Lawmakers on Thursday agreed to delay interviews of key officials linked to Gov. Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program for 90 days, bowing to the wishes of federal prosecutors who warned they risked compromising an investigation.
The agreement came one day after a contentious hearing filled with election-year politics as Republicans initially wanted to push forward against resistance from Democrats who would rather see the issue dropped until after the Nov. 4 election.
Under the deal struck Thursday, lawmakers will put off testimony until Oct. 8 but must first check in with U.S. Attorney James Lewis of the Central District of Illinois to ensure they will not interfere with his probe. They will be allowed to collect documents in the meantime.
Weary from hours of political bickering the day before, lawmakers hailed the agreement as proof they could come together to ensure any wrongdoing be rooted out. But the delay may move the political theater back by only a few months, as the new hearing date is just weeks before the Nov. 4 election.
The anti-violence program looms large over the governor’s race, as Republican Bruce Rauner has accused Quinn of using the initiative to drive voter turnout in predominantly Democratic areas of the city and Cook County just ahead of the 2010 election. Quinn has acknowledged mistakes were made but argues the program’s intentions were good.
State Rep. Frank Mautino, the Democratic co-chair of the panel looking into the program, said it was too early to speculate about whether lawmakers will actually hear from officials before the election.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” said Mautino. “I think we all know where we stand and want to make sure we don’t interfere, but still at the end of the day do the job that we need to do.”
Legislators had subpoenaed several current and former officials connected to the anti-violence program as part of their continued examination of a scathing February audit, which found the program was hastily implemented, lacked oversight and spurred questionable spending.
“The political process is not always pretty. The outcome is what’s important,” said state Sen. Jason Barickman, the panel’s Republican co-chair. “All I can hope for is the witnesses will comply with the subpoenas, they will appear before us, and start to answer the questions that we ask.