Part 3 of a 3-part interview with IR Editor Fran Eaton
I think the George Ryan trial is old news for the general public. I think George Ryan had his imprint on Illinois politics in the ‘02 election. I think in the ’06 election, he’s former, he’s past, he’s out of office. The public has already convicted him and life goes on. It doesn’t mean you condone it, but I really don’t think that’s going to be a factor in the election.
For the past four years, State Senator Dan Rutherford has been traveling from one end of Illinois to the other, doing what he could to build up the Republican Party when party morale was at historic lows. (See Part 1)
Combine last year’s indictment of former Governor George Ryan, the embarrassing scandal surrounding the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate Jack Ryan with the coup de grace, looking to out-of-stater Alan Keyes to be the GOP's nominee, only to alienate mainstream voters to a landslide victory for Barack Obama and the result was disastrous. All that, along with the GOP’s in-fighting between passionate social conservatives and the Old Guard, caused anyone who tried to boost party's spirit to be seen as desperately tilting windmills.
But that's exactly what Dan Rutherford did. He drove almost 200,000 miles to speak at Lincoln Day dinners with five to five hundred attendees. He passed along precious campaign dollars to others willing to place their names on the ballot.
Now it’s time for the favors to be returned. Rutherford says that he’s willing to take on Jesse White, who he calls "the Goliath of the Democratic Party."
There’s no question that Rutherford will be calling in the chips he’s spread throughout the state to win next November. And he believes his four-year investment will pay off when he becomes SOS in January 2007.
FE: You’re reaching to DC for help in your campaign. [RNC Chairman] Ken Mehlman is participating in an event on December 7 for you in D.C. Do you know him from the past or how did you get this kind of D.C. attention?
DR: I’ve met Ken, I don’t know him – it’s not like we pick up the phone and chit chat, I met him, but what’s happened is Mehlman, I believe, understands that there is a tomorrow in Illinois. And one of the things with respect to our gubernatorial efforts out there now -- which will be a competitive primary -- one thing that is known in the Illinois electoral process is Rutherford. I mean, I’m there.
FE: You’re not expecting a primary?
DR: I have no primary today . . . if there is one, that’s fine. We’ll just go out and win that one, too. We’re the one that’s known. It’s not like we’re the new person in the statewide arena and working this whole thing. We have Mehlman support, but it’s not a fundraiser. What that does is say, though, is okay, that’s Ken Mehlman, and the RNC recognizes Dan Rutherford as a viable candidate.
Then after that, we’re going to do an event in which [U.S. House Speaker] Denny Hastert is going to be headlining with the Illinois congressional delegation for a fundraiser.
And yes, I have known Denny for a long time, in fact, back when he was State Representative Hastert.
FE: Has an Illinois candidate for Secretary of State ever been given that kind of backing from D.C. before?
DR: I don’t think so . . . A fair question for me to ask you is why are they doing it?
FE: I’m asking the questions here . . . Because you asked them to?
DR: (Laughing) In part because I asked them to, but also don’t believe Judy Biggert, Ray LaHood, Jerry Weller, all the way down the list and led by Denny Hastert, would say “Yes” if they didn’t have an understanding and belief that there’s Dan Rutherford from ’02 to now, who’s been the most aggressive going out to build the party.
Sure, is there a splash back on Dan in a statewide bid, sure there is. But you know, I was driving down to Alexander County and Cass County and over to Jo Daviess County and Jersey County and clear up to Zion, going to the functions and being the speakers for House Republican candidates in 1993, 4, 5, 6, 7 and Senate candidates through ’08, 2000.
I was giving hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the Dan Rutherford Campaign Committee – money that I raised at 25 and 50 dollars a clip to candidates running for county board and state rep. And you know what? Some of them did not win. I look down that list and think, my gosh, there’s some talent that would have made a difference in the General Assembly.
I’m thinking of a young lady in the suburbs, her name is Flo, and a young man over in Carroll County right now named Steve who’s going to go back at it again – he’s going to win. I’m thinking of Steve down in St. Clair County, who almost won county board chairman and barely lost. Look at those D2s. Dan Rutherford has opened his campaign accounts and has given and has been going out and speaking and so forth for fifteen years.
So when the time comes that Dan Rutherford is ready to go out and say, ‘I’m going to take on Goliath. I understand that Jesse White is the Goliath of the Democratic Party.’
But you know what? If I don’t go out there and work it real hard, we’re not going to have ourselves a real lifting of the boats and if I don’t go out there and work it real hard, we’ll not have a chance to go out there and elect Senate or House Republicans. We’ll not have a chance to elect Republican county board members.
And you know what? Jesse White’s the Goliath of the Democratic Party, but he’s about to meet David. And that is Dan Rutherford.
FE: How many stones do you have?
