Meet Alexi

Alexi’s financial expertise resonated strongly with voters in the March primary as he received 63 percent of the total vote and enjoyed strong support throughout the state.

In endorsing Alexi’s primary bid as an independent Democrat, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “Giannoulias could usher in a new era for state government, in that the person who winds up in charge actually has expertise in the field.” The Daily Herald endorsed Alexi on his “strength of banking and investment expertise suited to the office.”

As vice-president and senior loan officer at Broadway Bank, Alexi played a vital role on the bank’s management team that doubled its asset size to more than $750 million. Crain’s Chicago Business has rated Broadway the #1 Bank in Illinois for the past five years based on return on assets. In addition, the bank’s loan losses have consistently ranked well below industry averages.

Located in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood on the city’s North Side, Broadway Bank was founded in 1978 by Alexi’s father, who emigrated from Greece in 1962. Since then, Broadway has grown into a small business and real estate lender on a national level. Still, the bank remains deeply rooted in the community and focused on the needs of local residents, many of whom are family home buyers and local business owners.

Alexi grew up in Chicago and enrolled at the University of Chicago. He transferred to Boston University the following year to play basketball at the NCAA Division I level. Alexi was named to the America East Conference Academic Honor Roll each of the two years he played and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Alexi played professional basketball in Greece for a year before returning home and enrolling at Tulane University’s School of Law in New Orleans. After earning a law degree and passing the Illinois Bar exam, Alexi passed up other job opportunities to begin a career in banking at Broadway Bank.

At the bank, Alexi has served as a financial manager, overseeing loan and fixed investment portfolios totaling millions of dollars, negotiating contracts with brokers and vendors, and supervising employees. Alexi’s experience in asset liability management – handling the bank’s deposits, purchasing bonds on behalf of the bank and managing its fixed assets – has provided him with the financial skills necessary for an active role in running the Treasurer’s office.

Alexi serves on the board of directors of the Community Banker’s Association of Illinois Legislative Committee, the South Side/Wabash YMCA, and the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce.

He also founded and chairs the AG Foundation, a not-for-profit charity that donates money to treat child-related illnesses, curb poverty and assist disaster relief organizations. The foundation has benefited many charities, including those assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Why Alexi

Alexi’s progressive agenda is aimed at reforming the treasurer’s office and implementing innovative ideas to benefit Illinois residents. Alexi will make money work – for all of Illinois. He will:

Giannoulias bans bank contributions

Democratic nominee for state treasurer unveils ethics plan. /September 8, 2006/

As part of a comprehensive ethics package, Democratic nominee for Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announced today that he will not accept political money from banks.

“We cannot allow the pay-to-play culture to go unchecked any longer,” said Giannoulias, noting former Governor George Ryan’s sentencing on corruption charges earlier this week. “I feel strongly that the state treasurer or a candidate running for the office should not accept political contributions from the primary interests seeking to do business with the office.”

Giannoulias’ campaign fund will not accept campaign contributions from any bank, regardless of whether or not it does business with the treasurer’s office.

Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, a former state treasurer, initiated a similar policy not to solicit or accept political contributions from banks. He praised Giannoulias’ decision, saying the initiative was “refreshing” and “good for Illinois.”

“The state treasurer’s vision should not be clouded by the campaign contributions of banks that have state deposits,” Quinn said. “The best way to avoid even the appearance of a conflict is to adopt the policy that Alexi has put forth.”

Giannoulias’ ethics plan includes several components that promote transparency in government and seek to eliminate the practice of receiving political contributions in exchange for awarding lucrative contracts.

“We need to rid ourselves of the culture of corruption and move forward to a culture of openness and accountability,” Giannoulias said. “These are common-sense measures that take a big step toward detaching politics from government and restoring public confidence in their elected officials.”

If elected, Giannoulias will implement the policies in the treasurer’s office through executive order. In addition to banning contributions from banks, the ethics package includes:

“If we expect the people of Illinois to have confidence in their elected officials, we need to begin to restrict campaign contributions and adopt measures that bring sunshine to the contract awarding process,” Giannoulias said. “Pay-to-play politics fuels corruption, breeds cynicism, and costs taxpayers in the long run.”

Giannoulias: Fix Illinois’ college savings plan

Changes would enable Illinois families to save more money toward college. /October 2, 2006/

Democratic nominee for State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias wants to improve the state’s tax-exempt college savings program so that Illinois families can earn more money toward their children’s college tuition.

“Putting away money for college is a critical part of a family’s long-term financial plan,” Giannoulias said. “With the costs of tuition skyrocketing, we need to provide the best investment options possible so Illinois residents can afford a college education for their children without drowning in debt.”

