More: ‘I am experienced and I want to do’ state’s attorney’s job
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.
Donna More files petitions to be placed on the ballot for state’s attorney in December at the Cook County clerk’s office.