Democratic U.S. Senate contender Cheryle Jackson is calling on rival candidate Alexi Giannoulias to halt his campaign in light of a consent decree between federal regulators and his family's bank.
Giannoulias, currently serving as state treasurer, was formerly a vice president at the struggling bank. His role there has been a growing focus in the Democratic Senate race, with former city Inspector General David Hoffman, another Giannoulias rival, questioning Broadway's finances at every turn.
The decree requires the bank to seek additional capital and sell some assets.
That Jackson emerged with such a strong statement signals her unwillingness to wind down a campaign that, less than a week before the primary, is short on money and momentum.
"The Giannoulias family’s money has directly bankrolled the state treasurer’s political career and that money has been made off of the backs of working families, small businesses and tax payers," said Jackson, president of the Chicago Urban League.
"For the sake of Illinois families and for the good of the Democratic Party, I am calling on the treasurer to do the honorable thing and withdraw from this race today."
The statement has provoked a response from Giannoulias' camp that strikes at Jackson's most potent vulnerability in the race: her own ties to arrested and impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"Ms. Jackson, Blagojevich's former spokesperson, has launched a very Blago-like attack," Giannoulias said through a campaign spokeswoman. "This is a desperate and ridiculous attempt from a candidate behind in the polls to give her campaign a boost by exploiting the economic challenges facing millions of businesses, including this one."
Polls have shown Jackson trailing Giannoulias but ahead of Hoffman, yet the strength of Hoffman's fund raising and media exposure has made him No. 2 in the eyes of political observers.
Jackson's statement could overshadow attempts by Hoffman to make this a major last-minute story. The timing of the consent order — no doubt a politically sensitive decision for state and federal regulators — leaves Giannoulias to contend with third-party vindication of some of Hoffman's claims.
"Today's news about Broadway Bank provides further evidence of what a disaster Mr. Giannoulias would be as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate," Hoffman Campaign Manager Michael Powell said in a stament.
"Even before today, his limited experience and his refusal to take responsibility for his failures — both as a banker and as manager of the Bright Start program — were clear," Powell said. "Now we learn that his risky loans at the bank, and his family's decision to take $86 million in dividends for themselves, has caused the bank's collapse, and a likely bailout and takeover by the FDIC."
Part of Powell's statement is speculative: An objective of a consent order is to help a financial institution get back on its feet, not ready for takeover. But Powell's words are an early indicator of what's to come from the Hoffman campaign during the last five days of the primary.
This is a campaign gift, and Hoffman is banking on it.