DR: I’ve got a bunch . . . (laughing)
FE: I have two issues to ask about the office of Secretary of State. Do you support the Choose Life license plates, an issue that’s been bantered around the legislature for a couple of years?
DR: The idea of a Choose Life license plate – the concept – I can support. The problem that I have is not the issue of Choose Life, it’s the issue of specialty license plates.
In 1995, I sponsored the legislation that created the universal charitable license plate. It is law today. This Secretary of State has not promulgated the rules to implement it. Dan Rutherford, as Secretary of State, will promulgate the rules to implement it. It would be to allow not-for-profit or charitable organizations to have their own specialty license plate to raise the money for their purposes under proper protocol to use for what that purpose was.
It the Choose Life goes through that process, I’m totally for it. The challenge I have is, not the issue, but with specialty plates. Law enforcement is very opposed to specialty plates and the law that I crafted was with the embrace of sheriffs, local and state police, because we have so much confusion in specialty plates.
Now, I know that’s a complicated answer, but it’s a real answer.
FE: We’ve heard this response before, but they still continue to issue these specialty plates year after year . . .
DR: They do, but Dan Rutherford has not voted for specialty plates since 1995. In fact, I remember when the Marines’ specialty plate came up. I voted against it. And Pate Philip was not real happy with me. The same thing with the Boy Scouts’ specialty plate.
The fact is – that’s why I said in the early part of my conversation – I really think about what I do here. It’s a politically expedient thing to do for you to take this onto the Internet and say, ‘Of course I support the specialty license plate for Choose Life.’
I do support the issue, but the fact that the specialty plate – regardless of the issue – I believe is wrong. I have the voting record to prove that. This is why the sponsor of the provision that will allow for the ultimate end result, but this secretary of state will not promulgate the rules. Dan Rutherford will.
FE: The secretary of state is the state librarian. What is your thought about requiring state libraries to filter computers to protect children from exposure to illegal pornography via the Internet?
At the federal level, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires libraries that receive federal funds to filter their computers. The law has survived a U.S. Supreme Court challenge. Would you support legislation requiring the same for libraries who receive state funds?
DR: I’m not going to skirt the issue, but I would need to know more about the federal law.
There was a bill a number of years ago that required a specific filter to be put on. . .
FE: I’m referring to legislation that would not be mandated, and no specific filter would be required. It would simply require libraries that want state funding to filter their computers just as the federal law does.
DR: If I understood what that really means, I would look at it. Again, I opposed the one bill that required a specific filter.
FE: Why did you oppose it?
DR: Why? Because I don’t think it’s appropriate for state government to tell the hundreds of library districts around the state what specific filter they should be using. I happen to believe the library in a district or a community or a school that has a board has a better understanding of the process, the filters, to use for their local facility, rather than a group of legislators at the state capitol.
And that’s pretty consistent with regards to my whole approach to state government. I tend very much toward allowing local boards to make decisions. Unfunded mandates? My voting record is consistent against them. I do not vote for them.
FE: There is a concern that taxpayer dollars are going to provide access to illegal pornography on the Internet . . .
DR: If it’s illegal, it’s illegal . . .
FE: The state library association has consistently fought the legislation.
DR: I’ve been through the squabbles with the state library association back when this was in the House. I’m consistent. I would hope that a library would put filters on for illegal pornography, but I don’t believe it’s appropriate for state government to mandate to a library which filters they should be using. I believe in local control.
FE: The secretary of state is a fair platform to launch a campaign for a higher office. Would you want to run for governor or U.S. Senator from Illinois?
DR: Any of the offices are platforms for higher offices. Dawn Clark Netsche was Comptroller, Neil Hartigan was Attorney General, all of them are potential statewide platforms.
Again, I am not, and this is the honest truth – I am not running for Secretary of State with the vision of running for governor or U.S. Senator. That is not the agenda.
I do think it’s fair to say you never know. You never know. I did not think I would be in the Illinois State Senate. When I was a member of the State House, my agenda was to be John Maitland’s state representative for years and years and years. And the Lord had a different design.
And the day I got that phone call that John had had a debilitating stroke when driving in downtown Chicago, I was just shocked. And today John Maitland is my constituent and I’m his senator. So you never know what path politics and the Lord may take you on.
Today I am not running to become governor of Illinois or U.S. Senator. I’m running because I believe I can do a much better job as secretary of state.
FE: How much do you think this campaign will cost?
DR: I think it’s going to be a different election year in regards to dollars. And the reason I say that is, you know, people will say it will take three million or five million. The governor’s race will take tens of millions. . . I just say it’ll be a different year for that.
I think, one, there’s different uses of technology. I think it will be a different, unique way to deal with stuff, and two, I think it will have a lot to do with the U.S. Attorney. If there are further subpoenas and indictments on the Democratic side of the aisle, I think it will have a dramatic impact that can’t be quantified in dollars.
