Grand jury launches criminal probe of Illinois anti-crime program

The environment chosen by Barack Obama to launch his political life, the corrupt (and virtually bankrupt) State of Illinois has provided yet another head-shaker of an example of government gone wild. Natasha Korecki and Dave Mckinney of the Chicago Sun-Times report:

A criminal grand jury has launched a probe into Gov. Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program —  once likened to “a political slush fund” — delivering a major blow to the Democrat as he seeks re-election this fall.

On Tuesday, the Quinn administration turned over 1,000 documents pertaining to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative to the Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez following a subpoena from her office.

The request was issued to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity on March 19 and sought records tied to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative — including those for the Chicago Area Project, a program tied to the husband of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.

The Sun-Times previously reported that almost seven percent of the $2.1 million in funds given to the Chicago Area Project meant to combat crime in West Garfield Park went to Brown’s husband, Benton Cook III. (emphasis added) (snip)

The state’s Auditor General, William Holland, slammed the program in a February audit, saying Quinn’s administration didn’t “adequately monitor” how state grant dollars were spent or on whom; community organizations that hired people with those funds weren’t maintaining time sheets; and city aldermen dictated where funding was to be steered.

Political opponents likened the program to a “political slush fund.” The Quinn administration has said the program was set up in response to a violent summer over 2010 and later, in 2012, the governor supported legislation that moved oversight of the program from the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Jim Geraghty of National Review catches the key:

This is the detail that a previous Illinois governor might have called golden: “In his review, Holland further found that the state did not allow for a competitive, open application for the money and instead sought recommendations from Chicago aldermen as to what community organizations should get money in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative program.”

This program is is a slush fund, and such discretionary use of public funds to reward friends is characteristic of Illinois politics. Barack Obama learned this lesson early, and has applied it on a national level. The green energy initiatives like Solyndra, where favored companies that coincidentally belong to campaign donors are guaranteed a return to investors even when taxpayers are stuck with uncollectable liabilities in bankruptcy, are the product of this sort of system.

Recall that Barack Obama attempted a $30 billion slush fund exempted from Inspector General oversight, as Ed Lasky explained in 2010. Of course, Obama has publicly defined politics as a way to reward friends and punish enemies.

As Ed puts it, we have Crook County politics writ large today.

But there is one redeeming feature of this scandal. It is positioning the Republican candidate for Illinois governor, Bruce Rauner, for a win. As Gerraghty notes, "Only one poll has been conducted this month; it put Rauner up by 3."