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ELECTIONS U.S. Congress 5th Dist. Benjamin Thomas Wolf talks marijuana, LGBTs, abuse charge
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.
2018-03-14

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Benjamin Thomas Wolf—one of three people challening Congressman Mike Quigley in the March 20 Democratic primary—is no everyday candidate.

The home page of his campaign website shows this, as there's an image of Wolf sitting in front of a painting holding a marijuana joint. However, there are many other items that distinguish Wolf from the rest of the pack, ranging from his background ( including having worked for the FBI and as a diplomat ) to having made news regarding abuse allegations and even advertising on a porn site.

Windy City Times: What do you feel the incumbent is not doing, or is doing wrong?

Benjamin Thomas Wolf: Great question. So he's been in office for eight years—and, in that time, he's never successfully passed or sponsored a piece of legislation. He also doesn't represent this district the way he should. The average [person] in this district is 33 years old. These are people who want universal healthcare ( which he doesn't want ), they want legalized cannabis ( which, again, he's not pushing for ), they want free tuition options for people who have tons of school debt. These are three of our top priorities—none of which he's supporting.

WCT: Zoning in on the cannabis aspect, are you concerned that some people might not take you as seriously?

BTW: I thought that might be true, but it's our most popular platform, on all levels. The elderly want it as medicine, the middle-aged want it because it brings revenue to our state, the young people want it for medicine and recreationally, and the Republicans want it because it can bail out this entire state. It can help with criminal-justice reform. All aspects of it are so wonderful, and Illinois has an opportunity to be the first state in the Midwest to legalize it—and bring billions here. We could be the Colorado of the Midwest.

And as a cannabis user—which is strange, because I'm a former federal agent—I can tell you it's a wonderful substance. I think it's one of the biggest issues in the country.

WCT: Why don't you support the ACA?

BTW: I do not support the ACA. I think healthcare in any form is great, but I think every person should have a basic healthcare option that should be provided to them free of charge. Universal healthcare works.

WCT: Does that involve taking a lot out of people's paychecks?

BTW: Not a lot—and that's where the cannabis comes in. And I think if you gave people the option of [slightly] higher taxes in exchange for free healthcare, 90 percent of people would take it.

WCT: You've had a lot of different occupations. Is there any one particular one that you feel helps your campaign more than any other?

BTW: I would have to say that having been a Unites States diplomat has helped me more than any other. It gave me a global perspective, and it taught me about talking with people—talking about legislation, diplomatic affairs. It also taught me about working with people you don't want to work with—and that's the job of a congressman; you work with people in other parties and come to viable solutions.

WCT: What's your biggest advantage and disadvantage in this race?

BTW: I'll start with my biggest disadvantage, which is that I've only been in Chicago for five years. I don't have the foundations that the incumbent has here—but I was overseas serving our country.

My biggest advantage is that I've been working harder than him [Quigley]. We gathered more signatures, we're talking to more people, we're canvassing more neighborhoods. I think I have youth on my side, and I think people are looking for change right now.

WCT: Regarding President Trump, you told the Chicago Tribune that there wasn't one thing he had done that you support. Do you still feel that way?

BTW: There's has been no policy or agenda that he has brought forth that the public supports. The only silver lining is that he will cause a lot more people to organize and run for office and to vote—and that's where we want people to be. These elections will probably have the highest voter turnout in history, and I love it. He's making people care again.

WCT: Let's say you win your race, but that midterm elections favor the Republicans overall. How would you work with them?

BTW: When, not if, we win this primary, one of the things our campaign staffers will do is go around the country and help other Democrats. This is a Democratic district, so that won't be an issue here. I think Democrats should help other Democats, and then work with Republicans and independents to pass legislation that actually helps people.

WCT: But if there is constant gridlock in Congress, with people voting along party lines, what do you do?

BTW: There are two ananswers to that question. Firstly, I've worked for two FBI directors, four secretaries of state; I've worked with Republicans and Democrats. I understand all aspects of the political spectrum so I'd like to think that I can work across the aisle.

But more importantly, I'm not here to negotiate with them; I'm here to lead them where they need to be. The only solution is for young, smart progressives like me to pull things all the way back to the left to [counter] the president, who is negotiating all the way to the right. This Congress is the least effective in history, and that's incredibly sad. We need to expect more from our elected officials.

WCT: Switching to gun violence, what do you think should be done to curb it? Ban assault weapons? Increased background checks?

BTW: All of the above. We released a commercial and video with me holding an AR-15 assault rifle. There is no place for that type of weapon. These are machines designed to kill people with 30-round magazines. And arming teachers is ludicrous.

WCT: What do you feel is the biggest hurdle for the LGBT community?

BTW: The biggest issue is to ensure that equality remains. There has been a lot of legislation passed, and marriage is legal in many states.

WCT: Well, it's legal across the country.

BTW: Well ... yes, but there are still places that won't recognize it. I do think it's important to keep pushing for equality regarding child-rearing, and to make sure it continues to evolve with the social issues of today.

WCT: In your Windy City Times questionnaire, you commented that you saw LGBT people being arrested in the Middle East...

BTW: So I worked in the Middle East for many years in the State Department, and things do not favor the LGBTQ community there. There are places like Saudi Arabia, where you can be incarcerated and prosecuted. We need to push the idea of equality around the world—something this president is holding us back from doing.

WCT: If you had a couple minutes with the president, what's one question you would ask him?

BTW: [Pauses] That's a great question. I'd ask him something [about] how he sees his presidency changing the world and how does he see it helping humanity. What good can come from this presidency? I'm not sure he could answer that. I'd have to ask him about his legacy,

Addendum: Days after this interview took place, media outlets reported allegations that Wolf had a history of abusing women and padding his resume.

Politico ( in an article at www.politico.com/story/2018/03/07/ben-wolf-illinois-congress-candidate-444371 ) reported that Katarina Coates, who interned for Wolf, said that he was physically and emotionally abusive. According to the article, she was not the only one who complained about him—with Wolf's actions having him banned from the grounds at DePaul University.

Windy City Times asked Wolf about the alleged abuse as well as exaggerating his resume. Wolf centered on Coates, replying, "That woman was arrested by CPD [Chicago Police Department] for harassing me and my family. I had an emergency restraining order against her granted by a judge and four police reports showing electronic, personal harrassment [sic]and entering my building. She had to be removed from our campaign. She has a severe mental illness. The police have dealt with her.

"I have all the documents."

After this article ran, a citizen submitted several documents to Windy City Times. The documents showed that Wolf complained to police about Coates, claiming harassment, but that the case was dropped—twice—because Wolf failed to appear. In fact, the second dismissal was marked "MSNP" ("motion state nolle prosequi"), "nolle prosequi" denoting a formal abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of a suit or action.

Wolf has been asked to produce evidence that the restraining order has been granted. So far, no documents have been sent.

See www.wolfforcongress.org/ .


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