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DOUG ROSS: Could U.S. become another Illinois?
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DOUG ROSS: Could U.S. become another Illinois?

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Rosemaria DiBenedetto grew up in Calumet City, and she excelled at one of the most popular sports there — politics. She learned a lot, and she has a lot for others to learn.

“I started doing politics at a very young age,” she said.

It helped that her uncle was a Calumet City alderman.

At 19, she became one of the youngest elected officials in Illinois history, serving on her local elementary school district’s board.

She also served on her community college’s board of trustees. It wasn’t just student government.

DiBenedetto has since worked on a number of candidates’ campaigns, and the ones who have taken her advice have been elected, she said.

Last fall, she helped candidates in St. John and Porter County.

“I’ve walked away from campaigns I couldn’t believe in,” she said.

Which brings us to the broken political systems in Illinois and Washington, D.C.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was an anti-establishment candidate who now refuses to compromise, DiBenedetto said, and look where that has gotten Illinois.

On Thursday, in the waning moments of the fiscal year, the Illinois General Assembly passed a short-term spending bill allowing schools to open in the fall and paying the state’s bills through December.

It isn’t the full budget Illinois residents deserve, and it comes after a full year of failing to compromise, which is the key to reaching an agreement on a new budget.

Think what that means for the federal government, with establishment Republicans bucking GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, the bombastic CEO who is making brash promises and pronouncements.

“When a man or a woman is used to being a CEO, it’s very difficult to make that transition to negotiation and create bipartisanship on both sides, and I think that challenge in Illinois is a clear indication of what may happen if Donald Trump becomes president,” DiBenedetto said.

If Trump is elected and refuses to compromise, as supporters hope, the federal government could become much like Illinois, DiBenedetto said.

Voters must remember the role Congress plays in setting federal laws and budget priorities — the same as the Illinois Legislature.

It’s like having one CEO and 535 members of the board of directors. And as much as he might want to fire some of those board members, the president can’t do so.

DiBenedetto is president of Newsmakers Inc. and has been for decades. She’s keeping that role, but is working with a group of other public relations professionals who are taking Stryker-Munley Group, founded in New York, nationwide.

DiBenedetto will head up the Chicago unit, a separate company, but will work with her partners in New York and six other locations across the nation to best serve clients.

Her particular strength is her political acumen, which is why I asked for her advice for Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump, she said, should “turn down the rhetoric and start producing more substantive analysis and findings of how he would run the country if he were elected.”

Clinton should make sure her positions are more clearly defined. “I think that she has changed her position a lot over the years,” DiBenedetto said.

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer’s.


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