FE: Many voters are likely to say, ‘Look it all balances out. They’re all corrupt. It doesn’t matter. Why should I care?’
DR: You mean the George Ryan trial? I think the George Ryan trial is old news for the general public. I think George Ryan had his imprint on Illinois politics in the ‘02 election. I think the in the ’06 election, he’s former, he’s past, he’s out of office. The public has already convicted him and life goes on. It doesn’t mean you condone it, but I really don’t think that’s going to be a factor in the election.
Sure, Blagojevich is going to buy media, and whoever the nominee is – and I don’t care which one it is -- you can morph them into being a George Ryan, I don’t care if they had nothing to do with George Ryan – in this business you can morph them into it. I think that’s old hat. Current subpoenas and current indictments are what’s going to be in the mind of the public.
FE: You mean from the mayor on down?
DR: Right, from the mayor to the governor on down to the state rep who has her problems . . . those are current those are today’s.
FE: Exactly what are you thinking about using technology-wise in your campaign? Consultants say nothing works as well on the local level as face-to-face, knocking on doors.
DR: Let’s combine them. It’s what I said earlier – fire in the belly – and I’ve got it. I will be out there working very hard face-to-face and really doing it. I don’t have tumbling teams to go out and do it for me. I’m going to go out and do it personally and interface technology.
Let’s do a hypothetical. I’m going to be in Quincy later this month, and you do an email to tell everyone on your list you’re going to be on a certain radio station in Quincy, tune in. It’s kind of combining the old face-to-face with technology. We do that a lot now.
We do that if we’re going to be on a radio show, have a coffee, or speak at a local Lincoln Day dinner. And it’s part of that thing in politics that it’s not how many showed up, it’s knowing you were there.
But also on www.DanRutherford.org, we’re taking in comments and suggestions on how to improve the secretary of state’s office. People are reading that and are reacting, even to the point that I’m getting emails – which I read myself.
A lady emails me and says, ‘Man, have you opened a can of worms.’ And I emailed her back and said, “You bet.”
FE: Recently you sent out a complaint about the SOS office’s fees on late renewal of license plates. The press release cited 200,000 persons fined for being late. Some said those were not because the SOS was late in notifying of renewal, but because they didn’t have the money to renew, didn’t show up for whatever reason and the number you cited was exaggerated. Some of the reasons weren’t necessarily the fault of the SOS office as you claimed.
DR: Those might have been the reasons for the fees, sure. . . If you will go back, the ones who questioned the press release, I did not suggest that the 200,000 people that did not renew their license plates on time and who got the new Blagojevich $20 per person late fee were the ones who did not get the notices . . . nope, not at all. I did not say that.
But what I did say was that, self-admitted, the SOS office said they had a snafu. They did not carry out the proper direct mail process to notify people of their renewal for their license plates. Point said.
Point two: to date, 200,000 people were penalized because they didn’t renew on time. So you know what, if it happens to be the three of us sitting at this table who didn’t get their notices, it happens to be three customers that a business in direct marketing would never want to have lost.
Because the secretary of state’s office – the largest retail government the state operates – is a monopoly, you have no choice but to use them as a business. You cannot say, ‘I’m going over to Indiana or Iowa to get my service,’ you have to use Illinois. That’s my point.
Technology incompetence is not acceptable for business and it shouldn’t be for government.
FE: Obviously you’re not picking a favorite in the gubernatorial race. . .
DR: I know them all. They are all good men and women, and they will make good governors.
FE: Don’t have a preference? There’s an idea of perhaps a conservative slate and a liberal slate being formed soon. You’d be in the liberal slate with Judy?
DR: You know, I find it fascinating to put me in the liberal slate. So when you go to the Illinois Federation for Life or Illinois Citizens for Life, do they put me in the liberal slate? You go to the Illinois State Rifle Association or the NRA, do they put me in the liberal slate?
FE: So you’re saying, here’s my voting record. Go by that. . . There has been a lot of discussion about you and your positions on issues. You’re just dismissing that and pointing out your voting history?
DR: Oh, some of the websites out there are on my spam list. I don’t even get their stuff because it’s not worth my energy molecules for that type of thing. They’re on my spam list.
Look, I’m going out there, I’ve got a portfolio of votes – I don’t have just one vote. I have a portfolio of positions, not just one. And I have two decades of service in the private sector of business.
FE: You really think that those who have been complaining about you and your votes are going to look at Jesse White and Dan Rutherford, and decide, ‘I’m going to vote for him. There’s no other choice?’
DR: You know what, if they want to have a good secretary of state at the swearing in in January 2007, they should vote for Dan Rutherford.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch for a post-interview commentary later this week on Illinois Review. . .