Named after the section of the IRS code, more than 80 state-run 529 savings plans are available in 49 states. Each program offers an assortment of managed investment funds for investors to choose from. Illinois’ 529 plan, the Bright Start College Savings Program, was launched in 2000 and has net assets totaling more than $1.8 billion.

The state’s contract with the Bright Start’s current program manager Legg Mason expires next year. Giannoulias believes the Treasurer’s office can improve Bright Start by reducing high program fees, employing better performing funds and increasing investment options for consumers.

High Fees:
Bright Start’s program fees rank among the highest of any 529 plan in the country, according to Morningstar, Inc. The .99 percent annual fee amounts to nearly twice the national average of .52 percent.

“The fees that Bright Start charges consumers make it more difficult for hard-working families to experience strong investment gains,” said Giannoulias, who would demand that the next program manager charge lower fees that are more in line with other states. “The high fees siphon off money and ultimately eat away at money that would have gone toward tuition.”

Underperforming Funds:
The majority of Bright Start assets have been invested in Legg Mason funds, which include Solomon Smith Barney funds owned by Legg Mason. According to Morningstar, 38 percent of Bright Start’s underlying funds received poor ratings. All of those poorly rated funds are Legg Mason or Solomon Smith Barney funds.

Giannoulias would use his position as Treasurer’s office to take a pro-active role in making sure the program manager invests in the most lucrative funds available, regardless of whether or not the program manager owns them.

“The Treasurer has the ultimate authority in deciding where to invest Bright Start assets,” Giannoulias said. “It’s unacceptable that Illinois residents are held captive to underperforming funds just because they are affiliated with the program manager.”

Limited Options:
Bright Start investors have only eight underlying funds to choose from, six of which are owned by Legg Mason. Giannoulias would demand that Illinois offer more options from different providers, a trend that other states have followed.

“Illinois’ 529 plan fails to provide Illinois families with the wealth of choices that they need to make sound investment decisions,” Giannoulias said. “I would expand the investment options to improve the quality of investments and offer more flexibility for investors.”

Furthermore, Giannoulias believes that Illinois must look at increasing the diversity of underlying funds in which program funds are invested.

“Seventy-five percent of Bright Start’s underlying funds are operated or affiliated with one fund shop,” Giannoulias said. “I believe we should offer more options from different providers.

Tax Penalties:
Illinois is one of only four states that penalizes its own residents for choosing to invest in 529 programs offered by other states. Illinois imposes a 3 percent state tax on the earnings residents receive from 529 plans administered in other states and residents are not eligible for up front income-tax deductions.

Because Bright Start does not compare favorably with plans offered in other states, Illinois is creating disincentives to keep investors from earning more money through an out-of-state plan, Giannoulias said.

“Illinois residents are essentially penalized for choosing to invest in plans that would earn them more money. That’s wrong,” Giannoulias said. “Illinois’ 529 plan should attract investors based on its own merits and because it gives families the biggest bang for their buck.”

Giannoulias pledges to improve Bright Start returns State treasurer candidate wants to see reduction in administrative fees

by RON INGRAM, H&R Staff Writer

DECATUR - Alexi Giannoulias is pledging to improve the return on Bright Start, the state’s tax exempt college savings program, if he is elected state treasurer. The Democratic nominee stopped in Decatur’s Central Park on Tuesday to advocate changing Bright Start’s current program manager, Legg Mason, a global asset management firm based in Baltimore, Md., when the state’s contract with the firm expires in March.

“This is a $1.8 billion fund,” Giannoulias said of money Bright Start is holding until parents or guardians need it to pay college tuition for their children. “Right now, 38 percent of the funds are performing poorly. Legg Mason has invested some of that money internally in their own funds, which are performing poorly.”

Legg Mason manages Bright Start investments in two external funds that are performing well, he said.

“Putting away money for college is a critical part of a family’s long-term financial plan,” Giannoulias said. “With the costs of tuition skyrocketing, we need to provide the best investment options possible so Illinois residents can afford a college education for their children without drowning in debt.”

Giannoulias said he believes the state treasurer’s office can improve Bright Start by reducing the high administrative fees, currently 0.99 percent annually compared with a national average for such funds of 0.52 percent.

“The fees Bright Start charges consumers make it more difficult for hard working families to experience strong investment gains,” Giannoulias said. He pledged to demand that the next program manager reduce the fees to be more in line with those charged in other states.

High fees siphon off money that ultimately would have gone to make college tuition payments, he said.

Decatur Township Supervisor Mike Wakeland, also a Democrat, stood by as Giannoulias spoke. He said he did not place money into Bright Start when the program began in 2000 because he already was investing in similar program, College Illinois.

“This sounds like I’m polishing the apple, but this program is important,” Wakeland said. “Finding a new fund manager is a very good idea.”

