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Illinois Attorney General Libertarian nominee: Bubba Harsy

On Sept. 18, Libertarian Bubba Harsy appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why he’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. Libertarian nominee Bubba Harsy 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. 

Harsy: There are many causes worthy of pursuit in Illinois, but I would focus on three areas. The first of which would be to take on government corruption and start holding bad acting government officials and employees accountable for their actions. Building on this, I would also seek to hold anyone helping cover up the crimes of government officials or government employees accountable as accessories to the crimes they helped cover up. The only way to restore the people’s faith back in our government is for the people to see bad acting government officials and employees held accountable for their actions.

Another primary focus of mine would be to reduce health care costs. Currently there are laws on the books that prevent Illinois residents from purchasing health insurance across state lines. This has created a monopoly in the health insurance industry for Illinoisans; as a result, we have seen our healthcare costs skyrocket. By giving the people the options to purchase healthcare across state lines and return healthcare to a consumer driven market, we will see the costs of healthcare dramatically reduced.

The last major cause I would like to take on would be to nullify unconstitutional special privileges pursuant to Article I, section 16 of the Illinois constitution. It states in part that the government is not allowed to give out irrevocable grants of special privileges. According to the Taxpayer Education Foundation, for every dollar that a state government retiree has deposited in the statewide pension fund, taxpayers have been forced to deposit $4.50. There is nowhere in the world where a private sector business will match retirement deposits made by their employees by 450% of what their employee places into their retirement. It is not mathematically practical or sustainable from a business perspective to have a retirement match like this and because a system like this is not found anywhere else in the world, it is a special privilege for past government affiliation. It is unfortunate that our elected officials lied to government employees and overpromised pension payouts, but these overpromised payouts in reality are unconstitutional special privileges and are not just merely overpromised.

The highest paid government-retiree made $598,000 last year, but has only paid in $768,000 into their retirement system. When you calculate in this individual’s 3% yearly raise, they are expected to draw out more than $21 million throughout the lifetime of their pension. These outlandish payments are backed by taxpayers, and even if the stock market crashed tomorrow, Illinois taxpayers would still be on the hook for this pension and many others that are just as outlandish. Making matters worse, this is just on the statewide level.

When you look at pensions on the local level, they are just as bad. Harvey, Illinois was forced to lay off 25% of their police force, as well as 40% of their fire department in order to continue to make pension payments to retirees. Peoria, Illinois just recently laid offer over 20 government employees in order to continue making payments to their government retirees, and Galesburg, Illinois has recently announced that 67% of the income they receive for property taxes goes to paying the pensions of government retirees and this percent is expected to increase again the following year. Where the government is laying off current employees and shifting property tax funding to pay current retirees, the writing is on the wall that the pensions handed out are not legitimate pensions and are special privilege payments for past government affiliation.

Once these illegitimate special privileges are nullified, I would encourage local bodies of government, as well as legislators to provide these government retirees with some sort of legitimized pension so retirees are not left high and dry. That being said, anyone retired making more than twice the Illinois governor’s salary would see their pensions cut in half. Furthermore, I do not believe General Assembly members, as part-time and poorly performing elected officials, are deserving of pensions, and therefore I would like to see their pensions nullified, and not replaced.

From left, Illinois Attorney General nominees Bubba Harsy (L), Erika Harold (R) and Kwame Raoul (D) at a Sun-Times Editorial Board forum Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Who is Bubba Harsy?

He is running for: Illinois Attorney General

His political/civic background in his own words:  I have time working in the Maryland State Senate, United States Department of Education, and the United States Senate. I also provide pro bono legal services for individuals in need.

His occupation: Attorney

His education: 

  • Bachelor’s Degrees in Philsophy and Political Science from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
  • Juris Doctor degree from American University, Washington College of Law

Campaign website: bubbaharsyforillinois.com

Recent news: Bubba Harsy 

What would you do as attorney general to identify and combat public corruption at the state, county and local levels? 

Harsy: One of the first things I would like to do as attorney general would be to set up an Anti-Public Corruption Division within the attorney general’s office that would allow the people of Illinois, as well as government employees, safe avenues to report government corruption, as well as other crimes committed by government employees that were not properly investigated.

In an effort to expand the attorney general’s role in prosecuting public corruption, I would look to the language found in the Attorney General Act, as well as the Quo Warranto Act. Pursuant to 15 ILCS 205/4, the attorney general has the authority to consult with and advise state’s attorneys in matters relating to their duties of their office and the attorney general has a duty to enforce and to conduct other investigations in connection with assisting in the prosecution of a criminal offense at the request of a state’s attorney. With the attorney general having the legal authority to advise state’s attorney in their roles, as well as being able to assist any state’s attorney with criminal proceedings, I believe the attorney general has appropriate avenues to assist in any criminal prosecution throughout the state of Illinois. In the event local state’s attorney are not properly enforcing anti-corruption laws after having consultations with the attorney general and the attorney general objectively believes a state’s attorney is failing to adhere to their duties and responsibilities, then that state’s attorney could be removed from office pursuant to the Quo Warranto Act.

