Judy Baar Topinka is seeking her second term as Illinois comptroller. Her first was solid, complementing a groundbreaking career that began in the early 1980s, when women in politics was still a fleeting concept.
As comptroller, she’s controlled state debt well, avoiding the addition of a $4 billion loan to throw at a backlog of obligations. In 2012, Topinka launched “The Ledger,” a comprehensive online financial database. The database aims to be the benchmark of transparency for states throughout the country. Meantime, this past July, she found herself at the center of a controversy after a live microphone at a press conference caught what appeared to sound like a clout request to the governor. View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJPQlZj0r3g.
Requests for clout are common, but it’s better if they stay reserved for private conversations and not used to taint public bill-signing events. Although Quinn didn’t quite hear Topinka’s request and no personal favors resulted from it, it represents handwriting on the wall that spells a need for change.
We also question why Topinka’s Chief of Staff Nancy Kimme and Assistant Comptroller Markus Veile held part-time positions for a non-profit HUD counseling firm for which Topinka served a president. Veile and Kimme were are paid more than $50,000 in 2012 as employees for the agency in addition to six-figure government salaries. Records show Kimme was paid by three organations in 2011: $15,000 from Citizens for Judy Baar Topinka, $66,940 from the Smart Women Smart Money Educational Foundation (headed by Topinka), and $126,982 from the comptroller’s office. The salaries reek of cronyism and a blatant lack of transparency.
Sheila Simon wants a be hands-on manager of the office, unlike Topkinka, who’s been more of a public figure, depending heavily on staffers. As lieutenant governor, Simon, along with top aides, routinely disclosed their salaries and assets, something not required by law. She supports combining state fiscal offices and transparency programs that seem to outweigh those of the Topinka smokescreen. Simon was also a fine steward of the state’s parks and rivers. While a vote for Topinka is one for experience, it also legitimizes the old guard of “scratch my back” politics this state needs to shed. Vote for Simon.