On Jan. 16, Gary Grasso appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the GOP nomination for Illinois attorney general in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Gary Grasso. I’m the former mayor, two terms, in Burr Ridge Illinois. I am now on the DuPage County Board where I’ve served for five years, in my second term and I am not running for reelection, I’ am running for attorney general. While on the county board, I’m also the 911 chairman. The 911 Board of the DuPage County ETS or the 911 Board, is the largest board in Illinois. I’ve also been for 12 years on the DuPage County Board of Health, from 1999 to 2011. Prior to that I was elected for one year as the president of the DuPage Mayors and Managers. In my younger years I was on the school board at St. John of the Cross on the Parish Council at St. John of the Cross. I was a trustee in the village of Burr Ridge and I’ve also been on the Library Board in Western Springs where we first started. I have also been on the Board of Robert Crown in Hinsdale. I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Hinsdale Bank of Trust which is a Wintrust Bank.
It would be to use the power of the office. To save the state of Illinois and to go after the things we have taken for granted. Corruption, it’s unacceptable. The opioid problems that we have in this state, the heroin problems, unacceptable. The pension, the public pensions issue has to be addressed, we know that it’s unsustainable and has to be addressed and it’s the reason why we have one of the poorest ratings, almost junk bond status ratings, for anything. As part of my civic duty at the county board I was one of the first to stand up, having gone to a forum about opioid and heroin addiction, seeing a mother say to the state’s attorney, ‘I’m so glad that my son is in your jail system because I know tomorrow he will wake up.’ That really sent a message to me. I’m a father of six, my wife Janet and I we’re in our fortieth year of marriage, for a mother to say that about her son, it just struck a chord with me. So I got active in the opioid abuse problem, stood up and said we have to recognize we have a problem, let’s try to get some funds for it. So, the problem is opioid abuse. I stood up and asked for funds for Robert Crown and other organizations to go into our schools to teach about these problems and take the message home to their parents and the results have been that we believe that we have saved lives in DuPage County. You might be familiar with the Narcan program that the coroner and the state’s attorneys have been, I’ve taken an active part along with others in DuPage County and I’m very proud of that.
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. Gary Grasso 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: First, I will direct the attorneys and investigators of the AG’s office to investigate the clout based, corrupt property tax assessments system. We must restore confidence to the people of Illinois that they are being treated equally and fairly when property taxes are being assessed. We must not tolerate the status quo and the political corruption at any level. The public should know that when elected, the powers that be, at all levels of government, should be on high alert that the Office of the Illinois Attorney General will not tolerate any form of cheating the system.
We also must continue to serve as the chief litigator for the people of the state of Illinois, working to protect all, but especially those who are most likely to become victims. The people should know that their Attorney General can and will represent them in court, try cases and argue appeals. I will do this by vigorously pursuing the corrupt, the financial predators, big pharma and enforcing the Consumer Fraud Act and the Public Utilities Act.
Running for: GOP nomination for Illinois attorney general
Political/civic background: Member of the DuPage County Board (2012-present), Mayor of Burr Ridge from 2005-2012, Chairman of the DuPage 911 Board (2014-present), President of DuPage Mayors & Managers (2010-11); Member of the DuPage County Board of Health (1999-2011), Trustee of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library Foundation and its governing board (1990-95), as well as a former Member of the Parish Council and School Board for St. John of Cross Parish and grammar school in Western Spring, Illinois.
Occupation: Litigation Attorney, Grasso Bass P.C.
Education: Georgetown University and Fordham University School of Law
Campaign website: GaryGrasso.com
QUESTION: What would you do as attorney general to identify and combat public corruption at the state, county and local levels?
ANSWER: In addition to the pursuits set forth in answer number 1, I will seek legislation from Springfield that will allow the AG to investigate corruption on criminal grounds and refer and cooperate with the states attorneys and federal prosecutors. I have been an advocate of cross utilization of government services, especially when the need exists and the resources to address them are insufficient. The inherent investigative roles and duties of the AG can be instrumental in the fight against corruption. That investigation should extend to empaneling and presenting evidence of corruption to a Grand Jury. The AG can then refer the matter, if warranted, to the appropriate states attorney or federal prosecutors. It is time to combine resources and work together to rout the clout in Illinois.
As an active litigator in the area of legal ethics/lawyer malpractice for thirty years, as the next Attorney General, I will advocate for and propose an ethics law on the basis of semblance of impropriety that will prohibit and bar any immediate family member of a Legislator or constitutional officer or Supreme Court justice from:
holding a statewide constitutional office or being a justice of the Supreme Court;
being a registered state lobbyist; or
heading any state agency.
