On Sept. 18, Republican Erika Harold appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why she’s running for Illinois attorney general.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for Illinois attorney general a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Republican Erika Harold submitted the following answers to our questionnaire.
The Illinois attorney general has broad discretion in choosing the office’s priorities. What specific cause or causes would you pursue? Please avoid a generic topic or general category in your answer.
Harold: In addition to ensuring that the Office’s statutory responsibilities were being efficiently and effectively fulfilled in a nonpartisan manner, I would prioritize: (i) enhancing the Office’s efforts and investigative tools to combat public corruption; (ii) coordinating statewide efforts to address the opioid epidemic in Illinois; (iii) collaborating with the legislature to draft and enact workers’ compensation and criminal justice reform measures; and (iv) protecting Illinoisans from harassment, including peer-to-peer harassment in schools and sexual harassment within State government.
What would you do as attorney general to identify and combat public corruption at the state, county and local levels?
Harold: I will utilize the full measure of the Office’s current statutory authority to investigate allegations of public corruption. Furthermore, I will advocate for the expansion of the Office’s investigative tools, such as subpoena and grand jury powers, to enhance the Office’s ability to investigate allegations of public corruption. I also will advocate for expanded ethics rules to preclude conflicts of interest in the administration of public business. For example, in the same manner that legislators are restricted from representing individuals before the Workers’ Compensation Commission, legislators also should be restricted from representing individuals and entities in property tax appeals. Additionally, I will try to ensure that the Office of Public Access Counselor—which is tasked with providing advice regarding the interpretation and implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act—has sufficient resources and personnel. This would help empower citizens, media and watchdog groups to play their respective roles in monitoring governmental activities and make public officials more accountable to the public they are sworn to serve. Finally, I will use the Office’s bully pulpit to highlight the real costs government corruption imposes upon Illinoisans and advocate for a government that serves the people’s interests—not partisan or special interests.
Who is Erika Harold?
- Commissioner on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism
- Member of Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality
- Board of Directors of Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest outreach to inmates and their families
Occupation: Attorney at Meyer Capel, P.C. Education:
- Harvard Law School, J.D., June 2007Boykin C. Wright Memorial Award for appellate advocacy in the Ames Moot Court Competition
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, A.B. in Liberal Arts and Sciences, May 2001Phi Beta Kappa
- Chancellor’s Scholar
Campaign website: erikaharold.com Twitter: @ErikaHarold Recent news: Erika Harold
Why have the people of Illinois had to rely solely on federal prosecutors, with little or no contribution from the state attorney general’s office, to do the job of rooting out local public corruption? Or do you disagree with this assessment?
Harold: In some instances, Attorney General Madigan has chosen not to use the full measure of the Office’s existing powers to investigate allegations of public corruption—such as allegations of patronage hiring and improper awarding of government grants. In other instances, however, the Attorney General’s Office was not the Office best situated to investigate and prosecute certain public corruption cases because of lack of jurisdiction, resource limitations, and certain limitations on the Office’s ability to issue subpoenas and convene grand juries.
What is the responsibility of the attorney general’s office in supporting and enforcing federal laws and the policies of the Trump administration? Please be specific in identifying any laws or policies you believe should or should not be rigorously enforced.
Harold: There are certain federal statutes—including consumer protection and anti-trust laws—that specifically authorize a state’s attorney general to enforce them. If enforcing a federal law enables the Attorney General’s Office to address a specific problem in Illinois and better protect consumers and businesses, then the Office should not hesitate to do so. In other contexts, however, a state’s attorney general has no statutory jurisdiction to enforce federal law and therefore has no discretion or ability to do so.
The Attorney General’s Office has an obligation to take legal action against any federal law or policy which conflicts with either the U.S. Constitution or Illinois law in an area where the State has primary jurisdiction, and I would not hesitate to take appropriate action. For example, I would have taken legal action against the federal government for withholding law enforcement funds from Illinois communities in connection with the Trust Act, as no constitutional basis exists for the withholding of these funds. However, I would not initiate legal action against the federal government if no constitutional basis existed for doing so, as such actions reflect a partisanship that undermines the Office and its ability to operate effectively on behalf of all Illinoisans.
Attorney General Madigan joined an amicus brief in a federal suit opposing the Trump administration’s efforts to cut off federal public safety grants to “sanctuary” cities. Would you have done the same? Madigan also has called on Gov. Rauner to reject any request by the Trump administration to use local law enforcement officers as “immigration officials.” What would you have done?
Harold: No. The amicus brief does not seek the resolution of the legal questions that most directly impact whether funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant can be constitutionally withheld from the State of Illinois: (1) How Section 1373 of the U.S. Code should be interpreted; and (2) Whether SB 31 actually violates Section 1373. Given the Illinois Attorney General’s obligation to defend Illinois law and the fact that SB 31 expressly states that it should not be construed to “prohibit or restrict any entity from sending to, or receiving from, the United States Department of Homeland Security or other federal, State, or local government entity information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any individual under Section 1373,” the Illinois Attorney General should instead seek a judicial declaration that SB 31 complies with Section 1373 and that any interpretation of Section 1373 that would dictate otherwise is manifestly unreasonable and invalid.
SB 31 already addresses the extent to which local law enforcement officials are permitted to enforce federal immigration laws, and Governor Rauner signed SB 31 into law. Accordingly, it is unclear what purpose—if any—would be served by calling on the Governor to comply with a law he just signed.
What would you do to address the problem of gun violence? And if you say you would “take on” the NRA, how exactly would you do that?
Harold: My approach to addressing gun violence would be determined by the type of gun violence being addressed (i.e., violence within schools, gang-related violence, domestic violence, etc.), as it is essential to adopt policies and reforms that are driven by best practices specific to the particular type of violence being targeted. I would support: (1) the allocation of additional resources to law enforcement to enhance their community policing efforts; (2) the creation of additional after school programs and job opportunities for young people in communities affected by violence; (3) the allocation of additional resources to fund social workers who serve as violence interrupters in communities affected by violence; (4) the implementation of violence prevention programs within schools; (5) proper enforcement of Illinois laws pertaining to possession of guns by those who pose a “clear and present danger” and those who are the subject of protective orders; and (6) restrictions on bump stocks. Additionally, I will continue to review all options available to the Office of the Attorney General to help combat violence in Illinois.
Everybody running for this office promises to be an advocate for ordinary people. What, in concrete terms, does that mean?
Harold: It means: (i) ensuring that Illinois’ laws are fairly and uniformly enforced; (ii) using the Office’s statutory authority to protect victims of crime, fraud and abuse; (iii) working to protect the public from government corruption; and (iv) identifying specific issues (including cyberbullying, sexual harassment and consumer protection) where, given the Attorney General’s unique bully pulpit and authority, the Attorney General can advocate for Illinoisans as a group as opposed to forcing individuals to try to fend for themselves. As someone who has been the victim of harassment and understands the feeling of being powerless and marginalized, I would fight to make sure that the interests of every Illinoisan—regardless of position or background—were vigorously represented.
How in general would you follow or depart from the approach to the job taken by Lisa Madigan?
Harold: Attorney General Madigan has not used the full measure of the Office’s statutory power or bully pulpit to investigate or condemn allegations of public corruption—such as allegations of patronage hiring and improper awarding of government grants—and I would be more proactive in fully utilizing those powers. I would also work to build stronger relationships between the Attorney General’s Office and the State’s Attorneys, as those relationships are essential to better coordinating statewide efforts to address the opioid epidemic and handling cases where both offices have concurrent jurisdiction. Attorney General Madigan, however, has been a strong advocate in the consumer protection arena, and I would make sure that Illinois’ consumer protection laws were uniformly and fairly enforced.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.