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Best wishes to Christina Hynes

Monday, Jul 31, 2006

Comptroller Dan Hynes asked that I tell you about this. This is from his office::

Comptroller Dan Hynes’ wife, Christina, was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital last week after experiencing pre-term labor and remains there on bed rest.

The Hynes’ are expecting twins in November, but given the recent symptoms of pre-term labor, the births could occur at any time during the next 14 weeks.

The Comptroller will be working from his Chicago office, but will need to remain close to home to be with his wife and to limit the risk of being out of town when the twins are born.

Hynes said he appreciates the well wishes his family has received, but asked that the family’s privacy be respected during this critical time.

All the best to Christina.

(I don’t usually open comments on things like this, and I see no reason to change that policy now. )

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Campaign finance open thread

Monday, Jul 31, 2006

Today is campaign finance day in Illinois. Candidates and political committees have to file their campaign disclosure statements for January 1 through June 30 by midnight tonight. Here’s the link. You can go here to search by a candidate’s name. Tell us what you’ve found in comments.

(This thread wisely suggested by a commenter.)

UPDATE:I’ll put the feed back up if and or when ICPR starts posting to its blog. For now, however, the AP story is up:

The governor brought in about $6.5 million in the first six months of 2006 and spent nearly $10 million, much of that on television advertisements promoting his re-election bid after easily winning the March Democratic primary, a campaign spokeswoman said Monday.

That left him with about $12.2 million in the bank as of June 30 — far more than the $1.5 million his Republican opponent, state treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, had on that date.

Topinka raised about $3.2 million in the first half of the year and spent more than $3 million of that to win a heated Republican primary against three other largely self-financed candidates, her campaign said Monday.

And for a little history, recall that Jim Ryan had $690,000 in cash at this point four years ago.

UPDATE: Oops. ICPR was posting. Sorry.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - McKeon; Shaw; Target News Feed (use all CAPS in password)

Monday, Jul 31, 2006

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Jul 31, 2006

My syndicated newspaper column this week is about a new poll in the race for state treasurer.

The poll had Giannoulias leading Radogno 46-35. The survey of 600 likely voters was taken July 10-16 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. It had a margin of error of 4 percent.

The result is very close to polls taken recently by SurveyUSA and Rasmussen. Both pollsters found that Governor Rod Blagojevich was leading Judy Baar Topinka 45-34.

The SurveyUSA poll’s details showed Illinois’ partisan breakdown to be 43 percent Democratic, 32 percent Republican and 23 percent independent. So, in other words, candidates in both the treasurer’s race and the governor’s race seem to be holding right about at their expected party support levels.

Those poll results also show just how difficult it is these days for an Illinois Republican to win statewide, particularly in down-ballot races where voters are far less focused and far more uninformed. Democrats who can hold onto their base don’t have very far to go to get to 50 percent plus one vote. In order for Republicans to win, they have to sway a whole lot of independent voters and also try to convince as many Democrats as possible to cross over. Since independents here tend to lean towards the Democrats, that job is even tougher.

The question may not be what you expect.

Do you think people are filtering out the corruption stories about poll leaders Giannoulias and Blagojevich, or are they not hearing them in the first place, or do you think they just don’t believe the stories, or is it just too early to expect them to focus even a little on these races?

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


Late to the party

Monday, Jul 31, 2006

Four Tribune reporters labored for who knows how long to produce this 1500-word story yesterday.

Mayor Richard Daley’s administration has for years steered city services–new garbage carts, tree trimming, graffiti removal–to key neighborhoods to help allies win tight elections, a Tribune investigation has found.

Really? Say it isn’t so.

I’m glad the Trib is finally noticing this stuff, since it’s been right under their noses forever.

