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He belongs to everyone, now *** Updated x1 ***

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006

Our old buddy Tim Nieukirk was interviewed by CBS2 today. Click the pic for the report.

Meanwhile, Nieukirk’s recently energized campaign has posted two new videos.

* “Your baby tastes horrible”

* The Man, The Myth, The Legend:

Join hands, y’all, let’s all Get Nieuked.

See all of Nieukirk’s “campaign ads” here. His MySpace page is here. And you can buy Get Nieuked gear here.

The nets or CNN need to step in and take this thing to the next level.

*** UPDATE *** Well, that was fast. From comments: “Brit Hume just ran the clip ‘in bed with yer sister’ on FOX news.”

The perfect fit here would be The Daily Show.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


RR-Star goes Green

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006

The Rockford Register-Star endorses Rich Whitney, thereby guaranteeing the Green Party candidate lots of press coverage and hurting Topinka’s chances of winning back those voters who may have temporarily parked their support with a protest candidate.

Only in the surreal realm of Illinois politics could red and blue combine to produce green.

The blue party candidate, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has danced as fast as he can on the campaign trail in a vain attempt to stay ahead of allegations of personal corruption and fiscal irresponsibility.

The red party’s pick, Republican state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, has conducted a negative and unfocused campaign that doesn’t inspire confidence she could lead the state. Her main qualification is having a lower indictment potential than the incumbent.

There is a choice, and this Editorial Board is making it by endorsing Rich Whitney, the Green Party candidate, for Illinois governor.

We believe Whitney, a 51-year-old attorney from Carbondale, could clean up state government while leading Illinois toward school finance reform, job growth, environmental responsibility and social justice. […]

Some readers will perceive this endorsement as quixotic. We view it as pragmatic rather than foolishly idealistic. This endorsement is our battle cry: Illinois voters deserve better options.

Whitney is a serious candidate who could do the job. He might not win, but we hope he gets enough votes so Illinoisans have more of a choice when they go to the polls in the future.

This attitude that Topinka’s “main qualification is having a lower indictment potential than the incumbent” is precisely the sort of thinking that Zorn warned against in this morning’s column. The paper has bought into the governor’s TV ad blitz, as Zorn did until, he claims, last week, when…

But let me ask you, as I finally stopped to ask myself late last week: What, exactly, is so evil about Judy Baar Topinka? What is so objectionable about the idea of her as governor?

OK, she’s got a zany streak and speaks more in quips than in quotes. She’s been a little too cozy with the oily bipartisan crowd of insiders who have helped disgrace our state.

But she’s refreshingly blunt, socially moderate and honest enough not to pander to voters with promises she can’t keep without saddling future generations with staggering debts. […]

She was not “George Ryan’s treasurer,” as Blagojevich’s snide commercials said, any more than she was Jim Edgar’s treasurer or Blagojevich’s treasurer. She was your treasurer. You voted for her. Because she did a good job and avoided the sort of scandal that’s crept awfully close to Blagojevich.

I’m not here to tell you Topinka has had a blameless career, would be a great governor or even that I’m planning to vote for her (full disclosure, I nearly always vote Democratic). I’m here to tell you Judy Baar Topinka is not a phony, a nitwit or a crook.

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      


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Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006

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Question of the day

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006

Do you favor or oppose taxpayer funded political campaigns? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Poll stories

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006

I posted a bunch of poll stories late yesterday. Here’s a list with links.

* Tribune governor’s poll (44-29-13)

* Daily Herald governor’s poll (48-32-12)

* Tribune & Daily Herald Cook County Board prez race polls (Trib: 48-33 for Stroger; Daily Herald: 51-42 for Peraica)

* New polling in US House 6 & 8

Follow the links to discuss.

I originally had comments off, but this seems a good place to discuss polling in general this year, so they’re now open.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Duped and dumped

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006

Eric Zorn apparently believes that he’s bought into an ad campaign, not a reality. The headline is “Don’t be duped by Blagojevich’s snide TV ads.” And here’s how it ends:

If you vote for Blagojevich because you admire what he’s done in office and believe his promises, fine. But if you vote against Topinka because you now believe that there’s no difference in the integrity, sincerity or political courage of these two candidates, then you’re just the sucker Blagojevich was hoping you’d be. He started this as Mr. Squandered Opportunity, an earnest twit best known for expensive grandstanding and breaking his promise to reform the system in Illinois.

