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Governor tapes attack ads at public school

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

Reform and renewal.

Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich used a Chicago public school to tape attack ads against his Republican challenger despite a city school ethics policy that prohibits political activities on school grounds.

The ads, taped at Waters Elementary School near Blagojevich’s home on the Saturday after the March 21 primary election, feature the incumbent governor appearing at what is described on screen as a town hall meeting. In the commercials, Blagojevich criticizes Republican opponent Judy Baar Topinka’s positions on assault weapons and raising the minimum wage.

Peter Cunningham, a Chicago Public Schools spokesman, said this week the ethics policy does not explicitly prevent political commercials from being filmed in public schools, but he acknowledged that “it’s probably wrong to do.”

“The ethics policy appears to discourage it, and we’ve shared that with the principal,” Cunningham said. “It’s skirting the ethics rules.”

The ethics code was adopted by the School Board in June 2004 as a result of a state ethics reform law championed by Blagojevich.

The code states: “Employees shall not intentionally misappropriate any board property or resources by engaging in any prohibited political activity for the benefit of any campaign for elective office or any political organization.” In addition, the ethics training for public school employees for the current school year notes, “CPS buildings and offices are politically neutral.”

[Emphasis added.]

Meanwhile, columnist Ray Hanania is already sick of the guv’s negative ads.

If Gov. Rod Blagojevich wanted to convince Illinois voters that he is the better candidate for the office he now holds, he is doing a poor job.

His constant, ugly, mud-filled, issueless advertising attacks against his Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka are nauseating. They’re not even intelligent and they certainly don’t even sound accurate. […]

One of the attack ads actually sounds like a big lie, the one about how Topinka, the state treasurer, allowed the state to not fund the state pensions so they could use the money for other, budget needs, is ridiculous.

And Eric Krol is not impressed at all with Topinka’s post-primary effort.

Judy Baar Topinka apparently didn’t learn many strategic lessons from the Bush administration’s experience in Iraq.

The U.S. invasion was a relatively easy triumph, but Bush was roundly criticized for not having a solid post-victory plan for stability.

Also, ArchPundit isn’t thrilled with JBT’s gas tax idea.

This idea is about as useful of opening up ANWR, which despite a Hastert’s whining as of late, wouldn’t actually affect world oil supply by much

UPDATE: Topinka campaign press release:

DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett said this morning’s revelation in the Chicago Tribune that Rod Blagojevich’s campaign attack ads are not only fake, but illegal, symbolizes his tenure as Governor.

“Fake and illegal. It’s the story of the day and the story of the last three years under Rod Blagojevich,” said Birkett, running mate for GOP gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka, the state Treasurer.

Birkett called on the Blagojevich campaign to produce evidence that it reimbursed taxpayers for school expenses incurred while filming the commercial. […]

Earlier this week, state Auditor General Bill Holland, a Democrat, found Blagojevich’s administration in massive violation of that same act Blagojevich and Quinn bragged about passing.

Holland’s audits also found massive waste, fraud and abuse for the second year in a row at Blagojevich’s Central Management Services Agency, the clearinghouse for many state contracts.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


24 Comments
  1. - Captain Obvious - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 6:54 am:

    “…the ethics policy does not explicitly prevent political commercials from being filmed in public schools…”

    The story then is that there is no story. Period.


  2. - Bill Baar - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 6:55 am:

    Ray writes,

    Why is the governor allowed to hold fancy schmancy fundraisers at one of Chicago’s best museums, when the citizens have to pay through their noses to see the museum’s exhibits?

    No kidding… good column.


  3. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 7:09 am:

    Chicago Public Schools are in bed with Rod…Captain Obvious is obviously very happy that Chicago Public Schools are shoving education aside to be political players…

    Rod is a liar…duh

    Topinka’s gas plan is not grand enough for ArchPundit…

    So, one gov candidate is a liar and one has a plan to help the average citizen with day to day expenses. I guess I know who I am voting for.


  4. - Leroy - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 7:18 am:

    Bill Baar - you are missing the point. How much extra state $$$ did the museum get for helping out the guv with his fund raiser? If I were in charge of the museum, I’d throw the welcome mat out for him, provided I got something in return.

    Who isn’t on the take in Illinois? (Beside everyone who is complaining about the corruption, that is)


  5. - DOWNSTATE - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 7:30 am:

    Hey Captain wanna bet if you ran for some office they would let you film there.This is the attitude of Blago and crew as far as doing any thing they please plus it shows even more how they think they are above all rules and laws.


  6. - the Patriot - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 7:47 am:

    While I agree the Chicago Schools will play ball with the governor, I think in all fairness people should know it is not always a situation where the welcome mat is thrown out.

    In some instances, people, NOT Democrats, and NOT supporting the governor have been called and TOLD the guv wants an event on their premises. If you rely on state funding or contracts what are you supposed to do. This guy sold out his own family just to prove a point, so you bite your cheek and put out the welcome mat. (and win it is over take a long shower).


  7. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 8:20 am:

    The kicker is that it was NOT even a town hall meeting! The school had already planned to do an event about its new pre-k program, and fliered the neighborhood (including the Gov’s house) about the event. The campaign thought, hmmm, there will already be families there, let’s show up with a camera crew, and call it…a town hall meeting. Real renewal guys.


  8. - Wumpus - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 8:21 am:

    It would be so much easier for Topinka to use these public schools. Show how dangerous they are, violent, failing and how the gov amde it eaiser for them to pass by simply lowering the standards.