Between 1999 and 2003, allies of Rep. Cynthia Soto collected material for a book called “It Happened Four Years Ago.” The book was about Soto’s 1999 1st Ward aldermanic race against pretty much the entire Chicago Machine. The book was horribly written, filled with some pretty wild and silly conjecture and is mostly a missed opportunity (considering the source material they had to work with), but it had a few great instances of how services were traded for votes.

More interestingly, though, was a passage buried deep in the book about how sidewalk repairs were allegedly timed to hold down turnout.

According to the book, the sidewalks directly in front of several polling places in both the 1st and 5th Wards were torn up by the city the week of the runoff election. It’s one of my favorite stories about how the Machine really operates.

You can read the book for free here (pdf file). It’s a low-resolution copy, so the photos and graphics aren’t visible. For more on how the Machine used absentee ballots to their advantage in the same race, check out this very informative Chicago Reporter article from December, 2000.

Back to the Tribune article.

Using city data, the Tribune detected a particularly dramatic increase in service requests from one ward in the weeks before a heated election for alderman there.

Captains typically walk precincts with a stack of service request forms. It’s one way that the House Democrats took back several southern Cook County districts in 1996. They literally flooded the districts with services.

The city has regular ward cleanup days, and often those just happen to be right before a particularly important election day.

Again, the Trib article.

But records and interviews indicate that dispensing services in the 12th Ward was part of a political strategy that included dispatching hundreds of HDO-affiliated city workers to campaign for Cardenas. “They were using taxpayer money to beat us,” Frias said. “There was nothing that I could do.”

I wrote about this race a little back then and I knew what was going on before the election was over. It’s standard stuff and I’ve written about it time and time again, particularly with Latino legislative districts. The Tribune, all these years later, is only now catching on.

Let’s hope the paper is a bit more proactive in next year’s contests.

UPDATE: A high resolution version of the book can be downloaded here. [pdf file]

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


More on IDOT’s stonewalling

Monday, Jul 31, 2006

A judge has allowed Jenner & Block to extricate itself from representing IDOT officials in a lawsuit filed by 18 former IDOT workers who alleged they were wrongfully terminated. As you already know, IDOT has ordered J&B to not turn over its files to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who appointed the law firm and who is also the state’s chief attorney.

IDOT’s publicly offered reason for asking J&B not to turn over the files was that it wanted the firm to continue representing the officials. But now that Jenner & Block have been removed, they don’t really have a good explanation.

Jenner & Block has been representing defendants in Rutan patronage matters all the way back to the beginning of the Rutan case. According to a motion it filed last month, it claims it has been “unable to reach terms for reappointment that are mutually agreeable to Jenner & Block and the Office of the Attorney General.” The AG’s office declined comment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Morning shorts

Monday, Jul 31, 2006

· If this really happened, the debate’s sponsors shouldn’t ever be allowed to host another one. [Emphasis added]

Republican state treasurer candidate Christine Radogno on Friday questioned the experience level and judgment of her Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, whose family bank has made loans to convicted felons…. Both candidates appeared at a political forum sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners but saved their most biting comments until after the tame event… Radogno, a 53-year-old Lemont resident, said she pulled her punches onstage because organizers asked her not to be confrontational.

· Birkett says governor hides behind inspector general. More here.

· Editorial: How your tax money is spent deserves public scrutiny, something the governor seems to have forsaken and forgotten.

· Governor signs law expanding college grant program

· Green Party supporters under fire

· “There’s been a clear violation of state law, according to the inspector general, but there’s been no criminal referral. If a criminal referral comes, it’s only going to be because it was brought to light by the Sun-Times, not because the administration is saying this is something we need to do,” said [state Sen. Peter] Roskam, who is running for Congress in the 6th District.

· UPDATE: Responding to the above story, Topinka’s campaign issued this release today:

…Just a day after his campaign spokeswoman said that Governor Rod Blagojevich refers all Inspector General allegations of corruption to law enforcement agencies, the Sun-Times reported that serious allegations against an Illinois Tollway official never were referred to the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s office, Illinois Attorney General, or U.S. Attorney.

