the state’s at­tor­ney, she con­trols the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. I don’t think that’s a good idea. And it’s hard for me to be­lieve that in a county with a bud­get of $3 bil­lion plus, Kim Foxx can’t find a public cor­rup­tion case.”

Who’s she go­ing to in­ves­ti­gate, Preck­win­kle’s or­ga­ni­za­tion? And bite the hand that feeds her?

As the high-pro­file race comes into fo­cus, the Demo­cratic can­di­dates are sched­uled to ap­pear to­gether, Mon­day, at a Chicago Tri­bune Edi­to­rial Board ses­sion. As of Fri­day, the plan was to make the ses­sion avail­able via livestream on the Tri­bune’s web­site.

It should be com­pelling. The job of top prose­cu­tor in Cook County has al­ways been cov­eted and pro­tected by may­ors and county bosses.

An in­de­pen­dent state’s at­tor­ney would threaten the po­lit­i­cal or­der.

I’ll be in­ter­ested in what Foxx says about Smol­lett and about spe­cial prose­cu­tor Dan Webb’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her botched han­dling of the ac­tor’s case. Foxx in­ex­pli­ca­bly dropped 16 grand jury counts against Smol­lett for al­legedly fak­ing a hate crime.

Foxx has since hired out­side le­gal coun­sel to deal with Webb. She’s pay­ing for a per­sonal lawyer out of her own pocket, but she’s also stick­ing tax­pay­ers with the bill for at­tor­neys to rep­re­sent her of­fice.

“Kim hired a per­sonal lawyer. I get that,” More said on “The Chicago Way.”

“She’s lawyered up now be­cause she’s un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But I am still mys­ti­fied why the of­fice of the state’s at­tor­ney needed a lawyer. And I’m not sure why 700 lawyers (at the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice) can’t pro­vide that func­tion or some­one from the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice,” More said.

“The of­fice can’t be in­dicted,” she said. “What do they need a lawyer for?”

I’ll be sure to ask Kim Foxx.

ERIN HOOLEY/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Donna More files pe­ti­tions to be placed on the bal­lot for state’s at­tor­ney in De­cem­ber at the Cook County clerk’s of­fice.

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