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Democratic candidate for governor, JB Pritzker greets patrons of MacArthur’s Restaurant in Chicago (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)

CHICAGO (AP) — Newly released FBI wiretaps captured Democratic Illinois governor candidate J.B. Pritzker making racially insensitive comments during a call with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, including saying a popular lawmaker was the “least offensive” African-American to appoint to a Senate seat.

The Chicago Tribune late Monday published the previously unreleased recording from a decade-old investigation of Blagojevich, a Democrat now imprisoned for convictions that included trying to trade an appointment to Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash.

Pritzker, a billionaire businessman who’s considered the front runner in the March 20 primary, apologized on Tuesday during a news conference at a southern-style cafeteria on Chicago’s West Side where he was joined by African-American supporters.

“I regret the conversations in many ways, the words that I used, and the things that I didn’t say on that call that I would have preferred to have said… I can do better and I have,” Pritzker said. “I clearly made a mistake that day and I clearly wasn’t my best self.”

On the recording, Pritzker suggests Blagojevich appoint Secretary of State Jesse White rather than other African- Americans, including Jesse Jackson Jr. or Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. He says doing so “covers you on the African-American thing.”

“Of all the African-Americans that I can think that are sort of like qualified … and people will say ‘Oh – that’s, you know that’s, that’s a pretty good pick,’ the one that’s least offensive and maybe gets you the most because it gets you that secretary of state appointment is Jesse White.”

Pritzker also says the secretary of state position is “the key spot … that controls jobs, etc.” and that by appointing White to the Senate, Blagojevich wouldn’t have to name an African-American to the state post.

Later in the call, Pritzker is heard laughing as Blagojevich jokes about appointing Obama’s former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose comments dogged Obama’s 2008 campaign. Among other things, Wright said the U.S. brought on the Sept. 11 attacks by committing terrorism against others and that people should sing “God Damn America” rather than “God Bless America.”

On the call, Blagojevich mimics Wright, imagining him saying “God Damn America” on the floor of the Senate.

“That’s funny,” Pritzker says.

Wright declined comment Tuesday through a family spokesperson.

Pritzker’s running mate, state Rep. Juliana Stratton, is African-American. White, who’s backing Pritzker and appeared in an early campaign ad for him, stood beside him at Tuesday’s news conference. He said he wasn’t offended and that Pritzker apologized to him.

“I know where his heart is,” White said.

Pritzker’s opponents condemned the remarks, with businessman Chris Kennedy calling them “disqualifying.” State Sen. Daniel Biss described the exchange as an example of a system “rigged to benefit a few at the expense of all of the rest of us.”

“The notion that the white male governor and the white male billionaire are going to, in a jokey conversation, divvy up the spoils for other communities is dangerous,” Biss said.

Political experts said the recordings are likely to hurt Pritzker’s bid. Black voters make up almost 30 percent of the Democratic electorate in Illinois.

“(Blagojevich) is still a potent political figure and you don’t want to be associated with him,” said Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. “If your narrative is that the white power structure is slanted against African-Americans, this feeds into that.”

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who’s seeking a second term, already has been running ads attacking Pritzker that feature wiretap audio the Chicago Tribune released last year. In those ads Pritzker and Blagojevich are heard discussing the Senate appointment and a possible state job appointment.

Pritzker has said he did nothing wrong and noted he was never accused of wrongdoing. He said Tuesday he believed people are leaking the tapes to damage his campaign and he would “contemplate” possible legal action.

The Tribune has not disclosed how the newspaper obtained the recordings, which were not among the wiretap audio played in court that formed the core of the evidence against Blagojevich,



Associated Press reporter John O’Connor contributed from Springfield, Illinois.




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6 thoughts on “Illinois Governor Hopeful Captured On Tape Discussing Black Candidates

  1. I’ll provide my full contact information if you decide to publish the following:

    J. P. Pritzker is at it again. The self-described son of a drunken B needs a thorough dressing down. He could pass himself off as a friend of the people if he paid his employees more and charged his customers less. But then he wouldn’t be a billionaire. Then he couldn’t afford the advertising that says he is what he isn’t.

