On Jan. 11, State Rep. Scott Drury appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Democratic nomination for Illinois attorney general in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Scott Drury. I’m a democratic candidate for attorney general. I’m a former assistant U.S. attorney, worked at the office for about seven and a half years and I’m currently a sitting state representative for communities just north of Chicago.
As attorney general I am going to clean up Illinois. As a former federal prosecutor it is my goal to root out public corruption wherever it exists and the gun violence and opioid epidemics plaguing our state and stopping Trump in his tracks. As a lifelong democrat it sickens me that the failed policies of Democratic Party leaders directly led to the election of Governor Rauner and have prevented progressive reform. As attorney general I am going to clean up Illinois once and for all and make it a state that works for the rest of us.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for Illinois attorney general a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. State Rep. Scott Drury submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION: 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.
ANSWER: I am running for attorney general to clean up Illinois. As Attorney General, I will focus on: Rooting out public corruption at all levels of government; Ending the gun violence and opioid epidemic plaguing our state and addressing its underlying causes; and protecting Illinois residents from large corporations and powerful interests/political leaders who are intent on violating civil rights, destroying our environment and promoting a failed political system built on inequality and self-interest.
Running for: Democratic nomination for Illinois attorney general
Political/civic background: Illinois State Representative (2013-present); Commissioner – Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform; Assistant United States Attorney (2003-2011)
Occupation: Illinois State Representative; Adjunct Professor – Northwestern University School of Law; Attorney
Education: University of California, Berkeley (B.A.) (high honors); Northwestern University School of Law (J.D.) (cum laude)
Campaign website: scottdrury.org
QUESTION: What would you do as attorney general to identify and combat public corruption at the state, county and local levels?
ANSWER: For too long, Illinois has outsourced the fight against public corruption to federal authorities. I will stop this practice. As a federal prosecutor, I led successful investigations and prosecutions of corrupt public officials – including a friend and appointee of Governor Blagojevich. I will do the same as Illinois’ Attorney General. I will make it a priority to end public corruption wherever it exists. If the Speaker of the House engages in criminally corrupt conduct, he will be indicted. The same is true of the Governor, the Senate President or any local official. To accomplish this goal, I will look internally and externally to find the best prosecutors and investigators. Moreover, I will continue my push for Illinois to adopt tougher anti-corruption laws, such as prison sentences for officials convicted of corruption, an end to the revolving door where politicians immediately become lobbyists upon leaving office, and term limits for legislative leaders so no politician can accumulate corrupt amounts of power. As a prosecutor, criminals feared me. As Attorney General, politicians will too.
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QUESTION: 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?
ANSWER: There is no good explanation for the fact that Illinois outsources public corruption investigations to federal authorities. As a prosecutor, I learned that in the organized crime world, it is well known that the best way to operate without government hindrance is to install a “friendly” mayor and police chief. The same applies to Illinois government. If powerful political interests install an attorney general who is “friendly” to them, they can operate without fear of State oversight. I am terribly concerned that there are candidates in this race who have connections to these powerful interests, have turned to them for help getting elected or have done favors for them in the past. That some of these candidates claim to be ethics champions or on the side of the public is disgusting. For instance, Kwame Raoul and Nancy Rotering are running with the assistance of Mike Madigan, and Pat Quinn was Madigan’s patronage pal during his time in office.
As the only candidate in this race who has a demonstrated history of standing up to the State’s most powerful political leaders, the public can rest assured that no politician will be too important or too connected to avoid the eyes of the law. I am running for Attorney General to clean up Illinois and change people’s perception of our State. I am not running to be a figurehead who secretly works for entrenched politicians and lobbyists while pretending to work on behalf of Illinois citizens. Where corruption exists, I will prosecute it.
While some have argued that the Illinois Attorney General does not have the authority to prosecute public corruption, that is not correct. Indeed, the current Attorney General actively worked on corruption matters when Governor Blagojevich was in office. Under existing law, the Attorney General can work on corruption matters.
QUESTION: 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.
ANSWER: As the attorney for the State of Illinois and its citizens, the Illinois Attorney General is responsible for making sure that laws, both state and federal, do not infringe on the State’s rights or the rights of Illinois citizens. Thus, federal laws that have a disparate impact on protected classes of Illinois citizens must be challenged. When the Trump administration implemented the travel ban and sought to end DACA, it was wholly appropriate for attorneys general across the country to file lawsuits challenging those actions. I am glad that Illinois joined in these lawsuits. As Attorney General, I will make sure that Illinois does not just join these lawsuits but leads them. I have experience litigating civil rights matters both as a prosecutor and as a civil litigator. Moreover, as Attorney General, I will seek legal avenues to challenge federal environmental policies that disparately impact struggling communities. A person’s right to grow up and live in a community with fresh air and water should not be based on income and zip code. Finally, the current attempt to force state and local officials to be quasi-federal immigration agents is inconsistent with the 10th Amendment and not a policy I would enforce.