“Instead of aggressively targeting corruption where it occurs, Rod Blagojevich is hiding investigations so they receive the least scrutiny and prosecution possible,” said Topinka. “Instead of rooting out wrongdoing, he is encouraging more.”…

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


READER COMMENTS CLOSED FOR THE WEEKEND

Friday, Jul 28, 2006

Talk at you Monday!

Here’s your Illinoize fix:

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Friday, Jul 28, 2006

It’s Friday, so it’s time to change gears.

Have you vacationed any place special in Illinois this summer? Describe your experience.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


The “City that works” a potential national laughingstock

Friday, Jul 28, 2006

My Sun-Times column this week is a bit of a departure for me. I blog about Chicago and Cook County politics, but I don’t often write about them, unless they have a state connection. This one has no such connection.

Most pundits have decided that they no longer want Mayor Daley’s political machine running things, but almost no thought has been given to what could happen if the “enemy” is ever vanquished.

It’s a little bit like the debate over enforcing democracy in the Middle East. Is the end result worth the chaos?

Unlike Iraq, there won’t be gun battles in Chicago’s streets if the Machine finally falls, but there will be plenty of political chaos.

And for those of you too lazy to click through and read the whole thing but still motivated enough to post comment, this is in no way a pro-machine column.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Governor criticized for slow response to devastating storms

Friday, Jul 28, 2006

Did the governor drop the ball during the aftermath of the Metro East storms last week? The governor was on vacation last week, and it wasn’t until Saturday that his IEMA director arrived on the scene - three days after the first major storm hit. On Wednesday, the governor finally asked President Bush to declare five counties a federal disaster area.

The move by Blagojevich was made a week after Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt’s decision to activate the National Guard and five days after Bush’s emergency declaration on Friday covering St. Louis…

Meanwhile, the local emergency management guy is upset.

“Whenever Ameren tells you this is something like four times bigger than anything they’ve had, that ought to tell somebody something,” said Jack Quigley, director of Madison County’s Emergency Management Agency. “Why they weren’t moving faster on getting federal aid here, I don’t know.”

The local Democratic state Senator is fuming mad.

State Sen. William Haine and state Rep. Dan Beiser, both Alton Democrats, penned a curt letter Wednesday afternoon asking for the state to act on the federal aid request as soon as possible. Haine said he had been told that state officials were questioning whether to seek aid at all because the storm’s damage might not be severe enough.

“The state director said to me that there wouldn’t be an application,” Haine said. “I don’t know how they could possibly conclude that we don’t meet the requirements at this stage.”

And the governor has yet to visit the region.

A spokesman for the governor said Wednesday that he would visit the Metro East area soon but provided no details.

I got about ten e-mails a day from the governor’s office after Hurrican Katrina hit the Gulf coast describing everything the guv was doing for residents of other states. He ought to get on the stick.

How big were last week’s storms?

The National Weather Service believes seven tornadoes touched down in the St. Louis area last week as part of two storms that ravaged the region.

Scientists have analyzed the damage from the storms that hit July 19th and again two days later. They believe tornadoes touched down July 19th near Bunker Hill on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River, and Edwardsville on the Illinois side.

The Friday storms spawned at least five tornadoes, including two just south of Troy, Illinois.

The storm’s straight-line winds were almost tornado-like. The Weather Service believes winds reached up to 90 miles per hour.

And then there’s this.

Some of the tons and tons of debris from last week’s storms began going up in smoke Thursday.

The fire could last until Wednesday, said East St. Louis Fire Chief William Fennoy, who supervised the start of the burn.

He had no estimate on how much debris would be burned, but the city’s application filed with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency sought permission for burning 300,000 cubic yards of material.

The debris is mainly from East St. Louis, Cahokia, Centreville, Alorton and Washington Park. Another burn site is planned in Granite City.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


What the heck is going on here?

