Huffpost Chicago

Hoffman Challenges Senate Candidates To Five Debates, Full Financial Disclosure

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate David Hoffman is challenging his primary rivals to match the standard of transparency Barack Obama set during his campaign for president, as well as agree to five debates between now and the February primary.

In a letter sent to state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and former Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Robinson Jackson, Hoffman called out his rivals for not releasing their tax returns, which Obama did during the presidential primary and Hoffman did earlier this month. He also urged his primary opponents to eschew any and all donations from PACs -- corporate or otherwise.

"Given the distrust that the people of Illinois have for their elected officials and in light of the scandals and corruption that have plagued our state, we need a candidate who at least meets the standard President Obama set," Hoffman said in a statement distributed by the campaign.

Giannoulias has vowed not to accept money from corporate PACs but he has taken $50,250 in non-corporate PAC money, his most recent election filing shows. Jackson accepted money from just one PAC, a $2,000 check from U.S. Rep. Danny Davis's organization, according to her most recent filing. Hoffman has not taken any money from PACs but did loan his campaign $500,000 of his personal wealth.

"It's easy to say you're not going to take PAC money or any other money when you've got your own," Jackson campaign spokeswoman Susan Chandler told the Huffington Post.

As for the five debates, the Jackson campaign said it was all for it.

"We would like to do six," Chandler said. "We want the people of Illinois to hear our strategy to get the state and the nation back on track. We believe, if fully informed, the voters will choose Cheryle."

The Jackson campaign declined to respond to Hoffman's call for releasing tax returns.

The Giannoulias campaign said it had not yet seen Hoffman's letter.

Giannoulias far outpaces both Hoffman and Jackson in fundraising, and in the latest Rasmussen poll was even with Republican frontrunner Rep. Mark Kirk.

Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor and until recently Chicago's inspector general, has worked to cast himself as a straight-laced, anti-corruption cleanup man. He has pressed Giannoulias before to disclose the financial details of his relationship with his family-owned Broadway Bank.

Hoffman proposed two debates in November, another in December and two more in January.

"Debates often force a level of candor and openness that is helpful to the voters. Truth and clarity is what they seek before they cast their vote," Hoffman said in the statement. "You can't ask the people of Illinois for their vote, can't tell them that you represent change and reform, and continue to avoid answering questions about your actions."