|Alexi Giannoulias Fact Sheet|
|Born: March 16, 1976 (34 years old)
Education:Boston University (Bachelor of Arts, Economics)
Tulane University Law School (Juris Doctor)
Marital Status: Engaged (Fiancee: Tara Flocco)
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Occupation: Illinois State Treasurer, elected in 2006
Previous Occupations: Professional basketball player in Greece (Panionios B.C. Greece)
Vice President of Broadway Bank in Chicago’s Edgewater community
Board of Directors of the Community Bankers Association
Alexi Giannoulias burst onto the political scene in 2006 when he was elected Illinois State Treasurer at the age of 30. Once a promising, fresh face for the Democratic Party, he is now fighting to save his political career after the collapse of his family’s business, Broadway Bank, amid questions about the bank’s ties to criminals. Giannoulias touted his role as Broadway Bank’s chief loan officer when he ran for State Treasurer. But now the Democratic nominee’s banking credentials threaten to derail his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President Obama.
Broadway Bank’s Collapse and Giannoulias’ Response
On April 23, Broadway Bank was seized by the FDIC after the bank failed to raise $70 million in capital assets. The four branches are scheduled to reopen under MB Financial Bank, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“[The Giannoulias campaign] knew this was coming and they knew it would be damaging,” Chicago Reader Political Reporter Mick Dumke told Chicago Loopster. “They’d been preparing for months.”
Giannoulias’ campaign has tried to soften the political blow by releasing a television ad that casts Broadway Bank as another hapless victim of the Great Recession.
Josh Brown, an student activist who supports Giannoulias, said that unlike national banks Broadway Bank never received federal bailout funds and is one of 57 community banks nationwide that have closed this year.
Opponents Highlight Ties to Crime
Giannoulias’ opponents, however, blame the bank’s failure on irresponsible loans to crime figures, citing newspaper reports.
The Chicago Tribune alleged that Broadway Bank loaned a pair of Chicago crime figures, Michael Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos, about $20 million in 2004 while Giannoulias was a senior loan officer. Stavropoulos was convicted for running a multistate bookmaking ring and began a two-year sentence in 2005 while Giorango has felony convictions on bookmaking and prostitution promotion.
Additionally, the Sun-Times reported that Broadway also loaned $10.9 million to convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, $9 million of which the bank has received back.
Giannoulias said he may have been involved in servicing those loans, but noted that he has not accepted campaign contributions from Rezko. Giannoulias charged his Republican opponent, Rep. Mark Kirk, with accepting money from Rezko, who is also known for dubious connections to President Obama and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Conservative talk show host and writer Guy Benson called Giannoulias a “corrupt, opportunistic lightweight” and said that the young politician’s limited work experience was not necessarily positive experience.
And the National Republican Senatorial Committee released this YouTube spot spoofing Giannoulias’ career with a scene mimicked mobster television series The Sopranos.
Giannoulias and his campaign have attempted to brush the loan scandal aside.
“The truth of the matter is when you have a bank with thousands of customers, it’s easy to cherry-pick a few and go back in time and say I wish we wouldn’t have done business with these individuals. … That’s not how the real world business model works, unfortunately,” Giannoulias told the Tribune.
The Political Fallout – Can Giannoulias Still Win?
Observers remain skeptical of attempts to whitewash Giannoulias’ connection to Broadway Bank. David Yepsen, former political columnist and director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University called the bank’s failure a “serious blow” which would plague Giannoulias throughout the campaign.
Giannoulias lags behind opponent Kirk in polls, 46 to 38 percent, and Democrats may decide to abandon him in favor of a candidate with a better shot at keeping Obama’s former Senate seat in Democratic hands.
But Dumke told Chicago Loopster that voters will likely be more focused on the economy and jobs in November than on the collapse of Broadway Bank. A Rasmussen poll released April 30 showed that 49 percent of Illinois voters said the Broadway Bank issue is not important at all in terms of how they will vote this November.
“I wouldn’t rule him out,” Dumke said. “It’s a long time until the election. Six months is an eternity in politics.”
Mayor Daley’s “Graffiti Blasters,” a program started in 1993, promises to remove graffiti from private property within 24 hours of a report. Baking soda combined with high pressure water is used to remove the graffiti, street art or gang-related vandalism. The city has 13 “blast trucks” and 14 paint trucks.
Song: “Freedom’s Truth” by Jamie K
Photos: Flickr Commons
Chicago Public Schools announced closings, turnarounds, phase-outs, and consolidations, which continue to draw protests from teachers, students and families.
“They’ve been talking about this for a long time, but I was thinking because we’ve made improvements, I was thinking they would try to move students in there. I was shocked when [a district official] gave me the news.”
–Frederico Flores, Principal, Peabody Elementary School
“Our parents worked hard, our teachers worked hard, our students worked hard to improve our school. “So everyone’s going to band together and try to keep our school open.”
-Frederico Flores, Principal, Peabody Elementary School
“We need to build up, not tear down the people and places where our students need to learn.”
-Marilyn Stewart, President, Chicago Teachers Union
“Do not let this blood sit on your hands. When it comes to our children, you will be held accountable.”
-Wanda Hopkins, member, Parents United for Responsible Education
“For 30 years [CPS-backed reform initiatives] have not delivered on providing a first-class education for all children in Chicago no matter where they’re coming from. We’re saying the time is now.”
-Jackson Potter, steering committee, Caucus of Rank and File Educators
“Closures are essential but they have to be part of a bigger strategy. If we close Johnson Middle, do we have enough new schools that are starting, that are close to them and will fit them well?”
-Andy Smarick, distinguished visiting fellow at Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, D.C., author of the Education Next article “The Turnaround Fallacy.”
“We’re trying rebuild every community school in Chicago. That’s what you have to do. If we don’t build community schools where people firmly believe that their child can get a quality education, then we’re gonna fail as a society. That is the commitment of rebuilding school after school. And that’s what we’re doing.”
–Mayor Richard M. Daley