The recent news that state Rep. Mike Halpin (D-Rock Island) received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from law firms and union groups has drawn the ire of the Rock Island County Republican Party.
Calling Halpin “32 percent Mike” for casting the deciding vote when the General Assembly raised the individual income tax rate to 32 percent earlier this year, Rock Island County Republican Central Committee Chairman Mike Steffen issued a release suggesting the contributions were quid pro quo.
“No wonder (Halpin) from the Quad Cities voted to give 67 percent of the state education budget to Chicago,” Steffen said in the release. “It’s payback time.”
Mike Steffen, Rock Island Republican Committee Chair | http://www.ricogop.org/uploads/2/1/9/4/21946890/editor/msteffen.jpg?1492805351
In the press release, Steffen listed a number of contributions from unions and law firms to Halpin’s re-election campaign, the largest of which was $53,400 by the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters PAC followed by the Illinois Laborers Legislative Committee with $44,400.
Other donations to Halpin included four gifts of $10,000 each from the law firms of Cooney and Conway, Corboy and Demetrio, Salvi Schostok and Pritchard, and Clifford Law Offices. Fred Eychaner and 1528 Partners each gave $5,600 and $1,270, respectively, the release stated. All but one of the donations occurred on Dec. 7. The Illinois Laborers contribution came on Dec. 14.
“I don’t think (Halpin) wanted to put that kind of pressure on himself with that vote, but if you don’t play ball with (House Speaker Michael) Madigan, he doesn’t send you money,” Steffen told Rock Island Today.
Madigan (D-Chicago) has drawn scorn from inside and outside his party. According to Capitol Fax, a newsletter published by former political columnist Rich Miller, a Paul Simon Public Policy Poll conducted in March showed that among fellow Democrats, Madigan held a 47 percent disapproval rating. Counting voters from both parties, the rating jumped to 61 percent.
After a 2013 report by the Chicago Sun-Times found Madigan’s firm helped corporate clients evade $57 million in local taxes, Sun-Times editorial writer Andy Shaw questioned the ethics of Madigan catching a windfall through appeals, since he has a hand in setting tax policy.
Steffen suggested cronyism could be at work in the property tax system: Madigan gets the assessors their jobs, they raise the tax bills and Madigan’s firm handles the appeals.
Steffen also took issue with Halpin’s part in the Democrat-controlled Legislature’s education spending plan from last summer. The budget, challenged by Gov. Bruce Rauner, sought to divert $215 million to prop up Chicago’s teacher pensions, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. Rauner vowed to redirect those dollars to school districts across the state.
“That’s just unbalanced,” Steffen said of the plan. “Our brick and mortar schools and government buildings in Rock Island need improvements, and there’s a movement to create smaller class sizes and raise teacher salaries, both of which would require more funding.”
Steffen closed the release by giving some advice to Madigan, whose daughter, Lisa, earlier this year announced she would not seek re-election as state attorney general.
“Halpin needs to lose his re-election bid so Madigan can forfeit his gavel,” Steffen wrote. “Follow Lisa’s example and retire, Mr. Speaker. Stay home and enjoy your grandchildren.”