Republican candidate for Attorney General
Responses to our questions
Please explain how you would hit the ground running. On Day 1, what would your primary focus for the office be? How would you reorganize, if at all, the direction of the attorneys who report to you?
During transition, I would assemble an experienced, complete and bi-partisan transition team that would review the office for ineffectiveness, inefficiencies, and reorganization of divisions and personnel needs - with an eye toward increasing technology of the attorneys and staff to achieve these goals. I have been a proponent of ACT in DuPage County — Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency — and will bring those concepts and goals to the office of the Attorney General.
First among equals is consolidation — I know there will be efficiencies achieved in measured consolidation of the 11 divisions that now exist — I will explore consolidating the divisions of Crime Victims, Defending Rights and Safe Communities. That said, I will seriously consider repurposing the Meth division into Addictive Drugs to address not only meth, but heroin and opioids that are adversely affecting individuals and families throughout Illinois.
Protecting Children by scrutinizing DCFS placements and monitoring, Women from sexual harassment in their work and professions, and Seniors from financial predators that I will be pursued criminally in cooperation with the states attorneys of Illinois all will be in the forefront of my obligations as Attorney General.
But, first and foremost, we must use the power of the Attorney General to investigate, pursue and refer for prosecution the perpetrators of the clout epidemic at the root of Illinois' political corruption. I will follow the clout and the money tentacles to the body of corruption we all know is far too bold and prevalent. I will use the bully-pulpit of the office, its power of subpoena, the AG investigators, and lawsuits to bring Illinois' corruption to the forefront to change the culture of politics in our state — and save Illinois from financial destruction.
Please explain in detail your legal experience and/or any areas of legal or policy expertise.
Legal Experience: 39 years of litigation as both plaintiff and defendants at three well known and regarded Chicago law firms at which I was a partner at each one. Since 2001, I have had my own law firm, Grasso Bass, PC. Initially and would be typical for new litigation attorneys, my cases were in a variety of areas of tort and commercial cases (e.g, personal injuries, product liability and insurance issues) and then became concentrated over the year in medical and legal professional liability cases, and to a lesser extent, commercial / contract cases and claims.
I've been lead attorney on at least 400-500 cases since 1985 when I first became a partner at a major Chicago law firm. I have taken hundreds of depositions and presented hundreds of professionals and other clients for depositions. I have handled several arbitrations to resolutions or decision and have participated in scores of mediations over the years. I have been admitted pro hac vice in different federal and state cases then pending in New York, Florida, Arizona, and Indiana — the latter going to the Indiana Supreme Court where I argued on behalf of a major Chicago based insurance company. I have had a case go to the Illinois Supreme Court as well. I have appeared in court on motions, evidentiary hearing and pretrial conferences innumerable times and authored directly hundreds of briefs over my career.
Policy Experience: The Attorney General office is probably the second largest law firm in Illinois. The next Attorney General will not only need deep litigation experience, but also considerable administrative experience. As a former mayor, former member of the DuPage Board of Health, current member of the DuPage County Board (the second largest county in Illinois) and Chairman of the DuPage ETS-911 Board (the largest single ETSB in Illinois), I have considerable direct experience in successful management of personnel, departments, agencies and also with executive and legislative experience.
I was Mayor of Burr Ridge from May 2005- December 2012 when, with the assistance of others, we oversaw the civic aspects of the Village Center of retail, restaurant and residential development, construction of a state of the art police station, and Loyola's front line urgent care, rehab and triaging facility. Again with the help of others, I led the project to have the first branded bridge over I55 that was done with grants and no tax impact to the residents. (With the urging of the four hotels in Burr Ridge, provided for the maintenance of the bridge and the four clover leaf exchange through room tax — and took that maintenance off the shoulders of IDOT.)
During my chairmanship of the 911 Board, with the hard work of many, we completed the consolidation of the 911 call centers down to three — with two new state of the art facilities, one of which will house DuComm in a refurbished, repurposed building on the County campus.
Have you ever tried a case? Civil or criminal? If so, how many?
Yes, approximately 15 civil cases to verdict, state and federal, principally jury usually with several parties, and a few bench multi-day bench trials, plus at least twice that number that resolved after motions in limine or during trial. I also have handled about a dozen appeals, including preparing and presenting arguments in the First and Second Districts.
How would you prioritize the resources of the office?
First, I will use 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 vigorous pursuing the corrupt, the financial predators, big pharma and enforcing the Consumer Fraud Act and the Public Utilities Act.
Should the attorney general's grand jury authority be expanded to intensify the role of the AG in fighting corruption? Or is that a more suitable role for federal prosecutors? Please explain your answer.
The AG is not a criminal prosecutor — outside of election law violations. However, 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 stretch. 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.
What do you view as the top three roles of the Illinois attorney general's office?
Working with other legal entities such as County State's Attorneys, Illinois State Police, and when necessary Federal level organizations in using the investigative and litigation powers of the AG's office to prove, expose and pursue public and private corruption. Fighting the opioid/heroin epidemic that is killing people of every demographic and destroying our families and friendships. Serving as the people's litigator attorney against child abuse, women harassment in the workplace, and financial predators of seniors,
To which areas of focus would you devote the most resources?
Advocating and litigating against public corruption with an emphasis on property tax assessment and TIFF abuse, litigating and legislating against opioid/heroin addiction, children services neglect, women harassment and financial abuse of seniors.
What are the greatest challenges facing the next attorney general?
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, a Grasso administration would much more actively initiate inquires with County State's Attorneys, the Illinois State Police, and federal legal officials to fight against the scourge of political corruption, and 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.
Give us some examples of when you displayed independence from your party or staked out an unpopular position.
I am the only independent Republican candidate for Attorney General. My campaign has not been welcomed by GOP party insiders, including Governor Rauner. His administration and staff are supporting my opponent and actively tried to kick me off the ballot — and deny choice to Republicans and independent voters. They appear rightfully worried that my legal and public service backgrounds, results and independence as a litigator and elected official over nearly four decades sets me far apart from any candidate running for this office.
What steps have you taken, or would you take, to maintain the independence of the office from the influence of a governor, legislative leaders or members of your political party?
If elected, I would come into office as a Republican, but my service in the office would not be partisan. Anyone that has dealt with me as a trustee, board or committee member will likely tell you that I am consensus builder — and "compromise" is not treason. I would begin the transition between Attorney General Madigan and me through a team of respected, qualified, and diverse Republicans and Democrats who share my deeply rooted feeling that Illinoisans deserve an independent voice as their Attorney General more than ever today. No matter who is Governor in 2019, I will not serve as the Governor's Attorney General. I only and always will serve as the People's Attorney General who will listen, consider and decide based upon their interests first.
The Illinois Constitution is vague about the role of the attorney general. How proactive should the attorney general be in injecting himself or herself into issues of education, pensions, state finances, corruption or other issues that don't fall directly under the role of legal adviser?
Candidate did not respond
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.
Janet and I will be married 40 years in May. We have six children (5 sons before having our daughter), two daughters-in-law and 3 grandchildren, so far. I was the first in my large family to graduate from college — and earn a law degree at night while working full time. And while my I am American-Italian by heritage, my mother's side is Irish, English, Hungarian and Jewish. My father could hardly read or write and was a garbage man for our village who nonetheless raised himself up to become a fireman at age 39. We buried him in his uniform too many years ago and I still have his badge, cap and helmet. I was the only white starter on my high school basketball team — my teammates elected me captain — an honor I cherished then and today.
What distinguishes you from your opponents?
The role of the Attorney is ALL for the people - to Advocate, Legislate (suggesting legislation to the mayors, the Legislature, and Governor) and Litigate for the people and our agencies and offices. My actual lengthy litigation and legal experience, and my actual governance experience with proven results, respectfully distinguishes me from my opponent at every level and dimension. I am not beholden to any candidate for Governor, politician, interest group or organization. I am qualified to be Illinois' chief litigator, and to capably lead the second largest legal team in Illinois.