Friday, Jul 28, 2006

Jenner & Block defends IDOT against a lawsuit filed by former IDOT workers who say they were illegally fired. Jenner & Block decides it wants off the case. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the state’s top lawyer who officially represents the state in all legal matters and who appointed Jenner & Block to the case in the first place, asks the firm for its files. Firm says No. Lisa asks why. Firm says IDOT’s chief legal counsel ordered it not to hand over the files. No reason for IDOT’s order given.

Then things get bizarre.

Matt Vanover, a Transportation Department spokesman, defended the agency’s refusal to give Madigan the lawsuit files.

He said IDOT wants to continue using Jenner & Block, which has handled the case for nearly two years. Vanover said IDOT is the defendant and should be the one to decide what attorneys to use.

Despite Jenner & Block’s request to withdraw, Vanover said the firm has agreed to stay on the case. The attorney general’s office said it had never heard that claim until Thursday.

Huh?

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Is the 10th District in play?

Friday, Jul 28, 2006

Cook and Rothenberg differ on the 10th District race between incumbent Mark Kirk and Democrat Dan Seals.

The Cook Political Report, a Washington-based non-partisan on-line analysis of congressional races across the country, now lists the 10th District race as one of 54 Republican seats nationwide that could be competitive in November. The seat is still listed as “likely Republican,” the least competitive of three categories identified in the report. It was previously considered a safe seat. […]

“We’re watching it,” said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Report. “We met with Seals and thought he was a good candidate but right now we don’t see the seat being in danger,”

Amy Walter, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, said “the reality is Mark Kirk is very difficult to beat one on one” during a normal election year and he’s still favored to win the race at this point. […]

[However] “It’s not really about Mark Kirk or Dan Seals,” she said. “It’s about the political climate.”

Read the whole thing. This is a very good political story from a suburban weekly. That’s not a common thing.

Also, take a look at a recent bipartisan poll of the 50 most hotly contested congressional races in the country, 40 of them which are Republican. [pdf file] It’s not great news for the nation’s majority party.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


Morning shorts

Friday, Jul 28, 2006

· The I-Team investigates *999, a state-funded emergency call service that critics call confusing, dangerous and a waste of tax dollars.

· Editorial: State must protect patients from felons in nursing homes - Agency has not looked into a single case

· Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon threatens “World War III” if Daley vetoes big box ordinance.

· Downtown march to demand better teachers

· Gas prices arise in gubernatorial race

· “Neither Gov. Rod Blagojevich nor his challenger, Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, responded directly to a candidate survey from an anti-gambling group. Instead, both sent letters about their positions on gambling to Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems. ‘They (the letters) are very vague and leave a lot of wiggle room,’ said ILCAAAP Executive Director Anita Bedell.” Read the governor’s letter here, Topinka’s letter here.

· “Nobody in an oversight position at the Illinois tollway or the governor’s office knew about plans to spend nearly a half-million dollars on the big blue signs that advertise Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s name to thousands of motorists a day on Chicago-area toll roads, the toll authority’s chairman says.”

· Ameren debt ratings downgraded - ‘Political and regulatory environment’ in Illinois played into decision

· Blagojevich grants clemency to dying woman

· Officials feud over agency merger

· “llinois Central College will join other community colleges in a lawsuit against Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan over her interpretation of a state ethics law.”

· Editorial: Failed festival blows the whistle on budget deals

· The governor’s pet ferret

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Schilling endorses LaHood
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Duckworth to announce on Monday
* Rauner mulls selling Thompson Center
* Question of the day
* It's just a bill...
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Brown: Exploring an exploratory committee is "under review"
* Rauner administration denies union report of progress on fair share suit
* *** UPDATED x2 - Durbin out of the running? *** Illinois Republicans react to potential Durbin elevation
* Is a new era finally dawning in Illinois?
* Meanwhile, in Opposite Land...
* Good morning!
* Yesterday's blog posts

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