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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: I agree with this assessment given the unfettered proliferation of corruption in Illinois. I will focus the Attorney General’s office and repurpose its resources on public corruption and those in the private sector that facilitate it. The first subjects will be property assessment taxation, abuse of TIFF use to that cripples school districts, and election law violations that allow some local officials to thwart the will of the people.
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: The Illinois Attorney General’s job is to advocate, work to legislate and to litigate on behalf of the people of Illinois. The Attorney General must enforce state laws and regulations in cooperation with all units of government such as municipal and prosecutors, police and State’s Attorneys to the highest levels of the justice department. As to illegal immigrants, the AG should cooperate with law enforcement where illegal immigrants have broken the law. As to DACA issues, deferred action does not appear to be a viable solution. The AG should advocate for laws that will create a path to legal residency and possibly citizenship for those innocent and now law-abiding immigrants who were children when they were brought here.
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: I do not support the current forms of sanctuary cities ordinances and legislation which provides for blanket protection of criminals. This blanket protection conflicts with our state laws and gives protections to illegal immigrants that our own citizens do not enjoy. While I have compassion for all people, I would not have opposed President Trump’s proposals as they apply to sanctuary cities ordinances and legislation that allow for blanket protection of criminals. Respectfully, I do not agree with Lisa Madigan’s characterization of law enforcement as “immigration officials.” To the extent local law enforcement is performing their duties equally and properly, it would not be the role of the AG to interfere with the execution of those duties.
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: Respectfully, it is not the role of the Attorney General to ‘take on the NRA.’ The NRA has a 1st Amendment right to voice its positions and to lobby for laws it would like enacted. Equally, those groups that seek specific restrictions on 2nd Amendment rights and may have opposite views on gun rights as the NRA also have their 1st Amendment right to lobby for those views.
But no organization or person wants gun violence – certainly not the gun violence that is ravaging many parts of our urban and suburban. The Attorney General should work toward legislation that will increase use of technology that the Chicago police are employing to detect and prevent gun violence from erupting. The AG can advocate for resources and laws to patrol our state border where we know illegal guns are being brought into our neighborhoods only to destroy lives. The AG can insist on laws to require the safe transportation of firearms shipments on trucks, trains and airplanes. Doing so will keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Additionally, legislation to properly zone and regulate gun training facilities for the public and law enforcement should be enacted to assure that gun safety training facilities are allowed for both law-abiding gun owners and law enforcement. I also will create a task force to propose practical approaches to addressing mental illness and the ability to obtain a FOID card in Illinois. For example, advocating and requiring where Illinois has jurisdiction the sharing of information with gun registration and law enforcement about individuals dishonorably discharged from service for mental health reasons.
QUESTION: Everybody running for this office promises to be an advocate for ordinary people. What, in concrete terms, does that mean?
ANSWER: Not only should the Attorney General advocate, but the AG should bring results to the taxpayers. As one example, our state and the nation are going through an opioid epidemic that is shattering the lives of people of all ages, ethnicities and income levels. DuPage County, along with several other suburban counties are going after the pharmaceutical companies that lied to doctors, patients and the public at large about the dangers of opioid medications.
When these cases are either settled or successfully litigated for the people the money should be applied to reversing the damage that the epidemic caused. The funds, unlike much of the tobacco settlement should be used for education of young people about the dangers of drugs, rehabilitation of those that are addicted and other uses that would help mitigate the problems caused by these large pharmaceutical companies and not just to fill in budget gaps that politicians in Springfield refuse to repair – as I saw done with the Tobacco settlement monies when I was a member of the DuPage County Board of Health.
QUESTION: How in general would you follow or depart from the approach to the job taken by Lisa Madigan?
ANSWER: By retooling the direction and emphasis of the office. No matter which party controls the office of Illinois Attorney General after the election it will be the first change in Attorney General leadership in 16 years. The hundreds of attorneys and staff of the office will have challenges to face. While continuing to fight for consumer protection, I will much more actively initiate investigations with County State’s Attorneys, the Illinois State Police, and federal legal officials to fight against the scourge of political corruption, and actively litigate for awards or settlements against drug companies and related industries and practitioners to remedy the opioid epidemic. These immediate needs will be my initial focuses, in addition to the very much necessary consumer fraud protection that the office has handled through numerous administrations.
Check out our profiles on other candidates in this race: