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Watch out for those wild cards

With the race for governor tightening and the November election coming closer, any potential wild card is a source of worry.

What Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign has to concern itself with are legislative hearings set for Wednesday and Thursday looking into his now-defunct, debunked Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. Not only are the feds closely looking at how $54.5 million dollars in violence prevention money was spent or misspent but state lawmakers — especially Republicans — see the hearings as a perfect way to depict Quinn as a “Machine politician.”

It is a mantra of GOP candidate Bruce Rauner’s campaign, one that former state Republican chairman Pat Brady echoed on Friday. “Quinn likes to portray himself as a reformer but he isn’t,” said Brady by phone. “The NRI was a big fat slush fund of get-out-the-vote money that he didn’t shut down right away.”

The Quinn camp aggressively disputes that and insists that once the egregious fatal flaws of the program were laid bare by Illinois Auditor General William Holland, quick action was taken by the governor who, until that point, had no knowledge of any impropriety in the distribution of violence prevention grants.

Dick Simpson, former independent Chicago alderman and professor of political science, argues, “First, Pat Quinn is mostly a reformer. Secondly, there’s never been any allegation he’s taken a quid pro quo or a bribe of some sort. In NRI, it appears there has been money misspent but no credible evidence of Quinn’s direct connection to it.”

The wild cards will come in the form of testimony next week by former key players involved in the NRI.

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