The millions he spent flinging offal at Topinka and sowing general revulsion has paid off, as it was nearly bound to in a Democratic state. He’s still unpopular–just 40 percent of the public views him favorably, according to our recent poll–but he’s succeeded in making her even more unpopular and racking up a 15-point lead in our poll.

Barack Obama writes of the audacity of hope. Rod Blagojevich practices the audacity of cynicism. I almost fell for it. Will you?

* Meanwhile, Topinka is finally forced to dump Kj.

Republican Judy Baar Topinka spoke out Monday against a top GOP official linked to a plot to squeeze kickbacks out of companies doing business with the state […]

Topinka stopped short of calling for Bob Kjellander, treasurer of the national Republican Party, to resign. But she said he should step down if he was involved in any misconduct.

“If Bob Kjellander has done … something wrong here, he needs to resign from his party post,” Topinka said before kicking off a statewide coffee-shop tour to talk to voters about the state’s financial situation.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Morning shorts

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006

* Meeks sends kids to ‘hell’ - Christian fright house depicts abortion, gays

* Amtrak’s expanded service begins

* Breast cancer program expands - State closes loophole so more uninsured women can get care

* Executive order requires recycling electronics gear

* Roeper: That’s not voter apathy: They just don’t like stench of negative ads

* AP: Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s troubled fundraiser, Antoin “Tony” Rezko, won’t be able to post his luxurious suburban mansion as bond after all as he scrambles to stay out of jail.

* Gov. Rod Blagojevich appeared at the school Monday to confirm that $6.8 million in state funding will be released for the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, a project that features a partnership among LCCC and other state and federal agencies and educational bodies.

* Topinka touts budget plan at Stockholm Inn

* McCain, Roskam overlook differences

* Ailing John Stroger unable to cast vote - He’ll miss first election of his adult life

* Tribune editorial: Democratic officials who endorse Todd Stroger, or who appear at events with him, or who record telephone robo-messages on his behalf, ought to closely examine Stroger’s advertising. Because when they vouch for Stroger as a paragon of reform, his credibility rubs off on them.

* High college costs sacrificing students’ dreams, study finds

* State grants made here as election nears

* Durbin Hits Campaign Trail

* Many Republicans expect Denny to quit if they lose House — maybe even if they don’t.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Tribune poll: 44-29-13

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

The big question now is how many votes Rich Whitney gets.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich maintained a sizable advantage over Republican Judy Baar Topinka even as new corruption allegations surfaced involving his close supporters, a new Tribune/WGN-Ch. 9 poll shows.

A week before the election, the survey of 600 likely voters shows Blagojevich backed by 44 percent, Topinka supported by 29 percent and Green Party candidate Richard Whitney with 13 percent. Another 13 percent were undecided in the survey, conducted Friday through Sunday, which has an error margin of 4 percentage points. […]

The poll also found that in the race to replace Topinka in the treasurer’s office, Chicago banker Alexi Giannoulias, a Democrat, has the support of 40 percent of voters compared to 23 percent for Republican state Sen. Christine Radogno of Lemont. Green Party candidate Dan Rodriguez Schlorff got 5 percent.

But nearly 30 percent of voters were undecided in the treasurer contest and large numbers had never heard of either major party candidate, despite a series of stories about questionable loans given by the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, the survey showed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Dueling polls

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

Two different media companies, two different Cook County Board president polls, two widely different results. The reason? Most likely it’s because the Tribune poll is recent and has a reasonable sample size, while the Daily Herald/ABC7 poll is ancient and has a tiny sample size.

First, the Tribune poll of 484 likely voters conducted Thursday through Sunday:

Stroger leads Peraica 48 percent to 33 percent with 17 percent of voters undecided—a significant gain for the Democrat since a similar poll about three weeks ago showed the contest a virtual tie.

While Stroger has surged, Peraica’s support has slipped among voter groups who are key to his chances, according to the poll of 484 likely voters conducted Thursday through Sunday. The poll has an error margin of 5 percentage points.

The new poll shows Todd Stroger increasing his advantage among city voters beyond what had already been a significant margin. The survey found 62 percent of city voters back Stroger, compared to 50 percent almost two weeks ago. At the same time, Peraica’s support in the city was essentially unchanged at 24 percent. […]

The survey found 63 percent of Democrats now say they support Stroger, up from 59 percent in the previous poll. Stroger’s support among African-American voters increased by 4 percentage points, to 79 percent.

