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How The NRI Hearing Could Play Out For Quinn's Campaign

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn's troubled anti-violence program will be in the spotlight today (7/16) when a bipartisan legislative commission meets in Chicago.  

It's not yet clear how lawmakers will proceed, given that the federal government wants them to put a hold on their investigation until mid-October, just before the November election, when Quinn will face Republican Bruce Rauner.

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown says that's what Quinn's campaign wants.

"The governor's people are really pushing the media to let go of this story, it's like, 'Hey, enough of this already, look at Mr. Rauner.' They are happy to have this excuse," Brown says.

Brown says legislators should proceed anway; he says voters need to learn the facts before they go to the ballot box, not after.

A state audit made clear that the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was poorly managed when it was rolled out, before Quinn's last run for governor. But there are deeper questions - like whether politics played a role in which organizations got state grants.

Questions to which Brown says voters deserve answers.

"Some of the money was rushed out at the time of the November 2010 election, and I mean, that's, that's suspicious-looking and we need to find out more about how that came to be," he says.

But Democratic strategist Thomas Bowen says there's a danger if Republicans push too hard to carry on with their probe.

They need to be careful to "not abuse the public's patience, in trying to make political hay out of something," Bowen says.

Bowen says Republicans overreached in 1996 in their investigative zeal against President Bill Clinton, and it backfired -- Clinton won re-election.

Bowen says a delay in the legislative probe could be good for Quinn, politically.

"Having it out of the headlines for 90 days, you know, could be beneficial for him getting his footing back, because you know most of the public polls in this race have the governor down at the moment."

But Bowen also says that would leave the potential of damaging headlines resuming weeks before the November election, leaving Quinn little time to recover.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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