Christopher Kruger, Illinois House 17th District Green Party nominee profile
His top priorities include passing tougher debt-collection laws, passing the Green Jobs Act and making community college free.
Running for: State Representative-17th District
Political party affiliation:Green Party
Political/civic background: Anti-war, civil rights, labor activist. Prior to being an attorney Chris was a union activist and representative (UAW).
Education:Loyola University Chicago Bachelor of Business Administration, Summa Cum Laude 1995; Loyola University Chicago Master’s of Science in Industrial Relations, 1998; Chicago-Kent College of Law, 2004.
2020 Election Voting Guide
This article is part of our Illinois 2020 election voting guide. Click here to see more.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Christopher Kruger submitted the following responses:
The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the finances of Illinois. The state is staring at a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in this fiscal year. What should be done? Please be specific.
· I fully support Governor Pritzker’s “Fair Tax Initiative.” As a member of Illinois’ elite, the Governor himself knows that Illinois’ current flat income tax is unfair, regressive, and will never be able to meet our requirements for state government. In addition, I support the “LaSalle Street Tax,” which would consist of a $1.00 tax on trades at the two Chicago exchanges. Given that the average contract is approximately $200,000.00, that would amount to a tiny fraction of one percent on speculative trading.
What grade — “A” to “F” — would you give Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Please explain. What, if anything, should he have done differently?
· I give Governor Pritzker a “C” grade. This is because not only as a Governor, but as a member of Illinois’ economic elite, he too is culpable for decade’s long decline in our healthcare infrastructure, in our public health infrastructure, and in the diversion of public resources into private hands. I am encouraged to see that public resources like the Illinois National Guard and McCormick Place were utilized, but I would like to see the Governor use his executive powers to house the homeless and provide social services to at-risk populations, as well as the release of non-violent offenders from Illinois prisons and jails. I would probably give the Governor a higher grade, were it not for his persistence in ignoring the advice of medical experts and Illinois election authorities by holding the Illinois Primary on March 17th, for partisan political purposes.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, legislatures in some states have taken up the issue of police reform. Should Illinois do the same? If so, what would that look like?
· Illinois should adopt an elected Civil Police Accountability Model (“CPAC”) which would allow localities to elect their own representatives. There should be a state-wide database of all police misconduct charges and their disposition available on demand, without the necessity of filing requests under FOIA. As an attorney, I am aware that ultimately the Judicial Branch defines the contours of Qualified Immunity. Law enforcement, like all public officials, is charged with knowing the law and when they break the law they should be held to the same standard as any other citizen. I would discontinue the acquisition of military weaponry and armor (also referred to as de-militarizing law enforcement), shifting to a community-policing model, and transforming police forces into public safety agencies providing a conduit to social services, especially in at-risk communities.
Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
· I believe this topic needs more study utilizing data from jurisdictions that have implemented body-cam requirements. In fact, body-cams constitute more surveillance on citizens. Additionally, I am inclined to believe that the light sentences doled out to police by Illinois criminal courts is more a causation of police misconduct rather than the lack of such surveillance. As an example, recall that extensive camera footage including dash-cams and other cameras did not prevent the Laquan McDonald shooting.
Federal prosecutors have revealed a comprehensive scheme of bribery, ghost jobs and favoritism in subcontracting by ComEd to influence the actions of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Who’s to blame? What ethics reforms should follow? Should Madigan resign?
· I support the ethics reforms proposed on the federal level by Senator Elizabeth Warren. However, it must be born in mind that there is no quick-fix to the twin dilemmas of the two-party system and of donor financing of political campaigns. Only the voters can change the two-party system by rejecting the corrupt establishment parties and by voting for candidates who refuse to accept donations from PACs, Corporations, or Lobbyists, like myself. It is only the voters who can solve this problem. It is true that change happens from the bottom up, which is why I am asking for your vote. As to the question of whether the Speaker should resign, it misses the point. As quickly as the Speaker resigns he will be replaced by another figure susceptible to the same terms and conditions of the corrupt two-party, donor-based, electoral and legislative system.
Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community.
· I have supported progressive Democrats, pretty much to my dismay. I have found good people, for example State Senator Daniel Biss, stymied by the machine politics within the Democratic Party. My memberships include the Jewish Voice for Peace and the Poor People’s Campaign. My law practice includes Labor and Consumer advocacy. My entire career as an attorney has been spent advocating for ordinary citizens and their interests against powerful corporations, financial entities, and governments. I am currently suing Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s former firm’s successor under the Federal False Claims Act for submitting fraudulent mortgage insurance claims and defrauding the American tax-payer (U.S. ex rel. Peck v C.I.T.).
Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
· We should anticipate an avalanche of eviction, foreclosure, and commercial defaults that are coming as a result of the Covid-19 disaster. One solution is to protect consumers by passing tougher debt-collection laws, such as the California Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“Rosenthal Act”). We should amend the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law (“IMFL”) to give homeowners more time to reinstate or redeem their mortgage loans and thus more leverage in negotiating with lenders.
· We should make every community college in the state of Illinois free immediately and move toward debt-free public education up through the Baccalaureate level, including trade and vocational schools.
· Immediately, we should have a prescription drug program to cover all otherwise uninsured Illinoisans to make sure that no Illinoisan goes without prescription medication.
· We should pass the Illinois Green Jobs Act, ban fracking, and stop the Dakota Access Pipe Line. These are examples of legislation that only a donor-free candidate can propose and fight for.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
· See answer to question 1; I would consider raising the amount of exempted income.
Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education?
· In order to reverse the exodus of middle-class families from Illinois we need a well-educated work force. A well-educated workforce will stimulate employment, development, an entrepreneurship. Studies of the G.I. Bill show that every $1.00 of public investment yielded a return of $6.00 of revenue. All of this of course hinges on passing the Fair Tax Initiative and LaSalle Street taxes.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
· Yes, I believe in progressive taxation to replace the unprecedented upward transfer of wealth of the last forty years which needs to be reversed.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
· We need to attract people to the teaching profession in under-resourced areas. One way to do that is by providing free four-year public college now to those entering the teaching profession.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
· Gun violence is a symptom of economic insecurity and in many cases mental illness. The answer is access to mental health services, in addition the state should be able to restrict gun ownership to persons along similar criteria as involuntary commitment of individuals. Obviously I support the movement toward common sense actions, including universal background checks and closing of the gun show loophole. Overall, I view gun violence as more a symptom of underlying despair and inequality. I am comfortable with the current Supreme Court jurisprudence on the right to bear arms, including the right of conceal carry.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
· I am opposed to term limits.
Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done?
· The Supreme Court recognizes only overt, racial gerrymandering as unconstitutional and I agree with that position. The brouhaha around gerrymandering is “loser-talk” and a distraction from the real problem: the two-party system itself. Again, only a courageous, informed, and engaged electorate can free us from the mess created by the two establishment parties.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done?
· While I fully support the most stringent ethics reforms, including Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed federal legislation, it is hard to see how any ethics reform can stop the powerful from exerting undue influence over elected officials, unless and until the electorate has a viable, donor free, non-corporate choice, as they have this election cycle in the 17th State Representative District. Please note my candidacy is already reformed because I refuse to accept donations from PACs, corporations, or lobbyists.
When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything?
· The Legislature should outlaw bulk data collection and toughen laws like the Illinois Telephone Consumer Protection Act and ban arbitration agreements that shut the courthouse door to Illinoisans victimized by “surveillance capitalism.”
The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students?
· See above.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
· The Illinois Green Jobs Act.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
· Two individuals come to mind. Carl Sandburg, who wrote the poem “Chicago,” and journalist Louis “Studs” Terkel, who wrote the book “Working.” These works portrayed the heroism of ordinary, working Illinoisans and so we honor them for their populist legacy.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
· Democracy Now with Amy Goodman.