Gov. Pat Quinn and his Democratic allies in Springfield unleashed a multi-pronged, precision strike Thursday against Republican Bruce Rauner and his immense wealth, but at least some of their messaging got tripped up in a way sure to elicit a ‘D’oh!’ from Homer Simpson.
Taking a page out of President Obama’s playbook, Quinn visited a Gap clothing store in the Loop, where he spent $77 on three new sweaters, renewed his call for an increase in the state’s $8.25-an-hour minimum wage and pounded Rauner for, at one time, calling for a rollback in how much employers must pay their lowest-earning workers.
“The very idea that that kind of a person, with nine mansions, as well as all this money that he has, would then call upon taking away money from minimum-wage workers by cutting their minimum wage, well that’s not right,” Quinn said, referring to Rauner. “Everybody knows that’s not right. That really is heartless, and I think everybody in Illinois knows that.”
At the Statehouse, legislation that would do just that advanced Thursday afternoon out of committee to the Senate floor, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, separately proposed a constitutional amendment for the fall ballot that would impose a new 3 percent income tax on millionaires.
All of the well-scripted choreography had one purpose: To put the uber-wealthy Republican candidate for governor in a strategic trickbag and show he is insensitive to the plight of Illinois’ low-income workers.
To drive home the point, Quinn’s campaign Thursday afternoon released an online video comparing Rauner to the evil, miserly “Mr. Burns” character on “The Simpsons” in an ad designed to show “both men’s affinity for bragging about their millions.”
But that’s where the day’s big messaging point hit a snag.
Within an hour Thursday afternoon of the Chicago Sun-Times inquiring with Fox Broadcasting whether Quinn’s campaign had sought permission to use the image and voice of “Mr. Burns,” the link to the online ad went dark, replaced by this statement: “This video contains content from Fox, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”
A Fox spokesman told the Sun-Times by email that the company does not allow campaigns, like Quinn’s, to use characters, voices or footage from the long-running animated series, even though the online world legally remains the Wild West when it comes to copyright protection.
“Fox doesn’t authorize use of Simpsons imagery in any political campaign,” Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said.
Rauner’s campaign pounced on the Quinn campaign snafu.
“Looks like Pat Quinn is running his campaign as poorly as he’s running the state,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf told the Sun-Times. “At least this mistake didn’t cost taxpayers money.”
Thursday wasn’t the first time Quinn had made use of the Mr. Burns character in his political messaging.
In a January email to his campaign supporters, Quinn said Rauner and his three Republican primary opponents at the time “have all the compassion of C. Montgomery Burns” because none supported raising the minimum wage.
Quinn’s campaign Thursday had a colorful response to its Simpsons ad going dark.
“Looks like Fox took it down,” campaign spokeswoman Izabela Miltko said in a statement. “Rauner must have called Mr. Burns and complained.”
The campaign released a YouTube link to a Simpsons episode in which the character endorses the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
“Funny,” Miltko continued, “looks like Burns was OK with endorsing Mitt Romney?”
Meanwhile, Madigan’s plan to impose a 3 percent surcharge on millionaires was spun by the speaker as a way to raise as much as $1 billion for Illinois’ cash-strapped public schools.
“This plan brings long overdue fairness to the state tax structure and provides a needed boost to education funding to help give our children more of the resources they need to succeed,” Madigan said in a prepared statement.
“Some districts may see a need to use these resources for capital construction, while others will want to offer local property tax relief. Illinois is not a one-size-fits-all state and this increase on millionaires recognizes the need for school districts to set their own priorities when spending state dollars,” the speaker said.
Republican lawmakers immediately resisted the idea.
“The race for governor has started and today made its way into the Illinois House,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said in a prepared statement. “Why wasn’t this proposal introduced last month or last week? The timing is obvious. Families and business are fleeing the state. This proposal will only perpetuate this human tragedy.”
Across the Capitol, a Senate panel voted 10-5 to move a minimum-wage increase to the Senate floor.
The legislation sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, would raise the state’s $8.25-an-hour minimum wage to $10.65 an hour by 2016, which would stand as the highest in the nation if no other states took action then.
But Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the bill was not about campaigning for Quinn’s re-election.
“It’s to make sure the minimum wage is not the equivalent of being in poverty,” he said. “It’s about people making more money.”