  9. - Ragin RINO - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 8:55 am:

    Anyone else see all those senate democrats drive their gas guzzling suburbans one block to a gas station to attack high gas prices? There’s leadership for you!


  10. - Fightin 47 - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 9:19 am:

    Ditto to Anon 8:20am. It wasn’t a town hall meeting as Scofield said it was.. It was a meeting about pre-k. Period. The governor crashed it with some camera guys and decided to make political hay. Why not just SAY that the gov was stopping by the school to see what’s happening in his hood, rather than lying about the premise? He picked the wrong lie.


  11. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 9:46 am:

    Rob is ethically challenged, no doubt. But a second story on the ad?

    Is the trib gonna give us another gubernatorial campaing where one candidate gets needled and the other gets a pass?

    Print the Topinka endorsement alread.


  12. - Randall Sherman - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 9:53 am:

    Perhaps the Cook County States’ Attorney should investigate the use of the public school property to see if any laws were violated. Oh… wait a second… never mind. For a moment, I forgot that the States’ Attorney was Dick “See No Corruption” Devine.


  13. - a friend - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 9:57 am:

    electeds and wannabees have been holding political events/rallies/townhalls at public schools for decades. and now it’s suddenly a problem? puhleeze. move on to an issue that matters, for the love of god.


  14. - steve schnorf - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 10:35 am:

    a friend;

    I think part of the fascination with this is that it appears to violates a school policy adopted in response to the Governor’s ethics initiatives. Seen that way, it is an irony.


  15. - a friend - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 10:43 am:

    steve,
    I understand your point, which is valid, but if captain obvious is quoting the rules correctly, then there is no violation. I think this is much ado about nothing, which nearly all the rhetoric post-primary has been.


  16. - steve schnorf - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 11:02 am:

    a friend;

    You may be right. My initial reaction was to relate it to a state employee bringing a crew in to film him or her in his office, working away on a state computer, etc, as part of a campaign commercial. I think the Governor would think that was improper.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t find it at all offensive or surprising to see a campaign commercial of a Governor sitting in his office talking to the camera.

    Kind of goes to the question of whether more rules make it easier or harder to improve ethics. I generally believe that it is hard to blame someone for violating an ethics rule they didn’t know about, misunderstood, or truly didn’t believe was applicable to their situation.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that the Governor’s campaign didn’t know they were violating a policy (if they were).


  17. - Fightin 47 - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 11:04 am:

    a friend -
    “electeds and wannabees have been holding political events/rallies/townhalls at public schools for decades.”
    true. but the bigger point is that he wasn’t holding an event - he was crashing one. you’re right, big scheme of things, this is a blip. but you have to admit it’s poor form to pull this stunt at your own neighborhood school where he never visits. if he would have announced a town hall meeting beforehand, brought some good advance attention to a great school, then great. but that’s not what happened. he dropped in for some punch and b-roll.


  18. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 11:51 am:

    Did the entire administration also not know that the same ethics law Blago brags about passing also requires employees to fill out timesheets. The auditor general found nobody was doing it over there.


  19. - a friend - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 12:55 pm:

    if he had hosted the event or “staged” it, people would still be complaining. campaigns are always”crashing” events (some might call it being invited) and then use broll for commercials. i’d prefer he be talking at a real event than the usual staged ones designed for most campaign commercials — like gidwitz and raushenberger were actually at a real board meeting during one of their many meaningless commercials. my point, again, is that this much to do about nothing. I’d rather see both candidates talk about issues.


  20. - Political Hack - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 1:39 pm:

    Rod’s people have stated it was a town hall meeting and they just filmed it. What I would like answered is the following: Was the film crew union? Almost every democrat uses a union film crew. If so, it would have taken them hours, and I mean hours to set up the “town hall” meeting for a television commercial (lights, cameras etc). So my guess is they staged the whole event and are just using the “town hall meeting” angle as cover. Has anyone talked to audience members? Were they campaign workers or paid extras? Would they release a list of the people who attended? This doesn’t smell right. It’s the small things voters remember.


  21. - Neighbor - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 1:40 pm:

    but the other point, friend, is that they lied by telling the press that the ‘real event’, planned by the school, was a town hall meeting put on by the campaign. they have a fundamental problem with telling the truth, and that is what should scare people.


  22. - IT'S ME - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 2:34 pm:

    SO WHEN DOES BIRKETT BEGIN HIS INVESTIGATION?


  23. - Papa Legba - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 3:23 pm:

    Is an event really an event when it it obviously staged as this “Town Hall” meeting was? Blagos people talked to the principal about using the facility and invited the audience. Wow, how spontaneous. Wasn’t it even mentioned in the Trib article that this type of use of a public building is a gray, fuzzy area in the ethics law. The principal mentioned he didn’t know if this was a correct use of the school or not. Did anybody read Blagos ethics bill? I don’t think so.


  24. - Not So Fast - Friday, Apr 28, 06 @ 3:44 pm:

    Birkett is hardly in a position to cast stones about anyone. He railroaded those innocent men on to Death Row (for which he still has not apologized), he refused to accept Dugan’s plea bargain of life in prison (thus sparing the family the ordeal of another trial and the taxpayers millions of dollars) because his ego demands a death sentence, his employee stole a half million dollars from victims right under his law-and-order nose to fund her gambling, and now he justifies Glen Ellyn cops using deadly force against a naked, unarmed man (what was he going to do, club the cops to death with his tool?). Glass houses indeed.


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