Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cohen’s personal money can help, but it’s not the only factor at work in primary

I never realized that cleaning products and pawn shops were so profitable.

But that appears to be the case for Scott Lee Cohen, who is the one non-political person wishing to receive the Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor.

SERIOUSLY, THE BULK of his opposition in the Feb. 2 primary are men who have served significant stints in the Illinois Legislature, as opposed to Cohen – who’s trying to portray himself as the businessman who would bring his “real world” expertise to Illinois state government.

There are many people who will try to simplify the candidate field to four by claiming that Terry Link, Mike Boland, Art Turner and Rickey Hendon are the only ones that ought to be taken seriously. But Cohen is making rumblings that indicate he will force others to take him seriously.

In short, he’s rich. He has money. He can afford to spend some of his own wealth to try to win a primary nomination for public office.

The source of that money will cause some chuckles among politically oriented people. He founded a company that sells environmentally-friendly cleaning products, which will play very well among more liberal Democrats. He also owns several pawn shops in the Chicago area, which is bound to be the image the Republicans tag him with if his campaign starts to get too much traction among the public.

SO WHAT DOES Cohen have in mind?

Specifically, Cohen told the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald newspaper that he will spend up to $3 million of his own money on his primary campaign. None of the aforementioned trio could come close to matching that kind of money out of their own bank accounts or investments.

Personally, I find it kind of hypocritical when people think they ought to be able to use their personal wealth to give their campaign dreams a jolt. They usually are the ones who rant and rage about political people spending too much money to get themselves elected – even if it is money that comes from donations from potential supporters.

Cohen himself includes among his campaign rhetoric support for spending limits, along with a claim that candidates should only be allowed to raise up to $100,000 from outside sources to seek the lieutenant governor’s post.

SOME WILL SAY that Cohen is merely playing the political “game” with the rules that currently exist, and that his talk of reform would apply to himself in the future should he manage to get elected.

To me, it seems like he thinks he ought to have a financial advantage because of his personal wealth,which is a trend that has played out in election cycles past.

Some times it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

I still remember the millions spent by one-time state Rep. Al Salvi, who in 1996 was able to dump the Republican Party’s preferred nominee of Bob Kustra for U.S. Senate and in 1998 beat out Loleta Didrickson for the Illinois Secretary of State nomination.

HE DIDN’T WIN either general election (and by his own admission, his personal wealth dropped so much from having to pay for two statewide campaigns that he no longer qualified as a “millionaire”), but he was able to force his face into the public view.

Let’s also remember the way Chicago attorney Al Hofeld used his own money to pay the bulk of a primary campaign for U.S. Senate, using his money in 1992 to try to tar incumbent Al Dixon. There are some who believe that the personal money worked in that it caused Dixon to lose, even if a plurality of voters preferred the third option – then-Cook County Recorder of Deeds Carol Moseley-Braun.

But when Moseley-Braun tried running for re-election in 1998, she had to encounter another man with personal wealth. Peter Fitzgerald ran a campaign that kept him out of the eye of everyone except the most hard-core GOP supporters – and he won his one term in the U.S. Senate.

My point in reciting these past pols is to show that there’s no guarantee Cohen can buy the Democratic Party’s nomination for the right to be one heartbeat away from serving as governor. But money, if handled right, will go a long way toward jumpstarting the Cohen campaign into electoral legitimacy.

OF COURSE, IF Cohen has a skeleton or two in his background (and I’m not aware of any, other than the fact that some people will try to turn his connections to pawn shops into something sleazy), all of his money won’t help him.

He could wind up suffering the fate of Blair Hull, who early on in the 2004 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate was the leader – in fact, the only candidate who was able to get much public attention, because he could afford a batch of television spots that made it appear as though he was the ONLY candidate in the campaign.

But when it came out that he had a history of domestic abuse involving his ex-wife, his money couldn’t save him, which created the political vacuum that ultimately was filled by the state senator from the Hyde Park neighborhood whom we now refer to as “Mr. President.”


EDITOR’S NOTES: He may be one of the least known of the lieutenant governor “dreamers,” but Scott Lee Cohen (http://scottleecohen.com/New_Home.html) may become the latest wealthy guy to try to buy himself an elective office in Illinois.

Cohen says he can handle up to $3 million (http://blogs.dailyherald.com/node/3085) to pay for a campaign, but his supporters are more likely to try to portray him as a businessman with “real world” experience (http://nwitimes.com/news/local/illinois/article_a06e9c9f-5cca-5be6-a0d0-ac5f3571db08.html) that could benefit state government if he is elected.


Anonymous said...

Check out Mark Brown's column in the March 17, 2009 Sun-Times for some info about Cohen including this chestnut:

"Part of the reason Cohen said he sought me out to write about his candidacy is that he wanted to make a pre-emptive strike about some potentially embarrassing matters before they came up in the campaign...

But he insisted on telling me about his 2005 arrest in a domestic battery case involving a girlfriend with whom he was living while his divorce was pending. The charges were dropped when the woman did not appear in court, he said, and he denied he did anything wrong in the first place."

Anonymous said...

Blair Hull indeed...

ILREFORM said...

I'd like to see Cohen win and get down there to mix it up with Madigan and Company. The dems could use a shake up like this in Springfield. All the other pols are more of the same.

Anonymous said...

The last thing we need is another career politician. I care about the issues and what a candidate can do for my interests. Someone’s personal life is not important to me.

Scott is a successful business man and political reformer, which is exactly what we need to jump start the state’s economy. Scott knows how to create jobs. He runs his own green cleaning supply company and his campaign sponsors job fairs to find work for people who need it.

Scott started the grassroots organization “Rod Must Resign” that helped bring down former Governor Blagojevich. The cost of political corruption is high. To hold the line on taxes and bring new companies here, we need a reformer who will stamp out waste and political perks in state government.

Anonymous said...

Interesting: www.suntimes.com/news/sneed/2000930,CST-NWS-SNEED20A.article

Anonymous said...

Interesting: www.suntimes.com/news/sneed/2000930,CST-NWS-SNEED20A.article

Anonymous said...

This man has done the following:
-Cheated on his ex-wife countless times
-Abandonded his children, who have been exposed to horrors (like domenstic abuse and pornography)
-Has really no education
-made Tiger Woods look like a saint.

He belongs in Vegas running a pawn shop or slithering somewhere else on his serpentine belly-not in public office.