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Quinn Goes on the Defensive in Wake of Investigation

Updated: Monday, May 5 2014, 10:33 AM CDT
Gov. Pat Quinn is battling public perception in the wake of news that a
2010 anti-violence program he started is under investigation by two
agencies.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office and the U.S.
Department of Justice are both looking into the Neighborhood Recovery
Initiative, which an auditor described as having "pervasive
mismanagement." This news, combined with a recent lawsuit on patronage
hiring at the Department of Transportation, has put the governor on the
defensive.

"We ended that particular program and moved in a
different direction," Quinn told reporters Wednesday, in what has become
his go-to response. He told Chicago area TV stations the same thing in a
media blitz on Friday.

Quinn has good reason to try to get ahead of the story.

"It
really gets at Gov. Quinn's brand in terms of being about honesty and
ethics," said UIS Political Science Prof. Kent Redfield.

That's a big problem, especially when his opponent, Bruce Rauner prefers to play the Springfield outsider card.

"I'm
not a politician," he told a group of business leaders on Wednesday.
"I'm financially independent. I can't be bribed, intimidated,
influenced."

Speaking with Newschannel 20 at that same event --
the day after news broke about the state's attorney investigation, and
the day before it broke about the D.O.J. -- Rauner was happy to hammer
on his opponent.

"It's pretty clear it's coming out now with
these investigations, he uses patronage, cronyism and corruption in his
government and we've got to get it out," Rauner said.

And the
next morning, hours before the news about the federal investigation
broke, Rauner launched "The Pat Quinn Corruption Hotline."

It is
possible Rauner could overreach in an effort to keep the spotlight on
Quinn. The smarter move may just to be to let it play out now that the
news is out there.

"And if it starts to look like a pattern, and
you can kind of exploit it as a pattern, then that puts the governor on
the defensive," Redfield explained.

Quinn has spent some time
trying to fight the fires on this story, but it's hard to spin what you
don't control. The lawsuit into patronage hiring will move at legal
speed, and the investigations could result in nothing or some very
poorly timed indictments.

"All of a sudden you can have some indictments that come down in October, right in the middle of the campaign," Redfield said.

This
isn't necessarily a death sentence for Quinn's re-election hopes. Rod
Blagojevich won his 2006 campaign for governor despite being under
federal investigation. The difference though, was his opponent, Judy
Baar Topinka didn't have the money that Bruce Rauner does to exploit the
issue.

Quinn's office has said it welcomes any investigations of
wrong doing. His office is launching an internal review after a
published report that a worker hired to oversee millions of dollars in
the governor's anti-violence program had a prior conviction for a
financial crimeQuinn Goes on the Defensive in Wake of Investigation


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