Peraica’s edge among suburban Cook County voters has slipped to 44 percent from 48 percent, while Stroger’s suburban support rose to 32 percent from 28 percent.

Meanwhile, the latest Daily Herald/ABC poll is of just 300 voters taken Oct. 16 to 22, meaning the margin of error is plus-or-minus 6 percentage points and some results are more than two weeks old. So, the poll doesn’t take into account many of the ads that have been aired by Stroger or much of the field work by the Democratic machine.

Even though many don’t know him, Republican board member Tony Peraica led Democratic pinch hitter Todd Stroger by 9 percentage points, 51 percent to 42 percent, the Daily Herald/ABC7 Chicago poll found.

To know Stroger apparently is to not love him, poll results show. Stroger, a Chicago alderman chosen to replace his father on the ballot after the primary, was known to 87 percent of those surveyed, but supported by less than half of them. On the other hand, Peraica was unknown to 42 percent, but still favored by more than half of those polled.

“If people know Stroger and not Peraica, they’ll vote for Peraica,” said Richard Day, whose Evanston-based firm conducted the poll. “It’s remarkable.” […]

Stroger was viewed unfavorably by more than half of those polled, 53 percent, and favorably by 24 percent - a 2-to-1 negative margin. Peraica was thought of unfavorably by 24 percent and favorably by 39 percent, with 42 percent unfamiliar with him.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Fresh polls in 6 & 8

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

Constituent Dynamics has released two new polls for the 6th and 8th Congressional Districts.

* Three weeks ago, the polling firm had Peter Roskam slightly ahead of Tammy Duckworth, 47-46. Now, they’ve got Duckworth edging Roskam 48-47. Crosstabs here. Click below for a larger image.

il06_10_30_06.jpg

* Two weeks ago, they had Congresswoman Melissa Bean neck and neck with Dave McSweeney, 47-44. Now they’ve got Bean ahead by a more comfortable 50-45.

However - and this is a big however - for the second time in a row the organization has failed to poll the third candidate in the race, rendering this poll useless — The Archpundit has convinced me that the third party candidate is probably picked up in the “other” category. I’d still like to see the candidate in, but the poll is not totally useless. Crosstabs.

il8_10_30_06.jpg

If they can’t even figure out that there are three candidates in this race, you gotta wonder whether they can be believed on anything else.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Daily Herald/ABC7 poll: 48-32-12 *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

Even more so than with the Daily Herald’s congressional polling, all of these gubernatorial numbers are postively ancient, since the poll was conducted Oct. 16-22, according to the paper. In other words, they sat on these results for eight days and some of the numbers are over two weeks old.

The governor led Topinka by 16 percentage points, 48 percent to 32 percent, in the poll. And in a sign voters view this as the proverbial “None-of-the-Above” election, little-known Green Party candidate Rich Whitney polled 12 percent support, likely an unprecedented showing for a third-party candidate in Illinois. […]

In this campaign, though, women voters backed Blagojevich by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. And the governor led Topinka by 13 percentage points, 45-32 percent, in suburban Cook, and by 12 percentage points, 47-35 percent, in the DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry and Will collar counties.

That campaign is working, the poll shows. Asked to rate Topinka on a 1-10 scale, those surveyed rated her a 4.0 - lower than any statewide candidate this fall and even lower than President Bush, who rated a 4.2. Topinka was rated a 5.6 just two years earlier.

Blagojevich’s own rating stood at 4.6, dropping a full point from two years ago, a likely indication the seemingly endless stream of stories about corruption allegations in his administration is taking a toll.

*** UPDATE *** The Tribune/WGN poll isn’t on the Web yet, but I’m told the results are: 44-29-13

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Constituent Dynamics: Seals pulls ahead? *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

For the second time in a row, Constituent Dynamics has released a poll on the 10th CD that doesn’t jibe with any other numbers.

Two weeks ago, they had Congressman Mark Kirk ahead of Dan Seals 46-44. Nobody believed it. They also had Melissa Bean in a tough race and nobody believed that, either, until the Daily Herald poll suggested she was in trouble.

This time, they’ve got Dan Seals ahead of Congressman Mark Kirk 48-46. Gitcher crosstabs here. Click below for a larger image.

il10_10_06.jpg

[Hat tip: ArchPundit]

*** UPDATE *** I posted this in comments, but thought it should be elevated to the main page. Here is the methodology this outfit uses:

Majority Watch, a project of RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics, comprises telephone surveys conducted using interactive voice recognition (IVR) technology.

In each of 30 contested congressional districts, a representative sample of 5,000 likely voters based on previous vote history was selected from state voter registration files. 1,200-1,300 interviews were completed in each district […]

Completed interviews were compared to the voter registration file to validate results. Interview were discarded when the surveyed demographic responses did not match the voter file information of the sampled likely voter. In this manner, approximately 1,000 interviews were validated for each district.

Final results were weighted to represent the likely electorate by demographic factors such as age, sex, race and CD geographical subarea. No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than 3 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all voters in a CD were polled.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Nieukirk goes national

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

Three cheers for the Associated Press!

Most politicians like to play it safe. Not Tim Nieukirk.

He’ll blindside firefighters rushing to save cats caught in a tree. He won’t climb into bed with special interests, but he will with your sister. And he goes after a breed of criminal that most politicians prefer to ignore - the Hamburglar.

Nieukirk is the star of a series of over-the-top campaign ads promoting his write-in campaign for Illinois governor.

The campaign consists entirely of homemade ads on YouTube.com and a MySpace.com page, but Nieukirk says he’s filed the necessary paperwork in every county so that any votes he collects will be officially counted.

See all of Nieukirk’s “campaign ads” here. His MySpace page is here. And you can buy Get Nieuked gear here.

Now that the AP has done a piece, maybe the Chicago TV people will finally show an interest. After all, Nieukirk’s campaign is solely on video. What could possibly be better for a light and fluffy TV feature?

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Blagojevich and Levine *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

Steve Rhodes has a spot-on, in-depth take on the relationship between Stu Levine and Rod Blagojevich. It cuts right through the phony spin coming out of the governor’s campaign and is a must-read for any reporter covering this controversy.

(T)he more telling aspect of Levine’s deal in my mind was the implication of Blagojevich’s pal, Chris Kelly, in wrongdoing. Kelly and the recently-indicted Tony Rezko have been the governor’s two closest advisors. If the governor was merely betrayed by his two closest advisors, that’s still a pretty damning indictment (no pun intended) of his judgement in who he has given the keys to state government to. And, just to give the governor the benefit of the doubt for sake of argument, if he never paid attention to press reports swirling about Rezko and Kelly and never called them in and read them the riot act, he failed to do his job. If he never bothered to ask about what his father-in-law, Ald. Dick Mell once alleged - that state board and commission seats were being sold for $50,000 campaign contributions - he was derelict. (Mell recanted that allegation in the face of a libel suit, but perhaps only to clear a path for fededral investigators, much as county and state officials have done.) In addition, Joe Cari has told federal investigators that he was offered a state board or commission seat in exchange for a campaign contribution, even though Blagojevich has tried pass off Cari’s allegations as “triple hearsay” - which they are not.

Giving the governor the benefit of the doubt, in other words, doesn’t help his case because of his utter failure of vigilance after riding into office as a reformer.

Of course, I’m not so charitable as to give the governor the benefit of the doubt.

He goes on to remind people that there were big questions about Levine when Blagojevich reappointed him to the hospital board and the Teachers Retirement System board. For instance, after Levine resigned from the Gaming Board in 2001, press reports revealed that he hadn’t disclosed investments in Argosy Gaming Co., an Illinois casino owner that he had regulated. And then there’s this…

“Although Levine was known inside Illinois as a Republican rainmaker, his political contributions at the national level skewed toward Democratic officeholders. The burgeoning relationships between Levine, Cari, [former New York comptroller and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Carl] McCall, and the Blagojevich administration grew cozier in late 2003, when Levine paid more than $4,000 to fly the governor and some of his campaign operatives to fund-raising visits to Austin, Texas, and New York City, according to campaign reports and other sources. McCall hosted one fundraising event held in an exclusive New York club, and [Cari’s] HealthPoint paid for $3,500 in meals at another funder in the city the next day.”

Blagojevich knew full well who Levine was. If he didn’t question what Levine was up to, that alone makes him unfit for office

Go read the whole thing.

