Adam Andrzejewski


I have to admit that a month ago I didn’t know much about Adam Andrzejewski other than he unsuccessfully ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination here in Illinois earlier this year.

After hearing him speak in Ottawa last week, however, I find myself intrigued by an idea he is championing: a forensic audit of all state spending. An in-depth examination of how our tax dollars are being spent, he argues, would result in greater transparency in government spending, clamp down on political corruption and, perhaps most importantly, save millions of dollars by cutting wasteful spending. 

Would a forensic audit really do those things? I’m not sure, but I’m still intrigued by the idea.

There are some skeptics who doubt a forensic audit would be worth the investment, since it likely would be costly to track down every dollar that was spent by Illinois politicians in a single budget year, let alone multiple years. And for the sake of argument, let’s say a forensic audit finds several million dollars of wasteful spending that can be cut – but the forensic audit costs several million dollars to carry out. Is the audit still worthwhile?

I’d say yes, since the audit presumably would be necessary only once, but the savings would be repeated on an annual basis. That would make the savings more than the expenditure.

Numerous House Republicans – and two Democrats – agree. They are championing House Resolution 1057, which calls for a forensic audit of all state spending.

Not surprisingly, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), whose top priority often seems to be keeping himself in power, has said a forensic audit is unnecessary and cost prohibitive. So far he has refused to let the bill be put to a vote on the House floor – which actually may be the strongest indicator that a forensic audit may be in order.

In any case, Andrzejewski – now the president of For The Good of Illinois, an Elmhurst-based, nonprofit organization that wants limited and accountable government – may have found his true political calling after losing the GOP gubernatorial primary in February.

“I want to be an example that you can lose an election, but your ideas can win,” Andrzejewski said in Ottawa last week.

A forensic audit certainly wouldn’t be the only solution to all that financially ails Illinois, but it might be part of a bigger one.

At the very least, it wouldn’t hurt for our elected officials to look a little further into the idea, rather than dismiss it out of hand – especially when it has the endorsement of a group such as the Better Government Association.

Perhaps a forensic audit wouldn’t be cost-effective, and if that’s the case, then it may not be something that needs to be done. After all, the last thing the forensic audit needs to become is more wasteful spending.

But we may never get the chance to find out if certain powerful lawmakers continue to block mere discussion of the issue on the House floor.

This column was originally published in the May 6 issue of  Ottawa Delivered.

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Earlier this month I covered the inaugural Reagan Legacy Scholarship Dinner for Ottawa Delivered. The event, held at Pitstick Pavilion near Ottawa, featured a $500 scholarship being awarded to an Ottawa Township High School senior and a lot of fond Republican memories of our nation’s 40th president being shared by those in attendance.

As tends to be the case at such events, I got to interview several political candidates who don’t regularly stump in this part of the state. The following is a column I wrote about my encounter with two Republican candidates for Illinois governor, originally published online and in print Nov. 12.

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Last weekend’s inaugural Reagan Legacy Scholarship Dinner proved fruitful for me as a political reporter. Since Ottawa isn’t Chicago, Springfield or another Illinois city comparable in size, we usually don’t get a lot of visits from statewide-office seekers until crunch time right before a close election.

The dinner, which originally was to feature GOP rising star U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) as its main speaker (the health-care reform debate kept him in Washington, D.C., that day), was attended by two of the seven men vying for the Republican nomination for governor: state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom (R-Naperville). I talked with both of them separately before dinner began.

I found Dillard easily, considering he was wearing a big button with his name on it. (And by big, I mean the size of my fist.) He exuded confidence when asked how his campaign is going.

“I feel perfectly positioned at this point of the campaign,” Dillard said.

Two days earlier, the seven GOP candidates for governor – which also include state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), former state GOP chairman Andy McKenna (R-Chicago), former state Attorney General Jim Ryan (R-Elmhurst), political commentator Dan Proft (R-Wheaton) and government transparency advocate Adam Andrzejewski (R-Hinsdale) – all debated together for the first time. While complimenting the tone of the debate, Dillard couldn’t resist poking at a couple of his opponents.

“It was polite and professional and it was nice to see Andy McKenna and Jim Ryan get out of the Rose Garden and come out of hibernation,” Dillard said. “Most of the candidates have been campaigning statewide, not just at the Hilton in Chicago.”

A state senator since 1994, Dillard served as former Gov. Jim Edgar’s chief of staff, former Gov. Jim Thompson’s director of legislative affairs, and a judge for the Illinois Court of Claims. He believes his experience and his track record of clean ethics make him the frontrunner in the race. The main point he emphasizes is his desire to make Illinois a “destination economy” through what he promises would be “the most aggressive job-recruitment program in this state’s history.”

As soon as my interview with Dillard concluded, Schillerstrom’s assistant suddenly appeared to ask if I’d like to talk to his boss. Reporters who are seen talking to one candidate typically draw others like moths to light. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s funny how that works, isn’t it?

Anyway, my first impression of Schillerstrom was his booming voice (which was later amplified when he used a microphone to address the crowd). Like Dillard, he expressed confidence in his campaign.

“I think it’s going very well,” Schillerstrom said. “My message is really resonating with the people of Illinois.”

That message, he said, emphasizes the importance of stabilizing the state’s economy while practicing fiscal responsibility. He said that under his leadership, DuPage County cut property taxes in seven of the last 10 years. Noting that DuPage County has more residents than six states, Schillerstrom said his job as county chairman is akin to being governor of a small state.

“We can take that approach to Springfield,” Schillerstrom said. “I’m not from Springfield. I’m not from that culture. I don’t think like they do. I believe in balancing our budget every year. If we don’t have it, we don’t spend it.”

The opportunity for face-to-face interviews with these statewide candidates was, to quote another former governor, “golden.” I hope more candidates from both sides of the political aisle visit Ottawa soon so I get the chance to interview them in person, too.