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Fighting corruption should be a top priority for Illinois AG. Steve Kim has the right resume. – Chicago Tribune

The last time a Republican held the office of Illinois attorney general, Mayor Richard M. Daley was firmly ensconced in his reign, the musical “Chicago” had become a box office smash and the shoe bomber, Richard Reid pleaded guilty to trying to take down an American Airlines flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

Jim Ryan was the state’s last GOP AG, handing over the reins in January 2003 to Democrat Lisa Madigan, daughter of longtime Illinois House Speaker and Democratic kingmaker Michael Madigan. Democrat Kwame Raoul holds the office now, and in November will face one of three Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in the June 28 primary: Steve Kim, David Shestokas and Thomas DeVore.

The attorney general is the state’s chief lawyer. Officeholders historically have also made championing the cause of consumers a signature duty. That’s laudable, important work. But in the years Democrats have held the post, fighting corruption has been noticeably missing from the office’s to-do list. We’ve lamented this many times, observing in 2018 that because of her father’s all-powerful clout in Illinois politics, Lisa Madigan “had to punt this crucial duty to federal and local prosecutors.”

Would a Republican nominee take a much stronger, proactive approach toward corruption?

Kim says that’s a top priority. The 51-year-old Deerfield attorney lost to Lisa Madigan in the 2010 general election for state attorney general by a wide 65% to 32% margin. His résumé includes work helping governments in Iraq and other countries promote anti-corruption initiatives. He says the AG’s office should make better use of state racketeering laws to go after corrupt politicians, and should work with federal and local prosecutors to enforce those laws.

“We need to show and demonstrate to politicians … that it’s not just going to be the federal guys, that it’s going to be the attorney general’s office that’s also going to go after corrupt politicians,” Kim told us. “We need to do a full-court press on this.”

We’re not as impressed with Kim’s take on the consent decree, the 2019 court order that lays out steps the city must take to reform the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the 2014 fatal shooting of Black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer . The deficit of trust between police and Black and Latino neighborhoods cannot be bridged without an unwavering commitment to carrying out the consent decree’s requirements.

Kim, however, tells us he doesn’t support the consent decree “because it’s driving officers away.” And he insists the decree’s deadlines to implement reform are too strict. Former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey, the independent monitor tasked with ensuring CPD’s compliance with the consent decree, has chastised the department numerous times for missing deadlines that are far from onerous. Case in point: CPD still hasn’t met the consent decree’s long-standing ask for a permanent foot pursuit policy, even after foot pursuits preceded the Chicago police shooting deaths of Adam Toledo, 13, and Anthony Alvarez, 22, in separate incidents in late March 2021, and most recently a 13-year-old carjacking suspect on the West Side in May.

We’d like to remind Kim that the Illinois attorney general’s office plays an integral role in the consent decree. The AG reviews CPD’s attempts at reforms, and enforces the decree when the department’s actions violate it. We also remind Kim that the consent decree was applied to CPD because of the department’s long-running history of police misconduct, a legacy that severely eroded the legitimacy of the department in the eyes of residents, particularly those in minority neighborhoods.

Both Kim and another candidate, former Cook County prosecutor David Shestokas, say they would ramp up the attorney general’s role in fighting violent crime. Kim says he would ensure resource-strained counties get the help they need to prosecute violent crimes, and would “use the bully pulpit to go after state’s attorneys” seen as lax in prosecuting violent criminals. Shestokas wants to go one step further. He would set up an attorney general hotline for police officials to call when those officials feel their local state’s attorney isn’t aggressive enough in prosecuting serious crimes. We understand Shestokas’ passion, but we think collaboration between the attorney general’s office and local prosecutors is the better way to go.

We’re also troubled by Shestokas’ role in “Lawyers for Trump” during the 2020 presidential election. Shestokas says he spent five weeks in Pennsylvania as part of Trump’s legal team scouring for evidence of election fraud. “We don’t know what the correct result was,” Shestokas told us. “I don’t know who won.”

Well, we do. Joe Biden was fairly and legally elected president.

The third candidate in the race, Thomas DeVore, made a name for himself pursuing several challenges to Gov. JB Pritzker’s pandemic-related executive orders. He chose not to participate in the Tribune’s endorsement process.

Whoever wins the GOP nomination faces a tough general election fight against Raoul. We think Kim, with his strong background in battling corruption in far-flung places, is best suited to take on the incumbent Democrat.

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