Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias today officially launched his campaign for U.S. Senate in 2010, encouraging supporters to "stand up" and join him in his effort to revive the economy and restore opportunity for Illinois residents.
The only Democrat to declare his candidacy for the seat held previously by his political mentor, U.S. President Barack Obama, Giannoulias told the crowd that - more than ever - Washington needs responsible leaders who will take on powerful special interest groups during these difficult economic times.
"This race will offer voters a stark choice between the failed past or a promising future - a clear choice between the right course and the wrong one," said Giannoulias, kicking off his campaign during a three-day statewide tour. "We are at a seminal moment in this nation's history when the decisions that are made over the next few years will shape our nation for generations."
In his speech, Giannoulias recounted conversations with people who inspired him to run: Illinois farmers, factory workers, college students and small business owners from across the state who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of the economic downturn. "These are the victims of Washington politics as usual," he said.
Hartmarx Corp. workers crowded the kick-off event in Chicago to support Giannoulias, who helped the 137-year-old, Illinois-based suitmaker avoid liquidation and save 1,000 jobs by threatening to pull state business from the factory's main creditor, Wells Fargo. Giannoulias argued that after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Wells Fargo had a responsibility to invest in American jobs and workers, saying, "the American taxpayer is not an ATM for Corporate America."
Giannoulias challenged Illinoisans to join him in standing up to those who created America's economic crisis. He noted that far too many Americans are struggling as the result of Washington insiders and politicians who supported the failed trickle-down economic strategies of former President George W. Bush.
"During the past decade, those who controlled Washington systematically undermined the economic engine of the American middle class," Giannoulias said. "The policies they forced on the American people for nearly a decade killed millions of jobs, helped the few that are rich, hurt the many who live in the middle and drove the nation into the deepest economic recession in 75 years.
"Let's stand up together, move forward and write the next great chapter in American history."
Giannoulias said restoring the public's trust and confidence in government and its elected leaders would also serve as a top priority. He reiterated his pledge, made as the first U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois, to refuse political contributions from federal lobbyists and corporate PACs during his campaign, telling the crowd, "we cannot sit back and let the influence of corporate special interests bankrupt American families."
Elected Illinois State Treasurer as an independent Democrat, Giannoulias has pursued a progressive, reform agenda that focuses on innovative initiatives and policies designed to curb ethical abuses, safely invest the taxpayers' money and promote the financial wellbeing of state residents.
In his first official act as State Treasurer, he ended pay-to-play politics in the Treasurer's office by prohibiting his campaign fund from taking contributions from contractors, banks and office employees. He made the state's financial records more transparent by successfully pushing legislation requiring his and future administrations to post online reports detailing where state money is invested and how it performs compared to standard benchmarks.
To prevent young adults from piling up credit card debt, Giannoulias cracked down on credit card companies by authoring legislation to curb deceptive tactics marketers employ to prey on college students.
Giannoulias introduced securities lending, which earned more than $2 million in revenue for the state in its first year. To address the nation's worst unfunded pension liability, Giannoulias successfully drafted legislation that will potentially save the state $16 billion dollars by accelerating Illinois' pension debt payments. He has also supported the retention and creation of hundreds of jobs through low-interest business loans and venture capital investments.
As administrator of the state's 529 college savings programs, Giannoulias overhauled Illinois' Bright Start plan, lowering fees, adding more investment options and eliminating tax penalties. Earlier this year, Money Magazine named it a Top 3 program and Consumer Reports called it one of the best five programs in the nation.
Giannoulias negotiated $3.5 million in privately financed merit- and need-based scholarships that will help thousands of students attend college. In addition, he established the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarship accounts to the children of fallen military and National Guard personnel.
In keeping with his agenda of ethics reform and fiscal responsibility, Giannoulias ended one of the scandals that tarnished Illinois government for 25 years. He gained title of two hotels owned and operated by political insiders that owed state taxpayers $60 million in loan and interest payments. His three-day swing includes stops at the hotels, the Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield and the former Collinsville Holiday Inn.