The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees in Illinois’ 1st Congressional District a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their district, the state of Illinois and the country.
Independent candidate Thomas Rudbeck submitted the following answers to our questionnaire.
As a member of the U.S. House, what are or would be your top cause or causes?
Rudbeck: My top causes are insuring property rights for all citizens, passing an intelligent infrastructure plan and ending corporate welfare. We must defend the property rights of our citizens from overzealous property taxation (which can be as high as 30% of market value in Cook County) and civil asset forfeiture (in 2016 Federal, State and Local governments seized more property from citizens than all burglaries combined). An intelligent infrastructure plan will rebuild our bridges, remove lead water lines across the country, repair our roads and create an energy grid for the 21st century. This can end decades of disinvestment, prepare us for the future and mitigate future contributions to climate change. Ending corporate welfare is the key to fixing income inequality, repairing our damaged free market system and making our democracy work for the people.
Please list three highly specific needs of your district that you would make priorities.
Rudbeck: The top three needs of the First Congressional District are limiting property taxes, ending a failed drug war and getting capital to local businesses. I would introduce a bill to cap property taxes at 2% of market value for any homeowner occupied property and 4% of market value for all other property. I would legalize marijuana federally with low barriers to entry for growers and sellers which would: create local business owners and jobs, move us forward on criminal justice reform and fund our public schools via a 20% sales tax. I would use the Congressional seat as a bully pulpit to get large corporations to get in the business of providing grants and loans to local business owners, thus creating an economic ecosystem which can sustain itself. I would work to reduce regulations on lending, where necessary, to help with providing capital access to long time disenfranchised neighborhoods.
Who is Thomas Rudbeck?
His political/civic background:
- I am not a politician and have no background as an elected official. I was a volunteer for then State Senator Obama in 2004 working the 35th ward during the primary, was a deputy registrar in 2004 working to register voters, volunteered in Iowa for the 2008 Obama campaign and have donated to various campaigns.
- I am on the Board and Treasurer for the Hyde Park Kenwood Legends baseball league.
- I have spent the last 10 years working to incubate local businesses throughout the southside. Creating jobs and working for local ownership of our communities is key to our economic foundation and future. We need more citizens who are not lifelong politicians to engage in our political discourse and work on solutions to our shared problems.
His occupation: Real Estate Developer
- B.A. of Economics – University of Iowa
- J.D. DePaul University
His campaign website: thomasforfirst.com
His Twitter handle: @thomasforfirst
Bipartisanship is virtually non-existent in the House. What would you do about that?
Rudbeck: Introduce a bill based upon legislative goals upon which we can all agree. An omnibus bill dealing with infrastructure, property rights and capital access for small business would be my priority. As an independent I would work to find issues we can agree on and benefit the first district.
Are you convinced that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in support of the candidacy of Donald Trump? Please explain.
Rudbeck: Yes. The facts are overwhelming as evidenced by the recent indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee.
Do you support the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller? Please explain.
Rudbeck: Yes. The rule of law is fundamental to the foundation of our Republic. Checks and balances on power are the backbone of our democracy and prevent abuses too often seen in countries without strong institutions. The integrity of our Elections is sacrosanct and must be protected. Special counsel Mueller’s investigation is our front line to discover what happened and hopefully give a blueprint to prevent it from happening again.
If President Trump were to fire Mueller, directly or indirectly, what should Congress do?
Rudbeck: First, as a sitting congressman, I would work with the appropriate committee members to make sure that all work product from the investigation is protected. Congress should then commit to its own investigation to complete Mr. Mueller’s work.
If Trump were to pardon his former campaign aide Paul Manafort, what should Congress do?
Rudbeck: This would be an abuse of the President’s pardon power since it would be for his personal benefit. This action, along with other evidence, could warrant Congress voting on articles of Impeachment. However, I would not fight for impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives unless I was convinced that the Senate had two-thirds of its members prepared to convict. My concern is that by doing what is morally right, we would inadvertently cause greater damage to our democracy and politically aid in reelecting the current President.
Which three actions taken so far by the Trump administration do you most strongly support?
Which three actions taken by the Trump administration do you most strongly disagree with?
Removing the United States for the Paris Climate Agreement and the administrations use of the EPA to promote fossil fuel industry profits. Destroying the post WWII alliance of western democracies while applauding despots around the globe. The use of the President’s influence and power to vilify Americans and sow discord throughout our country.
The Trump administration has taken action to roll back Obama-era policies aimed at curbing climate change and limiting environmental pollution. The administration has done so in the name of supporting business growth and making the United States more energy self-sufficient. Most notably, the administration has begun to dismantle Obama’s federal rules over American coal plants, weakened automobile fuel-economy standards and ended American participation in the Paris climate agreement. What is your take on all this?