Giannoulias is vying with state Sen. Christine Radogno, R-LaGrange, in the Nov. 7 general election for the state treasurer’s post.

Endorsing ethanol Candidates tout loans to promote E85 fuel

By Matt Hanley, STAFF WRITER

AURORA — In a small, empty parking lot at a busy intersection on Aurora's West Side, state treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias announced his plan Monday to assist gas stations in adding E85 fuel to their choices at the pump.

If elected treasurer, Giannoulias said, he'd offer low-interest loans to help gas stations install pumps that offer the ethanol-based fuel, which its proponents believe is cheaper and better for the environment than conventional gasoline.

“Our dependence on foreign oil is a threat not only to security but to the environment,” Giannoulias said. “With more vehicles now equipped to burn E85, we need to make it more available for Illinois drivers.” Perhaps to illustrate his point, Giannoulias' words were occasionally drowned out by several semi-trailer trucks passing the Illinois Avenue and Elmwood Drive intersection.

Although more E85 cars are being sold, there are fewer than 150 gas stations that carry the fuel — forcing residents to drive farther to fill up, Giannoulias said. If elected in November, his plan would use existing linked accounts at local banks to offer low-interest loans that would help stations add pumps or convert old equipment.

Even though grants are available through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, as well as the federal government, stations still need incentive to overcome the possible risks, Giannoulias said. “If we can shave some points off a loan, it will make a difference for some of the gas station owners by alleviating the initial costs,” he said. “It's kind of an untapped market, so they're excited about it.”

Giannoulias was joined at the small press conference by Linda Holmes of Aurora, Democratic candidate in the 42nd Senate District, which includes Aurora, Montgomery, Oswego and Plainfield.

Holmes said the government has to start looking at ways to find affordable gas.

“I just love this (E85 fuel), because there is no negative,” she said. “We need to have fuel that working families can afford.”

Giannoulias' stop Monday afternoon was one of many that he was making around Illinois, promoting his E85 fuel plan. His low-key approach to these announcements was emphasized by his speaking podium: an upside-down cardboard box.

Ever the politician, Giannoulias spun the box into a selling point.

“See, it's biodegradable,” he said, smiling, “and I'm fiscally responsible not wasting resources.”

Giannoulias unveils ethics plan

By DEANNA BELLANDI, Associated Press Writer: Friday September 08, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) Democratic state treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Friday he won't accept campaign contributions from banks now or if elected, something the current treasurer and GOP gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka has been criticized over.

However, Giannoulias, whose family owns a Chicago bank, won't prohibit individual contributions from people working at banks, said his spokesman Scott Burnham.

Giannoulias' Republican opponent, state Sen. Christine Radogno of Lemont, dismissed his ethics plan, saying he is financed by money from people in banking. She said accepting money from individuals in banking but not banks is ``a false distinction. Giannoulias said he's trying to combat the perception of corruption and pay-to-play politics in Illinois. ``It's eroding the public's confidence in their leadership, it's poisoning the political climate, Giannoulias said during a taping of WBBM Radio's ``At Issue'' program.

In other campaign news, state Sen. Dan Rutherford, the Republican running for secretary of state, is criticizing Democratic incumbent Jesse White because some of his relatives work for the agency.

In the treasurer's race, Radogno said she has never denied any group from donating to her and has accepted banking money in her campaigns. She said campaigns are expensive and she needs to raise money because she doesn't have millions to self-finance.

Topinka has been criticized for accepting political money from banks and other financial institutions doing business with the state treasurer's office, although she has insisted donors get no special treatment.

If he's elected, Giannoulias' ethics plan includes banning contractors who do business with the treasurer's office from donating to him and requiring bidders on contracts of $10,000 or more to disclose political donations to the treasurer's campaign fund. He also would ban treasurer office employees and their immediate relatives from donating; prohibit former employees from lobbying the office for two years; and ban lobbyist gifts.

Giannoulias said he would implement the policies through executive order if he's elected.

Giannoulias: Use eBay for state auction Says unclaimed property would fetch more there than at fair

Copley News Service August 16, 2006

An auction sponsored by the Illinois treasurer each year at the state fair should be shifted to the Internet site eBay to attract more bidders and greater proceeds, the Democratic nominee for the office said Tuesday.

Candidate Alexi Giannoulias said states such as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have seen dramatic profit increases by taking auctions of unclaimed property online. He proposes the same for Illinois. The state treasurer's latest auction is slated for Saturday in Springfield.

“When you're talking about 30 people under a tent in August as compared to anybody in the world … any economist will tell you the more attention's paid to an item, the chances of it getting a higher price is probably more likely,” Giannoulias said at a Chicago news conference.

