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Bernard Schoenburg

STATEHOUSE SPOTLIGHT: Democrat Day to bring Jesse White disclosure

But big event will be at hotel, not State Fair

But big event will be at hotel, not State Fair

Secretary of State Jesse White told reporters in Chicago last week that he intends to announce his 2018 electoral plans at the State Fair Democrat Day brunch put on by the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen's Association.

This did not go unnoticed by the Republican Party of Illinois, which linked him with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who chairs the Democratic Party of Illinois and is the favorite target of the GOP and its key contributor, Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"Longtime Madigan patronage boss Jesse White should adhere to his many previous retirement pledges and bow out of politics," said GOP spokesman Aaron DeGroot.

"If he decides to run, the Illinois Republican Party is committed to defeating White and electing a secretary of state who works for the people, not a corrupt political machine."

"Jesse White works only for the people of Illinois, and his work on their behalf has been recognized by his overwhelming vote totals and landslide victories," said White spokesman David Druker. "If Jesse White chooses to run for re-election, he will do so on his record and with the people of Illinois as his top priority."

"I think DeGroot and the rest of them ought to learn how to pronounce the word Trump, and then focus some energy on all the destruction" that President Donald Trump is "inflicting on Illinois," said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown.

White, 83, has been secretary of state since 1999. At the 2015 state fair, he said his current term was his "last tour of duty."

The almost-sold-out, $40-per-person Democrat Day brunch at the Crowne Plaza on Aug. 17 will feature speeches from top Illinois Democratic officeholders and candidates, and the guest speaker will be U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.

The brunch has been a major event for years, but the follow-up rally at the fairgrounds has been canceled this year. Brown said the party wants the focus to be the brunch, which he called a better venue for candidates for governor and other offices to speak.

"We'll have free tickets for the people who want to take their families out to the fair afterwards," Brown said.

I wouldn't look for the GOP to cancel its Aug. 16 Governor's Day rally at the fair. Rauner has seemed to enjoy riding up to the entrance of the fair's Director's Lawn – where the rallies have generally been held – on his motorcycle.

Fight over 'false'

The Better Government Association is the new Illinois partner with a national fact-checking organization, Florida-based PolitiFact.

"We're thrilled to be PolitiFact's exclusive Illinois partner because there's never been a time when voters and citizens across Illinois needed more reliable vetting of what public officials and candidates say and claim," said Andy Shaw, BGA's president and CEO.

Last week, PolitiFact Illinois evaluated a Rauner statement that the school funding bill, on which he used his amendatory veto, "includes a bailout of Chicago's broken teacher pension system."

The organization found the claim "false," saying in part: "The bill's Chicago pension component can't be called a 'bailout' or even a perk because it only gives CPS [Chicago Public Schools] what every other school district already has."

Rauner was not impressed with the finding, telling reporters it is "false spin."

"This is a diversion of money from all the schools around the state to one district," Rauner said of the bill just after signing the veto. He said his rewrite – which he hopes lawmakers will approve – would create "economic benefit for every child in the state."

Springfield resident Matt Dietrich wrote the PolitiFact analysis. Now with the BGA, he was with Reboot Illinois – the former PolitiFact partner in the state – and is a former editorial page editor of The State Journal-Register.

Shaw said Rauner was "a generous supporter of our watchdog work before he announced his intent to run for governor, at which point it was clearly understood that our financial relationship was over because we don't take donations from candidates, campaigns, PACs, public political organizations or government officials."

He said current and former donors don't get special treatment in BGA "watchdog work."

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