Classic Redirection

In the wake of the Wikileak Democratic National Committee email scandal, leading Democrats are practicing a classic technique in order to distract the public from the scandal. A security firm paid by the DNC blamed “Russian espionage groups” for the email leak, then implied they leaked the emails in order to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump,” Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN on Sunday.

So let me get this straight–“experts” paid by the DNC found something potentially damaging to their opponent’s campaign? How convenient. And why is this damaging, exactly?

Because Donald Trump once said something nice about Russian President Vladimir Putin, and vice versa. I guess it’s inappropriate for presidential candidates to reach out to world leaders and establish positive relationships (wait, isn’t Trump supposed to be damaging our international relationships? I’m confused).

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Mother Extraordinaire

“As the mother of my three amazing children and the Representative of Florida’s 23rd congressional district, I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future. I look forward to serving as a surrogate for her campaign in Florida and across the country to ensure her victory.” – Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, stepping down after being accused of favoring Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

Huh? How does Wasserman-Schultz being a mother of three children (amazingness aside) or a congressional representative have anything to do with Hillary Clinton’s qualifications for president?

New Article at Rockford Advocate Explores Rockford’s ‘End Demand’ Strategy

In an effort to increase penalties on people utilizing sexual services in Rockford, and thus ‘End Demand’ for those services, Rockford began impounding vehicles of drivers caught in the act. The impound fees are deposited in a fund, which is then used to help get women out of the sex trade. At least, in theory.

How effective is this program? How much money has it taken in, and how is that money being used? These are the questions I set out to answer. Click here to read the entire article.

Prostitution has long been an issue in the City of Rockford. Academic studies, news reports, and anecdotal evidence show Rockford is a popular sex tourism destination for men all over the stateline.

Though local law enforcement continues to conduct stings and arrests, prostitutes are still a common sight in some neighborhoods. Police estimate there are 15 to 20 prostitutes on Rockford’s streets at any given time, but many more ply their trade online.

Since 2015, Rockford has tried a new strategy to combat prostitution and human trafficking in the city. Its advocates call it the “End Demand Strategy,” focusing on targeting demand for sexual services. While too early to evaluate its success or failure, organizations like Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (RAASE), in cooperation with local law enforcement, have made small steps toward implementing this strategy.

Rockford took a step toward “Ending Demand” in 2015 by enacting an ordnance levying a new penalty for drivers caught soliciting a prostitute and committing other sex-trade related crimes. Individuals picked up for solicitation while operating a motor vehicle now have their car impounded, which costs $1,000 to recover.

On Jan. 5, 2015, Rockford aldermen unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s vehicle impound ordinance, Sec. 17-28(m), authorizing the city to deposit impound fees into a fund earmarked for rehabilitation, outreach and education services, GED attainment, and job training for former prostitutes and victims of human trafficking.

According to RAASE President Jennifer Cacciapaglia, her organization worked with the city’s code and regulation committee to craft the new ordinance. They based it on Cook County Code of Ordinances Sec. 58-164, which imposes a $500 fine, plus any towing and storage fees, for cars impounded in the course of committing certain sex and drug crimes. [Read More…]

New Article on Rockford’s Sex Trade

I recently wrote this in-depth article on the Rockford sex trade for Rockford Advocate. Prostitution is one of the city’s many social problems, but one which doesn’t get a lot of press. Click here to read the entire article.

Their faces are tired, aged, and embarrassed–evidence of a hard life on the streets.

Mugshots of men and womProstitution Related Arrestsen caught in high profile prostitution stings are a common sight in the Rockford news. For most residents, these stories are as close as they will come to the illegal sex trade.

Yet at street corners and motels in south Rockford, prostitution has become a way of life for dozens of women. Men travel from around the stateline to pay for sex with women as young as 14, to as old as 54. News stories, arrest records, and anecdotal evidence shows Rockford has become a popular Midwestern destination for sex tourism.

Law enforcement has grappled with this problem for decades, but in a city with some of the highest violent crime rates in Illinois, prostitution often takes a backseat. Many believe it is a victimless crime enjoyed between consenting adults. Others believe it is a humanitarian tragedy. Sorting through the myths and assumptions about prostitution to uncover this murky underworld can be difficult. Little by little, however, a picture emerges of a multimillion-dollar sex industry, right in our own backyard.

Communities typically view the sex trade as a problem for law enforcement. Police respond to prostitution complaints by conducting stings and arresting prostitutes to take them off the streets. Recently, however, law enforcement agencies have increasingly focused on combating human trafficking and cracking down on demand for sexual services. Technology, including smartphone apps and advertisements for sexual services on websites like Craigslist and, is presenting new challenges for law enforcement.

Illinois defines prostitution-related offenses under 720 ILCS 5/Art. 11 Subdiv. 15. These crimes include prostitution, solicitation of a sexual act, promoting prostitution, promoting juvenile prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, and patronizing a minor engaged in prostitution. [Read More…]

Council Appointment Shows Democracy Inaction

By Michael Kleen ~ Published November 13, 2013 at the Rock River Times

CityofRockfordLogoIn April 2013, Vernon Hilton (D) won a narrow victory over Pamela Connell (R) to become alderman of Rockford’s 6th Ward. Less than six months later, Mr. Hilton resigned and moved to Texas for a job opportunity. Before leaving, he recommended that his friend Marcus Hill be appointed to fill the vacancy. After interviewing five applicants and reviewing their résumés, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) chose to appoint Marcus Hill.

The appointment made the front page of the Rockford Register Star. Their sub headline read, “Mayor says Safer Foundation rep Marcus Hill is best of 5 candidates for 6th Ward.” Given the information presented in the article, we are led to believe that yes, this was a wonderful decision. The Register Star, however, did not report the full story. A more complete view of the facts about the candidates will show that this was far from the best decision the mayor could have made.

Let me make one thing clear; my purpose is not to denigrate or disparage the appointee. I’m sure Mr. Hill is an upstanding man and might make a perfectly fine alderman. My purpose is 1) to point out that Mayor Morrissey’s argument in favor of his decision is either questionable, disingenuous, or both, and 2) to point out the Register Star’s omission of certain important facts from their coverage of that decision.

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Head Start a Red Herring in Stimulus Scandal

By Michael Kleen ~ Published October 30, 2013 at the Rock River Times

redherringEver since Rockford’s stimulus funds scandal erupted over the summer, media coverage has focused on a peripheral issue: the fate of Rockford’s Head Start program. This has effectively distracted the public from the costly and embarrassing mistakes made by senior Human Services Department officials that led to the scandal. Rather than focusing on the lack of oversight and accountability, the public’s outrage has been misdirected toward a phony issue involving Head Start. Here is how it happened.

In July of this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General released the results of a partial audit of Federal stimulus funds given by the State of Illinois to Rockford in 2009. The Inspector General found $205,296 was used for “unallowable” reasons under the terms of the Recovery Act award. A further $141,796 was deemed “potentially unallowable.”

After conducting a review of the audit, the City of Rockford released a memo outlining its findings. City Administrator James (Jim) Ryan recommended that Rockford “return” $298,671.84, establish a Grant Program Compliance section within the Rockford Finance Department, and restructure the Rockford Human Services (HS) Department. The $298,671.84 would come from “recaptured loan funds” and Rockford’s Redevelopment Fund.

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New Illinois Campaign Finance Law Reduces Transparency

By Michael Kleen ~ Published October 16, 2013 at the Rock River Times

campaign-finance-scandalChanges to Illinois campaign finance disclosure law will make it easier for political bankrollers to hide behind first-time candidates. Public Act 98-0115, effective July 29, 2013, made several changes to Illinois disclosure law, including a $2,000 increase in the threshold for new political committee formation. That means a candidate can now raise or spend up to $5,000 before he or she is required to file with the State Board of Elections.

Previously, the threshold for new political committee formation was $3,000. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, “Once it has been determined that your campaign has exceeded $3,000 in either receipts or expenditures… it must file a Statement of Organization (Form D-1) with the State Board of Elections within 10 business days.” (A Guide to Campaign Disclosure, Jan. 2013)

Filing with the State Board of Elections means (among other things) that cumulative contributions from an individual totaling $150 or more during an election cycle must be itemized on a publicly available quarterly report. The donor’s name, address, and the amount of his or her donation appear on that report. If the candidate has not reached the threshold for new political committee formation, however, that information remains private.

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