The challenger for the office of Illinois Attorney General says incumbent Lisa Madigan is too soft on public corruption, and a local Republican said Rock Island County has been a safe place for corruption to hide.
Paul Schimpf, a lawyer and retired Marine, said Friday at a news conference in Moline that he would "prioritize anti-corruption" if elected. During Madigan's 10-plus years in office, he said, corruption has increased in the state.
"In Illinois, corruption ignored is corruption enabled," he said, adding a mantra that appeared on the back of some T-shirts at the Rock Island County Republican Party headquarters: "Trust a retired Marine, not the Madigan machine."
In response, a spokeswoman for Madigan emailed a list of anti-corruption efforts, including the Madigan investigation that led to the criminal conviction of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Spokeswoman Natalie Bauer also pointed out that Madigan has pushed for stronger transparency laws, including the creation of the state's first Public Access Counselor.
At Friday's campaign stop, county Republican chairman Bill Bloom also took to the mic, saying Madigan failed to administer justice in the state's case against former Rock Island County State's Attorney Jeff Terronez and in the allegations against former County Clerk Dick Leibovitz.
While Schimpf declined to say how he would have handled the cases differently, Bloom said Terronez was "let off with a slap on the hand." The former prosecutor pleaded guilty to providing alcohol to a minor and admitted he lied to Illinois State Police about his relationship with a teenage sex-assault victim.
Bauer disagreed that Terronez's punishment was light, saying, "He was removed from office. The Attorney General demanded it. He also agreed to give up his pension and not run for public office again."
Leibovitz was a longtime county clerk who was being investigated on allegations he benefited personally from the use of federal funds.
"If there's anyone in this room who knows how that was resolved, I'd like you to raise your hand and explain it to the rest of us," Bloom said, referring to the Leibovitz case. "Many in this county feel justice was not served by the Attorney General's office."
But Bauer pointed out the Leibovitz case was a federal matter, which is outside the state Attorney General's authority.
Bloom said the "minority caucus" of the Rock Island County Board distrusts the county's Democratic majority to properly investigate possible corruption, including two ongoing whistle-blower cases that involve members of the board. It would be up to State's Attorney John McGehee, a Democrat, to refer the case to Madigan's office, Bauer said, and the office has not received a referral.
Schimpf said, as attorney general, he will keep party politics out of the office, adding the post should be free of party affiliation.
"Illinois government is not getting the job done — either party," he said, pointing out he was not recruited by Republicans to run for office. "I think there's Republican corruption as well. I think we need more out of the Attorney General's office."
Asked whether the Terronez case was mishandled by Madigan, Schimpf said, "I'm not familiar with the facts of all the cases that went on here."
If elected, he said, he would create a policy requiring that his office be notified within 24 hours of any allegations of wrongdoing by an Illinois public official.