Politics & Policy

Exclusive: GOP’s Joel Pollak Talks about His Campaign Against Congress’s Most Liberal Member

Jan Schakowsky, the Democrat representing Illinois’s 9th distrct, is the sort of scalp any conservative would be proud to claim, but most probably aren’t brash enough to try. The wife of a convicted white-collar criminal and arguably the most liberal member of Congress, Schakowsky regularly makes appearances on conservative blogs saying things that most liberals only dare to think when they’re alone in the dark and no one’s watching.

Indeed, Schakowsky is so liberal that, according to her challenger Joel Pollak, she’d make even John Maynard Keynes sign up for the Tea Party. Pollak knows whereof he speaks, for he was recently the beneficiary of an endorsement from none other than well-known liberal Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who backed Pollak out of disgust with Schakowsky’s foreign policy. Pollak is more the sort of serious idea-minded conservative that gets along with Paul Ryan (who’s also endorsed him). Battle ‘10 caught up with Pollak this Tuesday to discuss his race.

Battle ‘10: So what did you hope to accomplish by getting into this race?

Pollak: I’m hoping to win. This race is very important because it is the battleground for all of America when it comes to the question of how we’re going to run our economy. Are we going to be an economy of high debt, high deficits, high taxes, high spending but low employment, low jobs, low productivity and low accomplishment?

My opponent is the number one biggest spender in the House. The number one biggest spender, according to the National Taxpayers’ Union, and she believes and advocates on the President’s debt commission that we need to spend more, that we cannot cut government spending, we’ve just got to keep those deficits going because we’re in a recession. The irony is that she spent even more, or proposed spending even more during the growth years.

Battle ‘10: So obviously, the issue in the election is jobs and the economy. Do you have a plan to fix the economy?

Pollak: We need to start by giving businesses as well as financial institutions an incentive to start investing, so I’ve proposed a ten-percent investment tax credit that would apply to any investment made, and that would help businesses and lenders get over the hump of uncertainty that we have right now in the economy.

I also believe that we need to lower our corporate taxes and capital gains taxes that are among the highest in the world and make American industry uncompetitive. We need to cut the wasteful spending right now in Washington, which is undermining competence in the future of our economy. And we also need to focus on areas where we have a competitive advantage, such as high tech research and development. And that needs to be the core of a strategy of increasing domestic manufacturing through the right kinds of government interventions. Not subsidies, not tax hikes, not excessive spending, but policies that make our businesses more productive and more successful across the board.

Battle ‘10: Clearly, your strategy is calibrated toward what works. Do you think Jan Schakowsky’s strategy, if she has one, has any regard for that?

Pollak: I don’t think she cares about what works and what doesn’t because if she did she would change her policies. Since she’s been in office, which was in 1999, our district and the rest of Chicago have seen a net five percent decline in jobs, and you can’t blame that on George Bush or anyone else because the rest of the country through all the ups and downs has seen a net increase of jobs of 2 percent. So we are in a worse situation than the rest of the country right now.

Battle ‘10: You’ve been endorsed by Alan Dershowitz, and you’re running against Jan Schakowsky, one of the most liberal Congresswomen in the country. Does Dershowitz just have an open mind, or does this say something about Schakowsky’s ability to connect even with her own base?

Pollak: I’m not sure that he would consider himself part of her base.

He sees himself more as a Kennedy Democrat, a Roosevelt Democrat, and both Kennedy and Roosevelt were adamant about standing up to international threats, and this administration and Congress have not been. I’m not sure what her base is.

She has been reelected in this district just because she has a “D” after her name. Dershowitz says specifically that he’s endorsing me because he believes I’m the better candidate, and also the foreign policies that Jan Schakowsky subscribes to are radical and radically bad for the United States.

And that is why he is endorsing me, and that is why many Democrats are joining Republicans and conservative Republicans like Paul Ryan, for example, because there is room for consensus between voters of different backgrounds on the need to protect our nation and the need to grow our economy, and those are the two priorities that Jan Schakowsky simply does not share.

Battle ‘10: What are some examples of Schakowsky’s radical foreign policy?

Pollak: She is one of the cosponsors of a bill to reinstate Manuel Zelaya as President of Honduras. This is a Hugo Chavez ally who was ousted from power after he tried to rig a referendum that would’ve changed his country’s Constitution to keep him in power. The only reason she supported him is because she supports his far-Left views. She didn’t care that he went on an antisemitic tyrade blaming Israel for his misfortune and setting off violence against Jews in the streets of Honduras. That’s how radical her foreign policies are.

She’s also one of the top recipients of money from J Street, and to top it off, she held a fundraiser with Helen Thomas in May just a couple weeks before Helen Thomas’ famous ‘gaffe,’ shall we say, and a gaffe is when you say what you’re really thinking. Of course, Helen Thomas’ anti-Israel views were well-known before that and Jan Schakowsky knew those views and yet she had a fundraiser with Helen Thomas. I would add that the new organization “Keep America Safe” has given Jan Schakowsky the lowest rating of any member of Congress, so she is, despite her position of responsibility — I think she chairs the Intelligence Oversight Committee, which ought to give us cause for alarm — she is the worst member of Congress on national security issues since 2001.