QUESTION: 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?
ANSWER: As set forth above, the Trump administration’s efforts to force state and local officials to be quasi-federal immigration agents is inconsistent with the 10th Amendment and not a policy I would enforce. Moreover, I would use the Office’s platform to make sure other public officials, including the Governor, did not enforce this policy. Because the Trump administration sought to threaten public safety in order for states like Illinois to give up their constitutional powers, litigation was necessary and appropriate. To the extent any litigation is ongoing when I become Attorney General, I will continue to pursue it.
QUESTION: 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?
ANSWER: In order to comprehensively address the gun violence problem, Illinois must enact more responsible gun laws and make a serious effort to fix the societal issues that lead to the violence. With respect to more responsible gun laws, I am proud to be a co-sponsor of: (1) legislation that would require Illinois gun-dealers to obtain licenses in order to operate; and (2) legislation that would allow a victim to obtain an emergency lethal violence order of protection and prohibit the person against whom the order is sought from possessing firearms. Moreover, in the wake of the horrific Las Vegas massacre and NRA statements that it would support a ban on trigger modification devices, I was the first to introduce legislation solely focused on that issue. While the NRA ultimately did not support the legislation, by filing it, I was able to expose the organization’s dishonest tactics.
I also am proud of my past efforts to implement more responsible gun laws and protect against the implementation of dangerous new laws. I was one of the leading opponents of Illinois’ misguided concealed carry legislation. One aspect of that legislation implemented the backwards policy of Illinois communities not being allowed to ban assault weapons unless they implemented such regulations within a very short timeframe. In response, I immediately called a meeting with the mayors and police chiefs in the legislative district I represent, informed them of the new law and advised them of the actions needed to thwart it. In short order, I worked with each community to implement assault weapons bans and regulations over intense NRA objection. Through these efforts, the NRA was soundly defeated in numerous communities.
With respect to the societal issues, if we are to end gun violence in Illinois, the State must invest in those communities most impacted by the violence. This means providing more funds to public schools and afterschool programs. It means advocating for better criminal justice policies that focus on treatment, education and rehabilitation and allow for job opportunities for those who have been in prison. Unfortunately, Illinois recently did the opposite. Instead of investing in communities, it passed legislation to incarcerate more minorities for longer periods of time – despite there being no evidence that this would help solve the problem of gun violence.
QUESTION: Everybody running for this office promises to be an advocate for ordinary people. What, in concrete terms, does that mean?
ANSWER: Illinois needs an Attorney General who will put the public’s interest ahead of self-interest at every turn. I have a proven record of standing up for the public even when potentially detrimental to my political career. When machine politicians and union bosses wanted to take away workers’ right to strike in order to preserve political power, I had the courage to say no. When Mike Madigan sought to continue his rule of the Illinois General Assembly, I became the first Democrat in three decades not to support him. In doing so, I stood with the vast majority of Illinois Democrats who recognize that Madigan’s failed policies brought us Governor Rauner and have jeopardized the retirement security of our school teachers and other public workers. Being an advocate for ordinary people means having the courage to truly seek the implementation of progressive policies and to advance change. It is not enough for someone to simply say he or she will be an advocate for the everyday citizen. Moreover, it is not enough for someone to point to a history of taking actions consistent with what he or she is supposed to do.
QUESTION: How in general would you follow or depart from the approach to the job taken by Lisa Madigan?
ANSWER: As discussed throughout, I believe the Attorney General’s office should direct more resources to fighting public corruption and changing the reputation of our State. Moreover, I believe the Attorney General can take a more active role in some of the major issues confronting Illinois. The Attorney General should be leading the charge for more responsible gun laws and greater investment in our communities in order to stop gun violence. The Attorney General should make sure the General Assembly abides by the Illinois Constitution with respect to budgeting practices. I plan to be a very hands-on attorney general, in the mold of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitgerald and New York attorneys general, past and present. During my time as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, I saw first-hand how this creates a culture of achievement and leads to resounding success.
Check out our profiles on other candidates in this race: