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Pat Quinn

Democratic candidate for Attorney General

Pat Quinn

Pat Quinn

Democratic candidate for Attorney General

Northwestern University Law School (JD 1980); Georgetown University School of Foreign Service (BS 1971)
Attorney at Law
Past Political/Civic Experience
Governor of Illinois (2009-2015); Lt. Governor of Illinois (2003-2009); State Treasurer (1991-1995)

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?

My lifetime of work practicing public interest law, studying public policy issues and serving in government will enable me to hit the ground running on Day 1. My priorities will be as follows:

  • Integrity and Transparency in Government. The Attorney General must constantly promote ethics and transparency in state and local government. I have pursued these objectives throughout my career: As Governor, I successfully advocated for legislation to raise ethical standards for elected officials, state employees and lobbyists; fought for and signed the strongest campaign finance reform legislation in Illinois history; strengthened the Freedom of Information Act and vetoed efforts to weaken disclosure rules; and instituted new whistleblower protections. I also insisted that casino gaming legislation include tough ethics requirements. As State Treasurer, I proposed both the Illinois Whistleblower Protection and Reward Act, which incentivizes members of the public to report wrongdoing to the Attorney General, and the Inspector Misconduct Act which prohibits state inspectors from soliciting campaign contributions from persons they regulate. As a Commissioner on the Cook County Board of Property Tax Appeals, I declined political donations from attorneys who practiced before the Board.
  • Consumer and Privacy Rights. As Attorney General, I will protect the rights of consumers. We need to ensure that utilities, insurance companies, financial institutions, platform monopolies and other business enterprises treat their customers fairly.
  • Criminal Justice Reform. The Attorney General must be a leader in improving the quality of justice in Illinois. Mass incarceration, wrongful convictions and unequal justice should be a concern of all Illinois citizens. I am proud of the fact that I signed the legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.
  • Healthcare. I will protect access to healthcare and hold accountable pharmaceutical companies and others who are responsible for the opioid epidemic.
  • Environmental Protection. The Illinois Constitution establishes the fundamental right of every person to a healthful environment. As Attorney General, I will vigorously enforce the environmental laws and advocate for new laws when necessary.
  • Violence and Gun Safety. I will lobby the General Assembly to pass common sense gun safety laws, will intervene in federal lawsuits that seek to prevent states and local governments from enacting reasonable gun legislation, and will partner with law enforcement agencies to prosecute serious gun law violations.
  • Human Rights. I pursued and signed the landmark legislation establishing marriage equality. As Attorney General, I will challenge unlawful discrimination and harassment whenever it appears.
  • Workers Rights. I will utilize the tools available to the Attorney General to defend collective bargaining rights and to protect workers against wage theft, pregnancy discrimination, and harassment on the job. I also will vigorously enforce the Equal Pay Act.
  • Protecting Immigrants. New to this country, immigrants are vulnerable in many ways, and particularly so since President Trump was inaugurated. I will join with other state Attorneys General who are working to protect the rights of immigrants and oppose President Trump's anti-immigrant policies.

Please explain in detail your legal experience and/or any areas of legal or policy expertise.

I taught tax law at Chicago-Kent College of Law for 24 years; litigated public interest law cases before the Circuit Court, Appellate Court and Illinois Supreme Court; practiced before administrative bodies including the Illinois Commerce Commission; evaluated thousands of pieces of legislation as Illinois Governor; won reforms in election law cases; represented hundreds of homeowners and businesses in property tax matters; judged thousands of property tax appeals; authored the book How to Appeal Your Property Taxes Without a Lawyer; reviewed the record relating to thousands of clemency petitions; and wrote a law review article published by the Loyola Consumer Law Review. Over the course of my career, I also have studied many public policy issues, with a particular focus on consumer rights and environmental protection.

Have you ever tried a case? Civil or criminal? If so, how many?

Yes, I have represented clients before the Illinois Circuit Court, Appellate Court, and the Illinois Supreme Court. I have also represented hundreds of clients in cases before quasi-judicial administrative agencies. I have represented many clients in property tax assessment appeals, election law cases, consumer utility matters, and class action cases.

How would you prioritize the resources of the office?

As Attorney General, I will continually assess how best to allocate resources, taking into account my duty to represent state agencies, the relative benefit of different initiatives to Illinois residents and businesses, and the risk of harm if certain efforts are not undertaken. I will never lose sight of my obligation to enforce the laws, to promote the public interest, and to pursue ethics and transparency in government.

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.

Yes. However, notwithstanding the efforts of many in the past to broaden the Attorney General's statutory authority, this has not occurred. Therefore, the Attorney General should focus on partnering with federal prosecutors and states attorneys to prosecute corruption and take a leadership role when requested by state attorneys as set forth in current law.

What do you view as the top three roles of the Illinois attorney general's office?

I would characterize the top three roles of the Attorney General as follows:

  • Ensure public confidence in state and local government by pursuing ethics and transparency throughout government, by seeking to reform and improve the system of justice, and by proposing new legislation when needed to protect the public.
  • Challenge violations of the law, including violations of laws protecting consumers, the environment, human rights (including the right to be free from discrimination), access to health care, workers rights and market competition.
  • Represent state agencies, always keeping in mind that the Attorney General's primary responsibility is to vindicate the public interest.

To which areas of focus would you devote the most resources?

My priorities are set forth in my response to the first question above.

What are the greatest challenges facing the next attorney general?

There of course will be many challenges. But I anticipate that the next Attorney General will need to devote substantial attention to areas where the federal government under President Trump has abrogated its responsibility to protect the public interest, such as with respect to environmental protection. The next Attorney General also must aggressively challenge actions by the Trump Administration that violate the law.

Give us some examples of when you displayed independence from your party or staked out an unpopular position.

I have displayed independence throughout my career, often bucking the establishment and taking positions that were controversial. Some examples include:

  • Led the referendum campaign for the Cutback Amendment that reduced the size of the Illinois House of Representatives.
  • Led the statewide petition drive that ended the century-old practice allowing legislators to receive their entire annual salary on their first day in office.
  • Advocated for and signed the civil unions bill in 2011 and then pursued and signed the law establishing marriage equality in Illinois in 2013.
  • Signed the legislation abolishing the death penalty.
  • Insisted that tough ethics provisions be added to proposed legislation authorizing a casino in Chicago.
  • In 2012 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Illinois law banning the concealed carry of weapons. When the General Assembly passed a new bill to implement the Court's decision, I issued an amendatory veto to narrow the bill in numerous ways, including reducing the size of gun magazines and limiting the number of guns that can be carried to one. I also vetoed the portion of the bill that prohibited home rule units from banning assault weapons in the future.

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?

I believe in the rule of law. The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement official in the state. It is his or her duty to apply the law fairly and accurately, and in a non-partisan way. Throughout my career I have pursued honesty and integrity in government and exercised independence. As Attorney General, I will require all members of my office to apply this philosophy of honest and fair government to all matters that we handle.

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?

The Attorney General's responsibility is to enforce the laws. I have spoken up on matters of public concern throughout my career and I will continue to do so when I feel I have something to add to the public debate.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.

I dunked a basketball twice in April 1968 at the asphalt basketball court in Spring Rock Park in Western Springs.

What distinguishes you from your opponents?

I have exercised independence throughout my public life, a record that is a prerequisite to serving as Attorney General. The public must feel confident that the Attorney General is independent of private interests or any government official who may have violated the law. When controversial matters arise such as the propriety of gaming legislation, the siting of new casinos, proposed rate increases by utilities or challenges to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, there must be no question that the Attorney General is considering only the merits and is not influenced by campaign contributions or prior relationships.

As Governor, I vetoed two bills that extended casino gambling to the City of Chicago because both bills included loopholes for mobsters and neither had adequate safeguards for the public interest. I have been traveling the state throughout my career and as a result have gained a deep understanding of the issues and challenges faced by the people of Illinois. I also have spent decades studying public interest law and policy matters including literally thousands of proposals and bills during my tenure as Governor. The knowledge I have gained will be of great benefit when addressing the many challenges that will certainly arise. I attended Northwestern Law School in order to become a public interest lawyer, and I have not deviated from that path.