I would like to have state’s attorneys across the state get on board with taking on public corruption, but if they do not, then they are failing to adhere to their duties and responsibilities of office and can be removed from their position. In the event state’s attorneys do not wish to help combat public corruption in Illinois, maybe after seeing a few removed from office, the others will come on board.

I would also like to work with the legislative body in an effort to create stricter criminal penalties for government corruption; specifically focusing on longer prison sentences for corrupt government officials, as well as creating new criminal laws for bad acting government officials and government employees. I believe the best deterrent for future corruption is to provide long prison sentences for corrupt officials. I believe it will set the tone for the future, that corrupt government officials no longer have a place in Illinois besides prison.


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? 

Harsy: In my opinion, the people of Illinois have had to rely solely on federal prosecutors because in Illinois, government protects government. Why there has not been any contribution from the attorney general’s office is because Lisa Madigan was more or less gifted the position of attorney general from her father so she has left the corrupt system in place that has guaranteed her position as attorney general. Unfortunately, this has been the status quo for quite some time in Illinois. Keeping the history lesson brief, the people of Illinois had Democrat Roland Burris for attorney general in the early 1990s to later see him receive the same appointment for President Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat that Blagojevich was sent to prison for selling. Then we had Republican Jim Ryan, who missed everything George Ryan was up to, and then we have had Lisa Madigan step in and follow her predecessor’s lead of protecting a corrupt government.

When local state’s attorney look to the example set by the attorney general’s office, and know that they are untouchable due to the inaction of our previous attorney generals, then local state’s attorney feel justified giving out favors on the local level because it is the norm in Illinois politics. This mentality has to change and I am the attorney general candidate to change this mentality. If elected, I will fight to criminally prosecute all criminal acts committed by government employees, and remove all government employees that objectively fail to do their job pursuant to the Quo Warranto Act.

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. 

Harsy: The responsibility of the attorney general’s office in supporting and enforcing federal laws and the policies of the Trump administration depend on whether or not these federal laws and policies are harming the people of Illinois, as well as if the attorney general has the legal authority to take action on federal matters.

Generally speaking, the attorney general’s office should not be involved in federal matters. Illinois has too many internal problems for the attorney general’s office to go out looking for problems on the federal level that do not directly pertain to their scope of work.

On the topic of federal policies, there is a lot in the news lately about immigration, sanctuary cities, and sanctuary states. If the federal government wants state governments to enforce federal law, then the federal government needs to provide funding to the states to hire individuals to enforce those laws. Immigration is a federal responsibility, and according to the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, state officials cannot be commandeered by the federal government to enforce federal laws. This is an important point, because when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials place ICE detainers on alleged undocumented immigrants, sometimes these ICE detainers are placed on American Citizens. Once these improperly detained American Citizens get out of jail from their ICE detainer, which can take weeks or years, they hire a lawyer and rightfully sue for the injustice that happened to them.

Once the federal government is sued for improperly flagging an American Citizen with an ICE detainer, the federal government avoids civil liability by pointing out that they do not have the legal authority to force a state to detain people with questionable immigrant status. The federal government goes on further to point out that since they do not have the legal authority to have states detain people they are not liable for an American citizen’s improper detainment. The state tries to avoid liability by saying they only detained the person in question because the federal government told them. Courts have decided that the federal government does not have the authority to impose their authority on states, and therefore states are liable for the improper detention of American citizens when the federal government improperly flags them and asks the states to detain them.

To me, this is an absurd abuse of the United States Constitution. In the event the federal government would like to pass a constitutional amendment allowing states to handle their own immigration matters, my assessment would change drastically. If the state of Illinois was allowed to handle their own immigration matters and the attorney general’s office was the primary office handling this matter, my primary focus for deportations would be of undocumented immigrants that have committed crimes within the United States. However, for undocumented immigrants that have contributed to their respective communities for over 20 years and have clean criminal records, I would seek to allow them to stay in Illinois assuming they agreed to pay civil penalties for each year they have been in the country. All other matters would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

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? 

Harsy: I would not have done the same. I would have written a separate amicus brief outlying the argument of how the federal government commandeering state officials to do their bidding is unconstitutional according to the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution. I would also point out that if the federal government wants states to do their bidding then their needs to be separate funding to hire and train immigration officials to operate within their respective state. I believe federal public safety funding is not linked directly to the matters of immigration, and that funding cannot legally be taken away by the federal government for state employees not doing the bidding of the federal government.

In regards to Attorney General Madigan calling on Gov. Rauner to reject any request by the Trump administration to use local law enforcement as immigration officials, I would have done the same. The Trump administration does not have the legal authority to call for such action, and I am not willing to let the state of Illinois be bullied by President Trump. Furthermore, when the federal government tells local law enforcement to detain the wrong people, the federal government avoids civil liability by pointing out that they do not have the legal authority to impose such orders on the state. If the federal government wants to take civil responsibility for improper detainers on American citizens and provide funding to the states, this analysis would be slightly different.

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? 

Harsy: I would not “take on” the NRA. I do not believe it is members of the NRA that are running around the streets of Chicago shooting people, and I do not believe it is the NRA that is in charge of the investigations of the deranged individuals that find it necessary to shoot others.

Unfortunately, we cannot pass laws to make people stop being evil and people that want to be evil are going to find tools to use for evil actions. Whether it be knives, guns, or cars, there will always be tools of violence for bad actors. This is why I believe the best way to address the problem of gun violence going forward is to focus on criminals and not guns. While I believe in common-sense gun regulations, I believe the best way to handle criminals is to focus on the mental health issues of criminals in an attempt to limit repeat offenders, as well as having a well-trained police force.

I find it rather absurd that we lock people up in cages for a period of years and then hope that they are somehow an improved citizen when they are released from state custody without making efforts to educate and reform these inmates. I also find it absurd that we overwork current law enforcement officers and are surprised when it turns out that they are under rested and underperforming at their duties. I believe the government of Illinois needs to get the pension crisis under control so cities have to stop laying off current law enforcement officers in order to pay retirees unconstitutional special privilege retirement packages. Furthermore, when a government employee objectively fails to do their job resulting in a person being harmed, we need to prosecute and remove these bad acting government employees, especially when their work pertains to public safety.

The most pressing matter of public safety is to protect the lives of children, especially while they are at school. Some of the news most recent public shooters were actually investigated by their local police department or the FBI for threats they have made publicly and other odd behavior. Somehow, these deranged shooters continually slip through the cracks, and fall off the radar of law enforcement, even after they have made very real threats. When a deranged school shooter is investigated and there has been cause for concern but then nothing is done with that person, I believe we need to trace back to see which government employee dropped the ball in conducting that respective investigation. Once we identify the problem government employee, we fire them for failing to do their job and pursue a criminal investigation for their failure to respond to a legitimate threat that resulted in the harm of a person or persons. This approach will be used for any matters involving public safety, and underperforming government employees will no longer get a free pass. If one public shooting can be prevented by simply removing bad acting government employees, that alone makes it worth it.

Everybody running for this office promises to be an advocate for ordinary people. What, in concrete terms, does that mean? 

Harsy: Being an advocate for the ordinary people means that corrupt government officials will be held accountable for their actions. It means to me, that there will no longer be two standards of laws for people that have government affiliation and those that do not. The only way to be an advocate for ordinary people is to hold our bad acting government officials accountable to the same standards of law like ordinary people are, and I will be the attorney general to do just that.

I believe part of the reason so many people are moving out of the state is because their bad acting government officials get a free pass for crimes, and the only change we see in the status quo is an increase in taxes to pay for bad acting government official’s golden-parachute, special privilege retirement packages. I am tired of this being the status quo in Illinois, and if elected I will make all efforts to see it end.

How in general would you follow or depart from the approach to the job taken by Lisa Madigan? 

In general, Lisa Madigan has done some things that are worthy to be followed. Specifically in areas of consumer protection and getting on top of clergy abuse matters by creating a clergy abuse hotline.

However, there are areas where Lisa Madigan has dropped the ball, and I will depart drastically from the approaches she has taken in those areas. Specifically, I will legitimately prosecute government corruption in Illinois. There is not any office in Illinois that is too big or too small to investigate for corruption. It does not matter whose toes I have to step on in the process, because our corrupt government cannot be fixed without stepping on a few toes. It has been running rampant over the last several decades and toes are going to have to be stepped on to make a corrupt government stop being corrupt. If this is too harsh for some government employees, then they need to stop being corrupt, they need to stop covering up the corrupt acts of their co-workers, or they need to find a job outside of government.

Another departure I would take would be in the area of government regulations. While I believe in a minimum baseline for government regulations, I believe Illinois has overregulated in some areas. For the most part, any areas where an Illinois regulation is the most strict regulation among the 50 states, and is more strict than federal regulations, my office would not enforce the Illinois regulations and would defer to the regulations of the federal government.

One example of this would be that currently in Illinois, if a business wants to have a 2nd story for customers, if their 2nd story area is larger than 900 square feet, Illinois regulations require that there must be an elevator to allow handicap accessibility to the 2nd story. California and the federal government have the next strictest regulations in the United States on this matter, but they do not require an elevator for 2nd story access unless the area is larger than 2000 square feet. Forcing a small business with such a small second story to install an elevator is an undue burden on small businesses. In an effort to make Illinois more business friendly, we will back off the enforcement of regulations where Illinois places undue burdens on businesses within the state compared to the burdens imposed by other states and the federal government.

While I generally believe in looser regulations, an area I would like to see stricter regulations are for businesses that collect personal information. Specifically, any business that collects personal information must disclose a security breach within 72 hours of said security breach. This is a requirement for businesses operating in the European Union, and I do not believe it is too strict of a requirement for businesses operating within Illinois. I would also like to see criminal penalties for failures to disclose security breaches within 72 hours if there is not a sufficient reason for the delayed disclosure. I believe an organization that is in the business of making a profit by collecting the personal information of others, should have a very serious duty to disclose any breaches of personal information. All reasonable efforts should be made to report disclosures as soon as possible, and if security breaches are not reported within 72 hours, there needs to be serious consequences to those businesses and actors that failed to make the proper disclosures. If this is too severe of a punishment, then people should stay out of the business of collecting personal information.

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