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Manzullo’s moving on

Ex-congressman to head U.S.-Korean relations think tank

Don Manzullo
Don Manzullo

Don Manzullo’s last second representing Illinois’ 16th district in Congress was 11:59:59 a.m. Thursday.

As of 12:01:00 p.m., he had a new job.

“I had a two-second break,” he quipped.

The 68-year-old former congressman will draw upon his experience as the new president and CEO of the Korea Economic Institute of America.

Manzullo described KEIA as a not-for-profit think tank that will “bring the countries together on economic and political issues.”

The institute states its mission is “to broaden and deepen understanding among Americans and Koreans about the U.S.-Korea alliance, the value of the two countries’ bilateral relationship, and the issues the two countries face.”

Manzullo, of Egan in Ogle County, has served on the Asia subcommittee of the House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs since he took office in 1993.

Manzullo said his longstanding “intense interest” in Asia had led to an offer to lead the interest group.

The final vote Manzullo cast as congressman was “aye” on the controversial legislation to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.” As he watched the debate with Judy Biggert, another Illinois member of Congress who was retiring, Manzullo said he was surprised by the toxic tone among his colleagues.

“I sat next to Judy Biggert and I said, ‘I find this inconceivable for people to get to the mic and not say something bad about the other party,’” Manzullo said.

Manzullo described the run-up to his final vote as chaos.

“It wasn’t even controlled chaos,” he said. “It was absolute, total chaos.”

He described the partisanship that grips the House and Senate as being a social and structural problem. A lot of members, he noted, do not bring their families to Washington. As a result, they become commuters and remain strangers to each other.

“It’s an assembly of people who simply don’t know each other well enough to have a level of decency and disagree with each other while being decent,” Manzullo said.

Manzullo defeated Democratic incumbent John Cox in the 1992 election, and held the seat representing a section of northern Illinois until Thursday.

When Democratic state lawmakers redrew boundaries of congressional districts in 2011, they put Manzullo into the same district as another Republican incumbent, Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno. Manzullo lost to Kinzinger in the GOP primary election last March.

Manzullo offered no words of advice to his successor, just rules of thumb to follow.

“He knows he has to stay close to people and meet their needs,” Manzullo said. “That’s the definition of a representative. That’s something you always work at – the needs of people.”

Among his top legislative achievements, Manzullo listed his work with manufacturing companies and the House’s manufacturing caucus – which he founded and served as co-chairman.

He boasted of helping to pass legislation that gave manufacturers a 9 percent tax deduction on any item manufactured in the United States.

“It’s my first love and where we spent most of our time,” Manzullo said of manufacturing issues.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, who represents the 14th District, referred to Manzullo as one of his mentors. The second-term Republican said he would miss working with Manzullo but was confident the 10-term former congressman, in his new job with KEIA, would continue to be an important resource for people in Washington.

“He will be a very important voice with all the opportunities that come with the growth in Asia,” Hultgren said.

Don Manzullo

U.S. House, 16th District: 1993-2013

Alma mater: American University, Marquette University Law School

Preceded by: John Cox

Succeeded by: Adam Kinzinger

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