Rudbeck: This attack on science and our planet’s future must be stopped. Our economy’s future is solar, wind and geothermal; not coal and oil. Climate change is real and is the largest threat to our future security which we currently face. Lives are lost every year to air pollution and the aggregation of this pollution is the cause of climate change. This will cause pandemics, mass refugees and global unrest.
To what extent is climate change a man-made phenomenon? How serious is the threat to our children’s future? What should be done?
Rudbeck: Climate change is a man-made phenomenon. The scientific community is almost unanimous in its analysis of the data; carbon converted from coal and oil into our airstream is the cause. The threat of increasing powerful storms, flooding, pandemics, refugees and coastal destruction is the most serious threat to our children’s future. The solution is a commitment of resources to solving this crisis on an unprecedented level. This commitment would include, changing our energy supply from fossil fuels to renewables, building an intelligent infrastructure, and investing in engineers and scientists to find solutions we have yet to discover.
What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence?
Rudbeck: Creating good paying jobs for those with the least resources is fundamental to building an economic foundation upon which we can lower the poverty rates. Poverty and lack of opportunity is often a factor in gun violence. A combination of a nationwide red flag law allowing friends and family of people who may be unstable to go to court and have their rights to gun ownership temporarily suspended and requiring background checks for all gun purchases.
Is the media the “enemy of the people”? Please explain.
Rudbeck: No. A free press is fundamental to a functioning democracy. That is why it is the First Amendment to our Constitution.
As an editorial board, our core criticism of the tax overhaul legislation pushed through Congress last December is that it lowers taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans at a time of historic inequalities of wealth and income in the United States. We believe in free markets, but the ‘silent hand’ of the market does not seem to be rewarding merit fairly. What’s your position on last December’s rewrite of the tax code? Would you push for further changes, or for the law’s repeal?
Rudbeck: I did not support last years rewrite of the tax code. I would have advocated for lowering the corporate rate to 30% in exchange for simplifying the code and removing accounting tricks which allow large corporations to effectively pay no tax combined with a federal ban on corporate welfare.
Speaking of income inequality, top executives of America’s biggest companies saw their average annual pay surge to $18.9 million in 2017, even as the pay of ordinary workers has remained flat for a decade. What, if anything, should be done to address the growing gap in wealth and income?
Rudbeck: Raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour. Ban corporate welfare which siphons our tax dollars to already profitable companies. Invest in infrastructure, creating well paying jobs for millions of citizens.
Would it be appropriate at this time for President Trump to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the White House? Why so, or why not?
Rudbeck: No. Putin authorized an attack on our democracy which convinced many Americans to turn against each other.
How would you assess and grade the Trump administration’s efforts to recalibrate our nation’s relationships with Korea, NATO and Russia?
Rudbeck: The Presidents attack on the Post WWII order of liberal democracies is his largest foreign policy failure to date. We must support are allies and challenge those nations who do not promote human rights and the rule of law.
In late June, the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban on visitors and immigrants from seven countries, five of which have Muslim majorities. What is your view on this ban?
Rudbeck: I am against the travel ban as I do not believe it serves any legitimate public safety concern.
What three major reforms should be made to United States immigration policy?
Rudbeck: Dreamers should be given a pathway to citizenship. They are already Americans in every way except for a piece of paper. We should overhaul our immigration system to allow for more skilled and unskilled workers to legally enter the United States. We should create a system to allow those undocumented immigrants who have been in the country more than 10 years and have not been convicted of any violent crime a path to legal residency.
Do you support or oppose the family-based immigration policy sometimes called “chain migration”? Please explain.
Rudbeck: I support Chain migration with limits as to the number of family members.
What would you do, as a member of Congress, to improve race relations in the United States?
Rudbeck: This issue is incredibly important in our current political climate. In my lifetime I have never seen us so divided as Americans. We have more in common than social media would have us believe. I would work to end the drug war and unwarranted police interactions which disproportionately effects Americans of African descent. Find ways to for those communities which have been historically disenfranchised to have access to capital to purchase property and start businesses.
What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent?
Rudbeck: I would commit to serving no more than 3 terms in office for this Congressional Seat. I do not believe our democracy benefits from the same representation for over 25 years. I would commit to attending every session of Congress and being present to represent the First District’s interests every day. I would commit to never using political funds for personal use or using those funds to pay any family members. I would never use the power of appropriating federal dollars for any issue which I had a personal interest.
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.