The Chicago banker said the state could save on fees it pays to auctioneers. Items that hit the auction block are unclaimed from safe-deposit boxes at banks and typically include coins, jewelry, china and collectible items.

The Republican nominee for treasurer, state Sen. Christine Radogno of Lemont, said she would consider virtual auctioning but was unfamiliar with her opponent's suggestion. A spokesman for incumbent treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican running for governor, expressed doubt that the Giannoulias plan is feasible.

John Hoffman said eBay would insist on legal requirements such as indemnification, which the state can't provide under existing law. And he said proceeds from the live auctions have exceeded appraisals the past two years. Items appraised at $35,967 sold for $92,169 in 2005, he said.

The state maintains an $800 million fund from unclaimed property that has been converted to cash, Hoffman said. Owners or heirs who come forward are reimbursed, while the state earns interest income off the money, he said.

Candidate wants loans for soldiers


BELLEVILLE - War is really hell when you come back from a combat zone and have to get a high-interest payday loan to pay the rent.

Alexi Giannoulias, Democratic candidate for state treasurer, wants to make bank loans easier to obtain for Illinois soldiers, especially those who muster out of the service after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

During a press conference Friday in Belleville, Giannoulias, a banker and a member of a Chicago banking family, outlined a plan to supplement current loan programs for members or past members of the Illinois National Guard and Illinois residents who are members of the U.S. Army Reserve. To be eligible, a member of the military must be within six months of leaving the service.

As treasurer, Giannoulias said he would offer bankers the incentive of having state funds deposited in their banks if they will offer $10,000 loans at up to 7 percent to military personnel.

Currently, loans are offered to military members at up to 3 percent, but only to those who have good enough credit.

“If applicants have even the slightest blemish on their credit report or lack the necessary collateral, loans will be denied,” according to Giannoulias.

“Our military personnel should not have to take out a high-interest loan from a payday loan store to cover their living expenses and wind up in an endless cycle of debt,” he said. His plan will increase the repayment period from 24 to 36 months.

Giannoulias cited a December 2004 New York Times study that showed up to 26 percent of military personnel have gone to payday loan facilities to get money.

“Payday lenders go up to 400-500 percent. And they prey on the kind of people who are desperate,” he said.

Giannoulias said his plan will not cost taxpayers. Bankers will be encouraged to make riskier loans at up to 7 percent in return for having state funds deposited in their banks.

“The state treasurer's office will deposit funds into that financial institution,” he said of bankers willing to participate in the program.

Up to 40 percent of reservists and guardsmen lose income, significant income, when they're deployed, said Scott Burnham, the candidate's spokesman.

Candidate proposes subsidies for switch to ethanol

By Adam Jadhav of -ST. LOUIS Post-Dispatch

In his first policy proposal since winning the Democratic nomination for state treasurer, banker Alexi Giannoulias tackled an issue Monday that rests largely outside his home of Chicago and the world of finance.

Giannoulias joined the growing chorus of support for corn-made gasoline promising that, if elected the state's financial leader, he would offer low-interest loans to gas stations wanting to upgrade to E-85 – fuel made of 85 percent ethanol. He made his announcement before a short tour of the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

The state treasurer's office already provides subsidies that allow banks to offer cheaper loans for many community development projects; Giannoulias' proposal would cover gas-pump improvement and construction.

Completely retrofitting a gas station for E-85 can cost tens of thousands of dollars. There are now only about 120 E-85 pumps in Illinois.

“We have a homegrown option to help our economy and wean America off of foreign fuels,” Giannoulias said. “The bad news is that ethanol gas is hard to find even in Illinois. If we're serious about making the switch, we need to invest in more pumps.”

Giannoulias' opponent in the November election, state Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said she would support the proposal – “anything to support more energy options and Illinois farmers” – but added that she planned to present a wider agricultural policy as soon as next week.

“It will be a little more comprehensive than just one E85 initiative,” Radogno said. “It's been crafted with input from the agricultural community.”

Giannoulias' trip to the Metro East area was part of a downstate tour that included scheduled stops in Carbondale, Marion, Benton and Springfield. Inside the ethanol research center, he quizzed staff on science matters. Outside the pilot plant, he extolled the virtues of the fuel.

Although E-85 gasoline is 30 to 40 cents cheaper at the pump, it does provide less mileage than unleaded gasoline. Critics also note that there are hurdles in supply and distribution.

Nonetheless, that Giannoulias chose Edwardsville and ethanol underscores the political importance and statewide appeal of the issue.

“What we're talking about here is an innovative program using state taxpayer dollars and the investment arm of the state treasurer's office to do something crucial to our region and the country,” said state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, who accompanied Giannoulias.

Archive: info gathered from Alexander Giannoulias' previous races

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