Valencia, Giannoulias exchange barbs in the candidates’ forum.

When the three Democratic candidates for Illinois secretary of state met Thursday for a forum in Chicago’s Loop, the moderator made it clear that the event was not intended as a debate.

The candidates, former State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and Chicago Councilmember. David Moore, 17, were invited to the Union League Club to answer questions about his vision for the office. The three proposed modernization ideas ranging from creating digital driver’s licenses to creating digital license plates.

But when the question turned to ethics, Giannoulias and Valencia returned to trading barbs as they have throughout the campaign.

Valencia raised questions about Giannoulias’ time as a loan officer for his family’s bank, which was found to have lent money to suspected organized crime figures. Giannoulias accused Valencia of allowing her husband’s lobbying practice to intrude on her role as city clerk.

Those issues have dominated the race and once again overshadowed explanations about how the candidates plan to fill the job if they are chosen to replace retiring Secretary of State Jesse White.

“I think that’s why people are sick and tired of politics,” Giannoulias said at one point. “You ask them a question about ethics and what they are going to do in the office and they feel the need to change the conversation. I think that’s horrible.”

The moderator, WBBM-AM 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore, asked the candidates about the ethical issues and how they plan to bring more transparency to the office and ensure it remains free of corruption.

“I support making sure we have integrity, accessibility and transparency about government,” Valencia said in part of her response before adding that Giannoulias was defaming her with “false” statements.

He criticized his tenure as state treasurer from 2007 to 2011, when a college savings program overseen by his office lost millions of dollars and “hurt working families like the one I grew up in.”

Giannoulias responded by raising allegations of collusion between Valencia and her husband’s lobbying practice, Reyahd Kazmi.

Kazmi was copied in emails from the city clerk’s office that have been obtained by the Tribune and other media outlets, raising questions about potential conflict.

The secretary of state’s office is tasked with regulating state government lobbyists like Kazmi, who is also a registered Chicago government lobbyist. If she is elected, Valencia has said her husband would no longer be allowed to lobby the secretary of state’s office.

“She has used her office as a culture of corruption to enrich her husband and his lobbying career,” Giannoulias said. “She’s currently married to a lobbyist in the city of Chicago, where she works, but she still says if they pick her, don’t worry about her, he won’t.”

Part of Valencia’s ethics plan includes a promise to make public the tax returns she and her husband file each year.

Giannoulias said that “spouses should be prohibited from pressuring someone in their home.”

After the forum, reporters questioned Valencia about possible conflicts with her husband’s business.

“My husband and I have separate careers,” she said. “And I’m not the first woman running for office who has to say my husband doesn’t speak for me.”

Valencia was asked about allegations that New Orleans officials last year rigged a telecommunications contract to favor a group of companies that included one connected to Kazmi.

An email obtained by the Tribune suggests that Kazmi’s business partner introduced Valencia to New Orleans officials at the time they were considering bidders for the telecommunications contract.

While she acknowledged being in contact with city officials, she said they contacted her to ask about her CityKey program, which is designed to help immigrants or undocumented Chicagoans use a unique identification such as a library card and credit card. traffic, among others. stuff.

“I have nothing to do with my husband’s business. Period. I am my own independent person,” Valencia said in response to that topic.

Moore largely stayed out of the disputes during the forum, at one point saying he was the “only one who hasn’t had any ethics issues.”

But last year, just days after Moore announced his candidacy for secretary of state, the Chicago Board of Ethics reprimanded him for using his ward’s Facebook page to campaign for the job. Facing a fine, Moore said at the time that he took corrective action.

But on Thursday, Moore said he was only using his personal Facebook page, which included a visible emblem of the city of Chicago, and that he does not have “an official government-related page that the government paid for with taxpayer money. ”

jgorner@chicagotribune.com

Leave a Comment