GOP candidate for attorney general: Erika Harold
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On Jan. 16, Erika Harold appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Republican nomination for Illinois attorney general in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Erika Harold. I’m an attorney for Champaign Urbana. Graduated from the University of Illinois and I put myself through Harvard Law School by winning the Miss America pageant. I currently serve on the National Board of Directors of a group called Prison Fellowship. It is the world’s largest outreach to inmates and their family and it advocates for bipartisan criminal justice reform. I also am a commissioner on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission of Professionalism and we work to enhance civility and professionalism throughout the legal system. I also serve on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality and we look to eliminate bias and different elements of disparities within the legal system.
I have a couple of top priorities as attorney general. I want to focus on combating public corruption. I want to address the opioid epidemic. I want to make Illinois a environment in which businesses can better create jobs. I also want address issues such as sexual harassment and harassment in schools. One of the reasons why I became an attorney is I was a victim of racial and sexual harassment when I was in high school and I ultimately had to leave my high school as a result of that. So I know what it’s like to feel marginalized, I know what it’s like to feel powerless and I know what it’s like to feel like I don’t have a voice. That’s why I wanted to become an attorney and that’s why I want to fight very hard for people as attorney general.
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. Erika Harold 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: In addition to ensuring that the Office’s statutory responsibilities were being efficiently and effectively fulfilled in a nonpartisan manner, I would prioritize: enhancing the Office’s efforts and investigative tools to combat public corruption; coordinating statewide efforts to address the opioid epidemic in Illinois; collaborating with the legislature to draft and enact workers’ compensation and criminal justice reform measures; and protecting Illinoisans from harassment, including peer-to-peer harassment in schools and sexual harassment within State government and the workforce at large.
Running for: GOP nomination for Illinois attorney general
Political/civic background: Commissioner on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism
Member of Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality
Board of Directors of Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest outreach to inmates and their families
Occupation: Attorney at Meyer Capel, P.C.
Education: Harvard Law School, J.D., June 2007. Boykin C. Wright Memorial Award for appellate advocacy in the Ames Moot Court Competition.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, A.B. in Liberal Arts and Sciences, May 2001. Phi Beta Kappa, Chancellor’s Scholar.
Campaign website: erikaharold.com
QUESTION: What would you do as attorney general to identify and combat public corruption at the state, county and local levels?
ANSWER: I would use the Office’s express statutory authority—whether it is through the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, the Freedom of Information Act or the Attorney General Act—to investigate and combat government corruption. Additionally, I would work with the General Assembly to help draft legislation that would strengthen Illinois’ public corruption laws and expand the Illinois Attorney General’s tools (such as subpoena and grand jury powers) to investigate and prosecute government corruption. Furthermore, I would try to ensure that the Office of Public Access Counselor—which is tasked with providing advice regarding the interpretation and implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act—has sufficient resources and personnel. This would help empower citizens, media and other watchdog groups to play their respective roles in monitoring governmental activities and make public officials more accountable to the public they are sworn to serve. I also would advocate for the consolidation of some units of local government, as Illinois has far too many units of local government—more than any other state in the nation—and this vast and complicated web of governmental units contributes to corruption in Illinois by providing more opportunities for misuse of governmental resources and making it more difficult for watchdog groups to monitor them. Finally, the Illinois Attorney General is afforded a powerful bully pulpit that I would use to both highlight the real costs government corruption imposes upon Illinoisans and to vigorously condemn public corruption.
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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: In some instances, Attorney General Madigan has chosen not to use the full measure of the Office’s existing powers to investigate allegations of public corruption—such as allegations of patronage hiring and improper awarding of government grants. In other instances, however, the Attorney General’s Office was not the Office best situated to investigate and prosecute certain public corruption cases because of lack of jurisdiction, resource limitations, and certain limitations on the Office’s ability to issue subpoenas and convene grand juries.
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: There are certain federal statutes—including consumer protection and anti-trust laws—that specifically authorize a state’s attorney general to enforce them. If enforcing a federal law enables the Attorney General’s Office to address a specific problem in Illinois and better protect consumers and businesses, then the Office should not hesitate to do so. In other contexts, however, a state’s attorney general has no statutory jurisdiction to enforce federal law and therefore has no discretion or ability to do so.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has an obligation to take legal action against any federal administration’s policy which conflicts with the U.S. Constitution or Illinois law. However, if the Attorney General simply disagrees with a federal administration’s policy but believes it to have been constitutionally issued, it would be appropriate for the Attorney General to express dissent but inappropriate for the Attorney General Office’s to take legal action and involve the State in a lawsuit devoid of legal merit.
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: No. The amicus brief does not seek the resolution of the legal questions that most directly impact whether funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant can be constitutionally withheld from the State of Illinois: (1) How Section 1373 of the U.S. Code should be interpreted; and (2) Whether SB 31 actually violates Section 1373. Given the Illinois Attorney General’s obligation to defend Illinois law and the fact that SB 31 expressly states that it should not be construed to “prohibit or restrict any entity from sending to, or receiving from, the United States Department of Homeland Security or other federal, State, or local government entity information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any individual under Section 1373,” the Illinois Attorney General should instead seek a judicial declaration that SB 31 complies with Section 1373 and that any interpretation of Section 1373 that would dictate otherwise is manifestly unreasonable and invalid.
SB 31 already addresses the extent to which local law enforcement officials are permitted to enforce federal immigration laws, and Governor Rauner signed SB 31 into law. Accordingly, it is unclear what non-political purpose—if any—would be served by calling on the Governor to comply with a law he had just signed and given no indication he was disavowing.
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: I would support: the allocation of additional resources to law enforcement to enhance their community policing efforts; the creation of additional after school programs and job opportunities for young people in communities affected by violence; and the allocation of additional resources to fund social workers who serve as violence interrupters in communities affected by violence.
QUESTION: Everybody running for this office promises to be an advocate for ordinary people. What, in concrete terms, does that mean?
ANSWER: It means: ensuring that Illinois’ laws are fairly and uniformly enforced; using the Office’s statutory authority to protect victims of crime, fraud and abuse; working to protect the public from government corruption; and identifying specific issues (including cyberbullying, sexual harassment and consumer protection) where, given the Attorney General’s unique bully pulpit and authority, the Attorney General can advocate for Illinoisans as a group as opposed to forcing individual people to try to fend for themselves. As someone who has been the victim of harassment and understands the feeling of being powerless and marginalized, I would fight to make sure that every Illinoisan—regardless of position or background—was vigorously represented.
QUESTION: How in general would you follow or depart from the approach to the job taken by Lisa Madigan?
ANSWER: Attorney General Madigan has not used the full measure of the Office’s statutory power or bully pulpit to investigate or condemn allegations of public corruption—such as allegations of patronage hiring and improper awarding of government grants—and I would be more proactive in fully utilizing those powers. I would also work to build stronger relationships between the Attorney General’s Office and the State’s Attorneys, as those relationships are essential to better coordinating statewide efforts to address the opioid epidemic and handling cases where both offices have concurrent jurisdiction. Attorney General Madigan has, however, been a strong advocate in the consumer protection arena, and I would make sure that Illinois’ consumer protection laws were uniformly and fairly enforced.
Check out our profiles on other candidates in this race: