Reboot Illinois? (Warning: A New Virus)
Groups like the Illinois Policy Institute, the Civic Federation, the Civic Committee for the Commercial Club of Chicago, and other corporatist assemblages have been loud and vocal supporters in the incessant battle to strip Illinois’ public unions of work-place guaranteed benefits like pensions.
Some use striking images like an Abe Lincoln with empty pockets to emphasize their fearful messages. Others provide mannequin-like beauties to answer questions with toothy smiles on evening programs like Chicago Tonight. Others use strong-arm tactics like listing the names of legislators to excoriate in double-page ads of supportive papers like the Chicago Tribune. And some quietly tiptoe in the back door.
November last year witnessed the launch of a brand new for-profit media concern called Reboot Illinois. Reboot Illinois is the brainchild of Anne Griffin, a woman hedge fund manager in a world comprised of men. Crain’s described Griffin’s pride in her “new baby,” but also her wish to remain just a “quiet investor.”
Crain’s also interviewed the first editor and political writer selected by Griffin to spearhead the project, Madeline Doubek, a former Daily Herald editor. “ We intend to be the home and hub for people to speak up and speak out and take back ownership of our government in Illinois,” she explained to Crain’s (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20121119/BLOGS03/121119797/anne-griffin-launches-reboot-illinois-today). Griffin specified through another spokesperson that Ms. Griffin had no intentions of operating the day-to-day operations, but will instead remain “a silent investor.” What Griffin envisioned is an “online media site dedicated to citizen journalism.” Sounds non-partisan enough, but….
A quick look at the media website under “About Us” begins to sound a tad shrill in its concerns and not so clear about its ideology – except for taking back government for the citizens. “We are paying more and getting less. Illinois raised taxes by 67% in 2011, making it one of the most taxed states in America. Yet, we have nothing to show for it. Pension costs are crowding out essential services for the state, especially for the neediest. And hardworking taxpayers simply can’t afford to pay more” (http://rebootillinois.com/about ).
I think I hear the teakettle steaming?
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And who actually is Anne Griffin?
Well, Ms. Griffin, who prefers to work in the background or shadows of her new campaign is something of a financial marketing wizard, the head of “Aragon Global management LLC, a multi-million dollar hedge fund that invests in communications, financial and consumer stocks…” (Crain’s). According to Open Secrets, she and her husband Kenneth, give nearly as much money to the National Republican Committee and local Republicans as the Koch brothers. In 2004, they spent nearly a quarter of million dollars in donations to the Grand Old Party (http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/topindivs.php).
In fact, her husband, Kenneth is himself a billionaire hedge fund manager, founder and chief executive of Citadel LLC. But they don’t just trail David and Charles Koch; they also provide them both with money to fund A.L.E.C. and the causes the Koch brothers support. They’ve given the Koch brothers over $1.5 million (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-06-02/business/ct-biz-0603-confidential-griffin-20120602_1_julian-robertson-digital-media-aragon-global-management ). You might imagine it’s not going to be used to support pensions – either in the private or public sector. Neither would I.
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On April 24th, Reboot Illinois is holding a “serious” discussion on pensions with the for-profit Daily Herald at the Wojcik Center at Harper's College from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. According to the organizers, response has been overwhelming, and the event had to be moved to Harpers College in Palatine, IL. There will be a rally outside the Wojcik Center from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. by Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice. The Daily Herald editor John Lampinen is “thrilled” to be working as partners with Reboot in developing this forum. I expect Lampinen will be the host and leader of questions. Certainly, it will not be Anne Griffin, who just works in the background.
But one does wonder what kind of questions might come from a group which spends so much time complaining about tax issues and so, so, so much money on the Koch brothers.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz who promotes the Civic Committee's desire to cut away at most benefits without regard for constitutional protection in her bills) will be there. Tea Party Representative Tom Morrison (who believes there just shouldn't be such a thing as pensions at all) will be there. I want to wish IEA President Cinda Klickna my best wishes as she wanders into this orchestrated forum. As Reboot says, “But our questions aren't the important ones. Yours are. Our role is to provide the setting and then get out of the way. We look to you to lead the discussion”
I imagine providing the setting means pitchforks and torches?