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Investigation encourages critics of Quinn's antiviolence program

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SPRINGFIELD – Republican lawmakers say they're pleased to see a federal probe of Gov. Pat Quinn's controversial antiviolence program.

State officials confirmed Thursday that the Justice Department has requested information about the Democratic governor's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative in response to claims of abuse and corruption.

"People want to know their tax dollars are being spent right," said state Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill. "That's from a policy standpoint. If there's any criminal activity, we want to root that out, too."

The NRI was set up to combat crime in Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods, but it came under scrutiny after Auditor General William Holland slammed the program for mismanagement of its funds.

A March report detailed some of the program's failings and described the effort as "hastily implemented." Recently, claims have circulated that the program was set up to benefit Quinn's political allies.

Shortly after that report was issued, Reis joined with several Republican lawmakers to call for a federal investigation of the program.

"I'm happy that it's moving forward, because we felt from the beginning that this wasn't right," he said.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, was part of that effort, co-signing a March 6 letter to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Springfield and Chicago.

"Here we've seen that there are massive gaps of information, and I think it's absolutely appropriate that the U.S. government step in and take a look," Barickman said. "I think the audit report shows evidence of a high number of questionable actions that warrants law enforcement action."

Reis argued that the controversy has been politically revealing for Quinn, who is in the midst of a race for re-election against wealthy Republican businessman Bruce Rauner.

"This is what people are sick of in the government," Reis said. "Pat Quinn has always tried to paint himself as 'I'm good, I'm transparent and I've cleaned all this up.'

"It's coming out that maybe he didn't, and he turned this into a political slush fund, and that makes it all the worse."

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