When will someone break the color barrier in Illinois?

© 2016 Jim Spence - NewsNM note - This column is updated. It first ran April 16, 2011.
Today, every major league baseball player will wear # 42, paying fitting tribute to one of America's greatest citizens, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. In watching the games on this special day I am reminded of the remarkable experience of the partners of a New Mexico-based money management firm (Spence Asset Management, Inc.) when we were attending an "Emerging Manager Conference" in Chicago nearly a decade ago.
After their arrival in the Windy City the firm's partners soon learned an astonishing fact that remains astonishing to this day. We were legally barred from doing business with the State of Illinois. Believe it or not, Illinois actually has a gender and racially exclusive law regarding the hiring of emerging money manager firms. The law requires emerging money managers hired by the state to NOT be white men. I am not kidding.
Below is the verbatim portion of the applicable legal language in the statute: Goals for Utilization of Minority-Owned Businesses, Female-Owned Businesses, and Businesses Owned by Persons with a Disability - ........1 Effective April 3, 2009, Public Act 96-0006 revised the definition of “emerging investment manager.” As a result, the current definition applicable to ISBI is found in 40 ILCS 5/1-109(4) and is defined as “a qualified investment adviser that manages an investment portfolio of at least $10,000,000 but less than $10,000,000,000 and is a “minority owned business,” female owned business or business owned by a person with a disability as those terms are defined in the Business Enterprise for Minorities, Females, and Persons with Disabilities Act.”
Stunned, we tracked down a local Illinois asset management expert. We asked him for a clear interpretation of the language in the statute. This consultant shrugged when asked the question and said, "It simply means so long as a firm is NOT majority owned by white males it can compete for the state's emerging manager contracts."
The good news is as white males, we were not denied hotel rooms, we were allowed to drink water from the same fountains, and we were not refused food service at the restaurants where the conference was being held.
After our return to New Mexico we continued to be amazed that not a single news organization including Fox ever highlighted the unconstitutional racial and gender discrimination built into this Illinois statute.
I post this column this weekend because once again Major League Baseball is celebrating Jackie Robinson Day in all ballparks. At least two questions beg for answers. When will the state of Illinois break the color barrier on emerging money managers (all firms with less than $10 billion under management). And second, "What would Jackie Robinson say?"
In the meantime, spare me the Democrat Party narrative on racism. I get it.

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