CHICAGO - Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, locked into a competitive re-election bid, is fighting to maintain an image as a reformer who's cleaned up state government amid questions about a now-defunct anti-violence program he started in the run-up to his 2010 election.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan commission of lawmakers was set to vote on whether to call a number of former Quinn administration officials they subpoenaed to testify about the program, which a state audit recently concluded had "pervasive" problems, including misuse of funds. But federal prosecutors, who also are investigating how the funds were spent, have asked lawmakers to hold off, and six witnesses told the commission through their attorneys Wednesday morning that they wouldn't appear, in deference to prosecutors' request. A seventh appeared but said he's "not ready" to testify.
Republicans, who see the gubernatorial election this year as a chance to win control of a Democratic-leaning state, have alleged Quinn used money from the $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as a political slush fund to secure votes in predominantly minority neighborhoods of heavily Democratic Chicago in a tight race. Quinn has denied that claim and says he has "zero tolerance" for fraud or abuse. He's also defended the program's intent, which was to provide job training and programming in violence-plagued neighborhoods.
Stacy Thacker, File/AP Photo
In this June 12, 2014 file photo, Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn listens to a question at a news conference in Chicago. Quinn, who is fighting to hold onto his seat and his reputation as a reformer who's cleaned up state government, is facing questions about a now-defunct anti-violence program he started in the run-up to his 2010 election after a state audit found funds were misused.
Regardless of whether there was any wrongdoing, the allegations alone could be damaging for Quinn, who often touts the steps he's taken to turn Illinois around after the last two governors went to prison for corruption. His GOP rival, Bruce Rauner, meanwhile, has worked to paint Quinn as just another insider.