Feds Investigating Quinn's Anti-Violence Program
By Ray Long and Rick Pearson
Federal authorities have requested information about Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's $55 million anti-violence initiative that has drawn fire for mismanagement and misspending.
The Illinois comptroller's office got a call from the U.S. Department of Justice on March 27 asking for documents related to Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, said Brad Hahn, a spokesman for Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.
"There was a request for information, which was provided," Hahn said Thursday.
Federal authorities asked for "copies of all contracts and all payments" of Quinn's anti-violence program, said one source familiar with the request. Another source said records were sought by federal authorities based in Springfield, not Chicago.
Asked to comment Thursday, Quinn's office issued a statement: "If there is an inquiry, we fully support it. We have zero tolerance for any mismanagement at any state agency."
The federal inquiry is the latest development centering on the anti-violence program the governor launched as he sought election during a tight campaign in 2010. Much of the money went to groups on the South Side and south suburbs, home to many Democratic voters. Earlier this week, it was revealed that Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office had subpoenaed records about the program from the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity and the state's auditor general.
In turn, Republican governor challenger Bruce Rauner has used the prosecutorial inquiries to attack Quinn as part of state government's "broken culture." On Thursday, Rauner issued a statement calling the federal inquiry a "sad event that the people of Illinois have seen too many times. The people deserve better than to have yet another governor under federal investigation."
Three of the previous five Illinois governors have ended up in prison, including Quinn's former running mate, Rod Blagojevich; his former Republican political foe, George Ryan; and his political mentor, Democrat Dan Walker.
The Quinn campaign issued a statement that did not directly address the federal inquiry but sought to promote his credentials as a reformer.
"While there is no doubt that Governor Quinn inherited an ethical crisis from two corrupt governors in a row, everyone knows he has been cleaning up state government since the day he arrived and when a problem comes to light he works to immediately get to the bottom of the issue, root out any problems whenever they should arise, and create new reforms and safeguards," the statement said.
Quinn defended the anti-violence program at an unrelated Capitol news conference on Wednesday, saying he worked to fix the problems pointed out in a scathing February audit unveiled by Auditor General William Holland. The report found the program was "hastily implemented," failed to target some of the highest-crime neighborhoods in Chicago and relied on recommendations from Chicago aldermen and community organizers rather than a more objective process to select which community groups should get funding. A state agency also failed to track how taxpayer dollars were spent, the audit concluded.
Quinn was not available to take reporters' questions Thursday, but in the afternoon his office sent out a news release touting the governor's support for statewide ban on so-called "puppy mill" sales at pet shops.
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