Battle ‘10: Schakowsky was recently on the radio almost incredulously joking about how your side of the aisle wants to follow the Constitution. You went to Harvard Law so you know how the law works — do you think legislators have an obligation to follow the Constitution or can they just legislate however they like and leave that up to the courts?

Pollak: I think legislators must always have the Constitution in mind, as must individuals. There are many people in this country who take oaths to uphold the Constitution — in fact, when you swear an oath as a US citizen, as I had to, you swear an oath to the country and its Constitution.

Obeying the Constitution is a responsibility for everyone, all the more so our elected representatives. It’s not just the responsibility of nine people who are serving lifetime appointments at the pleasure of the President. We may have different views about how to interpret it – we may have different views about what the Constitution directs us to do, but we have a loyalty to it that transcends the separation of powers, and for her to slam the Tenth Amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights, gives you a sense of what her attitude is towards the rights of citizens.

Battle ‘10: Let’s shift to the ethics complaint you filed. Your article on BigGovernment.com says Schakowsky acted under pressure from [corrupt banker and Democratic donor] Balvinder Singh. Walk us through the timeline of that — how did the pressure get applied?

Pollak: There’s a very interesting fact about that we are also covering through our own research. The initial research suggested that Mr. Singh went to Schakowsky with a request to help ease the terms of his loan, and the loans of other business owners. What we’re learning through our research is that some business owners were actually contacted by Jan Schakowsky, whether by her campaign office or her congressional office I don’t know, but apparently people were told that they could get in on this deal, and to me that represents a naked attempt to buy votes out of the election by squeezing a bank to offer better loan repayment terms to a small number of business in a visible part of the District, and a visible part of the Indian community in particular. That’s what happened, this is basically corrupt Chicago pay-to-play politics. It’s disgusting, and we are sooner rid of it as soon as possible.

Battle ‘10: Given the rule that ethics complaints can’t usually get heard within 60 days of an election, how much of a chance do you think you stand of being heard on this?

Pollak: Well, the 60-day rule protects corrupt behavior within 60 days of the election unless we can have a waiver, so I think the waiver stands a pretty good chance of going through. I think we will have our complaint heard and, if necessary, we will renew our complaint after the election whether I win or not. We’re going to renew that complaint and carry that forward because we cannot stand for this any longer in Chicago, in Washington, anywhere in America. The Rod Blagojevich-style pay-to-play politics that Jan Schakowsky just wheeled out to try to shore up a faltering incumbency have to go. 

Battle ‘10: Schakowsky and other liberals often portray themselves as the champions of the little guy even though they engage in corrupt practices like this that favor the powerful. Why do you think Schakowsky attracts and seeks out this kind of corruption? Is it required by her ideology, or is it just a cynical decision about how to get elected in Illinois?

Pollak: Both. There’s certainly a strategic element to it, which I’ve suggested, but I think it also fits an ideology which says, and perhaps some people who share this idea mean well, but it says “As long as you help someone, you’ve done your job.” And the question that never gets asked is, “At what cost to others?” So perhaps some of those business owners really are important for the community in terms of their presence on a Main Street that is the community’s flagship, and that’s great, so you help them and that’s good.

What about the 95 percent of other borrowers who are facing foreclosure in that area who didn’t get help, and how about the future investors you want to attract to that area who know now that they have to pay a politician if they want to get the same treatment as other businesses? What does that do to our economy? So the question is always, “At what cost?” And, frankly, the stimulus bill, which my opponent champions, has catastrophically failed because no one ever asked, or no one listened to those asking “What cost? At what cost do we help a few? At what cost to the many do we help a few?”

Battle ‘10: Is that the key difference between you and Schakowsky — that you acknowledge tradeoffs and she doesn’t?

Pollak: The Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias was asked by the Chicago Tribune what spending he would have cut because he wants to cut wasteful spending, and he couldn’t give an answer — he doesn’t have a single answer! So they’ve latched onto deficit reduction as a campaign issue after spending our country into the highest deficits and highest debts they’ve ever seen, and they have no idea what they want to cut, because they’ve never had to look at themselves in the mirror and say, “At what cost?”

Some people like Jan Schakowsky convince themselves that cost doesn’t matter. They read a radical revisionist interpretation of Keynes and believe that Keynes advocated radical spending, even if it meant inflating the currency out of existence, which is basically the track that they’re putting us on. Keynes never believed that, never at all. And he wouldn’t have stimulated demand by stimulating massive debt, so really what we’re standing for in this election is a very simple phrase: “At what cost?” And the cost is going to be political because we have a political opportunity to change and protect and save our economy.

Battle ‘10: Is that the message you plan on sending to Washington? What else do you want them to know?

Pollak: The message is quite simple: We have to have a new ethos in Washington — that our representatives represent the people to Washington, and not Washington to the people. It’s very simple. That’s it. You represent the people to Washington, not Washington to the people, which means you have to consider the welfare of the country, the welfare of the citizens, above your special interests, and above your own narrow ideological goals.

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