Kwame Raoul: Illinois Attorney General answers Tribune Editorial Board questionnaire

To inform voters and to help the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board make endorsements, the board posed a series of questions to the candidates running for governor. See their answers below. See how other candidates answered here.

  • Candidate name: Kwame Raoul
  • Running for: Attorney General
  • Residence: Chicago
  • Current occupation: Attorney General
  • Previous political experience (elective and appointed positions): Illinois state senator
  • Education: DePaul University, Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Spouse’s occupation: Anesthesiologist
  • Sources of outside income: None

[A guide to the Illinois primary election, including the key dates, where to vote — and the highest-profile issues]

[Editorial: Tribune announces endorsement in GOP governor primary]

As the Michael Madigan indictment illustrates, corruption remains one of this state’s most pressing, entrenched problems. What should the Illinois attorney general’s role be in rooting out corruption?

By law, the Attorney General’s office has limited primary criminal jurisdiction, with most of that authority provided under the Statewide Grand Jury Act. The role of Attorney General is one of a collaborative partner. I strategically hired former federal and local law enforcement to better equip my office to fight corruption as well as crime and to better leverage our partnerships with law enforcement partners at the federal and local levels. Since I became Attorney General, we have charged 24 Public Integrity cases, and we currently have 11 investigations ongoing.

If elected, what anti-corruption initiatives would you undertake? What would be your approach toward the problem?

My office’s Inspector General and the chief of my Public Integrity Unit served on the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform. Our recommendations to the commission included expanding our primary criminal jurisdiction under the Statewide Grand Jury Act and reforming the role of the Legislative Inspector General to broaden that office’s power, among other recommendations. Part of our approach going forward will be to continue to work to expand our primary criminal jurisdiction. In addition, I hired as my chief of investigations someone experienced in working with the FBI on major corruption cases, which has enhanced our ability to work collaboratively with federal law enforcement on corruption cases and provide training to staff to tackle these cases. I also hired as my chief of staff a former federal prosecutor with experience prosecuting public corruption.

The Illinois attorney general’s office has an important role in ensuring the Chicago Police Department’s compliance with the court-mandated consent decree. What is your assessment for how well CPD and the city of Chicago have complied with the consent decree, particularly the ongoing set of deadlines they must meet to achieve implementation and compliance?

Implementation of the consent decree is a complex process that we need to be careful to not reduce to a box-checking exercise. I have shared that philosophy with the court, the independent monitor, and the city of Chicago. While I appreciate the challenges the Chicago Police Department has faced through multiple leadership changes and a global pandemic, we have made sure to hold the city accountable to improve compliance. We have embraced the approach of working collaboratively, where possible, in the interest of constitutional policing. CPD has improved their compliance with the consent decree; however, we remain concerned about the recent firing of the executive director of CPD’s Bureau of Constitutional Policing, who worked to improve consent decree compliance and embraced the collaborative approach toward reform. One critical area of the consent decree that needs attention is officer training.

So far, CPD’s history with consent decree compliance has been marred by a consistent pattern of missed deadlines. What would you do to improve the speed with which CPD and the city complies with the consent decree?

It’s important to continue to advocate for CPD to be adequately staffed with leadership who embraces reform and for adequate training to be provided to staff that is focused on consent decree compliance.

Rising violent crime continues to be Chicago’s top priority. Is there a role that the attorney general’s office should play in the fight against violent crime—in Chicago and elsewhere in the metro region and state?

I began my career as criminal prosecutor and as Attorney General, I have worked collaboratively in a bipartisan manner with prosecutors and police chiefs across Illinois to prosecute violent crimes and gun traffickers, including 50 murder cases since 2019. Gun violence is an issue at the root of violent crime, and I have focused on reducing the availability of guns to prevent gun violence. I launched the most extensive statewide crime gun tracing platform in the country in partnership with Everytown and the Illinois State Police, and I have worked in partnership with the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center to conduct trainings to better prevent mass shootings in schools, places of worship and other public places. I have successfully sued to revoke the license of a rogue gun maker that produced cheap guns criminals use in car-jackings and other crimes. Additionally, as a former prosecutor in juvenile court, I learned that untreated trauma begets further violence. As Attorney General, I have enhanced our ability to get resources to survivors of violence to help prevent survivors from evolving into perpetrators. In partnership with the Illinois State Police, I also asked the General Assembly for more jurisdiction to prosecute crimes on Illinois roadways.

At least 19 states have passed laws restricting access to voting. Many other states have introduced similar legislation. Do you believe such laws help or hinder the electoral process? Please explain your answer.

In Illinois, we have embraced laws that encourage voter participation while many other states have passed laws that limit access to voting. Ultimately, our democracy is stronger with greater participation by citizens. I have joined with my attorneys general colleagues to oppose discriminatory efforts to limit voting rights and access to the ballot box. Most recently I joined two separate coalitions of attorneys general opposing discriminatory efforts to limit voting rights and access. I filed legal briefs supporting a challenge to a North Carolina law that restricts the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people and contesting a Florida election law that would make it more difficult for millions of Floridians to vote.

Do you believe there was fraud committed in the 2020 presidential election, and do you believe the results of that election should have been overturned? Please explain your answer.

No. Multiple investigations and failed lawsuits alleging voter fraud in states where there have been underlying theories of fraud have been debunked. Election deniers are causing great harm to our nation. As Attorney General, I have collaborated with States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections, to safeguard our democracy. This work includes protecting our elections, holding democracy violators accountable, preventing political violence, and promoting truth in elections.

Give us the best example of when you displayed independence from your party or staked out an unpopular position.

During my tenure as Attorney General, as part of my Organize Retail Crime Task Force, I sought to get primary criminal jurisdiction to prosecute organized retail crimes and tougher penalties for those who commit these brazen acts. I met resistance from many legislators in my party. I personally worked to gain sufficient support by traveling to the Capitol and staying up to the wee hours to gather support for the new law that allows my office and our law enforcement partners to better crack down on these crimes.

Sum up why should voters elect you and not your opponent. (Please limit this to policy and approach, not a biography recitation.)

Serving as Attorney General and chief legal officer of the state gives one a great deal of responsibility and power, which in the wrong hands can be abused. My opponent has demonstrated time and again that he is overly litigious, and he will use the court’s resources on frivolous lawsuits. He has even threatened to use the power of the Attorney General’s office to investigate Republicans who did not congratulate him on his primary victory. He’s also never prosecuted a criminal case in his entire career. My approach has been to work collaboratively without regard to party, including with DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin, Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser and Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley to tackle the opioid crisis and prosecute organized retail crimes and other criminal matters. I have a history of serving as a prosecutor and responsibly managing the Attorney General’s office through challenging times, including a pandemic and cyber-attack.

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October 10, 2022 at 02:54PM

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