    Because he’s a billionaire, it’s reasonable to ask him how much of his wealth he’s invested in municipal bonds.

    Working class voters would be wise to learn as much about municipal bonds as they can. Municipal bonds are to cities what mortgages are to working class houses. The city borrows money, usually for 20 years. The city pays interest on the loan, usually 5% per annum. The bond formalizes the agreement. The bond has coupons attached. The bond owner clips coupons once every three months. The bond owner sends his coupons to the city. The city sends him a check for the quarterly interest due. At the end of 20 years, the city sends the bond owner a check for the principal of the loan. Often, the city has to sell more bonds to get the money to pay back principal. Then current bond owners can roll over the principal of an old bond into a new bond and rake in the interest for another 20 years.

    The city hires public financiers to sell the bonds and pays them a hefty fee for their services. The bond owner stores his bonds in a bank and pays bankers a hefty fee to clip his coupons.

    The city finances some of its operations with the sales tax, special taxes and other fees. The city pays school employees, police department employees, park district employees, private construction contractors and similar patronage workers out of property tax revenues. The more people the city hires and the more it pays them, the more money the city must borrow from billionaires like Pritzker; and the more they increase their wealth with interest on the loans.

    Even worse, billionaires want comparatively poor people to have a small share in one little municipal bond so that people burdened by the property tax believe that they, too, have a personal financial stake in the perpetuation and inflation of municipal debt and taxes.

    The people who profit most from municipal debt want property tax payers to think everything involved is a sacred cow. The profiteers spend some of their profit on expensive and profitable tv shows, movies, commercials, billboards and other propaganda to convince tax payers that teachers, cops, activity directors and electricians are sacred cows.

    Heaven forbid that the city doesn’t pay hundreds of thousands of people to write up homework assignments so that parents do the actual teaching at home for free. And if parents refuse to slave for teachers, heaven forbid that the city doesn’t borrow more money to pay private tutors so that teachers can brag that they’re doing their jobs, even though they aren’t.

    Heaven forbid that many teachers aren’t bullies who turn many students to a life of crime; and create an iron-clad excuse to hire hundreds of thousands of police officers.

    Heaven forbid that many police officers aren’t bullies who believe they’re paid to harass and intimidate the evidence that teachers don’t do what they’re paid to do. Some criminals disappear into prisons. Crime doesn’t. Crime persists as long as the true causes persist. No public servant should ever be paid to tell a kid he’s inferior or steal the time kids need to follow through on their natural curiosity and talent.

    Heaven forbid that some police officers don’t believe they’re paid to exterminate the teachers’ helpless victims. Heaven forbid that enough victims aren’t offed to provide employment for the multitude of lawyers who negotiate settlements with the victims’ survivors and create yet another iron-clad excuse for the city to borrow money from billionaires.

    Heaven forbid that anyone should be educated well enough to do the homework on the property tax. People who do the homework learn that the tax violates the fundamental principles and laws of the United States and of the state.

    The property tax also violates millions of eternal contracts that document the original sale of private property. State and federal courts should be enforcing those contracts and none other.

    Only a handful of property owners have ever signed contracts with patronage workers and billionaires. Most property owners refuse to vote for city officials who do sign the contracts. Most voters who put city officials into office are public servants. A few other beneficiaries sign in at polling booths, but don’t make a majority. The majority of property owners can’t be held responsible for enforcement of contracts they don’t sign. Elected officials they don’t vote for or appoint aren’t their legal agents and representatives.

    Middle class candidates for public office need the votes of teachers, cops and park district secretaries as much as billionaire candidates need their votes. And that’s why Pritzker is currently advertising that he’s the teachers’ best bet for job security, higher pay and more benefits.

    Inflation works to the advantage of the multifarious municipal debt gang. Deflation works to the advantage of everyone, even gangbangers. All public servants should take a reduction in pay instead of demanding raises. They’d figure it out if their arithmetic lessons had ever been appropriate.

    Happy voting, folks.

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