*** UPDATE *** The governor defends his wife’s business dealings with a state contractor.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday said anyone who suggests his wife got private real estate deals with a state contractor because he is governor is acting like a “Neanderthal” and being “sexist.”

Appearing Downstate to announce $6.8 million in state grants to build a river research station in Alton, Blagojevich was asked about a recent Tribune report that the his wife, Patricia, got more than $113,000 in real estate commissions through a woman who holds a longstanding no-bid state contract. The woman’s husband, a banker, also has business pending before state regulators.

“She has every right to pursue her business and, you know, there’s a sexist quality to that story-somehow moms who have their own businesses, who are women, can’t do things that way-that’s implicated in that story. So there’s a sexist component to that story,” Blagojevich said.

The governor then got into a black SUV and shut the door, before climbing back out to continue his point.

“Working women are very much a part of the real life experience today for families across our state. And to suggest she doesn’t have the right to have her own business and pursue her own business is Neanderthal and sexist,” the governor said before getting back in his vehicle and being driven away.

I put this here because Rhodes wrote about this topic as well.

“It’s unfair and completely ridiculous to suggest she should keep track of every client she does business with to see if they have contracts with the state,” said Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff, of Patti Blagojevich’s real estate business.

Why?

Lawyers vet their cases for conflicts of interest within their firms. Reporters try to be similarly vigilant. Plus, Patti Blagojevich only has a few clients a year. What’s ridiculous is that a real estate agent whose husband is the governor wouldn’t keep track of whether her clients had contracts with the state. Unless she didn’t want to know - or already did.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


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Monday, Oct 30, 2006

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New numbers in 6 and 8 *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

[Updated from last night and bumped up. Also, FYI, the Daily Herald will be releasing a new poll on the governor’s race at about six o’clock tonight. A new poll for the county board president’s race will be released at 10 pm. Check back for links if you can.]

One brief bit of caution: Some of these Daily Herald/ABC7 poll numbers are eleven days old because the 6th District poll was conducted Oct. 19-24 and the 8th District survey was taken Oct 18-24. The margin of error for both polls is 4 percentage points.

* First, the 6th District. The Tribune poll had this one at 43-39 for Roskam, Constitutent Dynamics reported it at 47-46 Roskam and Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan had the race 51-46 Duckworth.

The freshest numbers, according to pollster.com, come from Democratic pollster Bennett, Petts, & Blumenthal. The survey of 400 likely voters taken Oct. 23-24 had Duckworth ahead 44-43. But here’s the narrative from the Daily Herald on its poll:

In the 6th Congressional District race to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Hyde of Wood Dale, Republican state Sen. Peter Roskam led Democratic Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth 46 to 42 percent […]

Of Roskam’s 46 percent, 27 percent said they were strong supporters, with 19 percent less strong in their support. Duckworth had 28 percent say they were strong backers, with 14 percent less strong. […]

Only 36 percent of those surveyed thought the country was headed down the right path, with 54 percent saying it’s going in the wrong direction and 10 percent not sure. Bush carried the district in 2004 with 53 percent of the vote.

Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who opposes the war, is getting support from 66 percent of those who feel the country is on the wrong track. Roskam, running as the candidate of the party in control of the federal government, is backed by 22 percent of the wrong-direction voters.

* Now, the 8th. The Tribune poll had Bean with a 50-31-4 lead, Democratic pollster Bennett, Petts, & Blumenthal had Bean up 49-33, but Constituent Dynamics had Bean with a far less commanding 47-44 lead, and was therefore roundly ignored.

The Daily Herald has the situation far worse for Bean, with the incumbent polling 8 points under 50 percent and the third party candidate eating up votes:

To the north, 8th District Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean of Barrington held a 42 percent to 39 percent lead over Republican investment banker David McSweeney of Barrington Hills [third party candidate Bill Scheurer is at 8 percent] […]

Although Bean hasn’t gone out of her way to bash Bush, she gets support from 62 percent of those polled who think the country is on the wrong track. Scheurer picks up 12 percent of those voters. […]

McSweeney captured only 68 percent support among those identifying themselves as strong Republicans and just 55 percent among those leaning Republican. That presents perhaps McSweeney’s biggest challenge. “If McSweeney can persuade and energize his natural base of Republican support, he will win the race,” Day said.

McSweeney’s support is based more along party lines: 22 percent saying they back him because they dislike Bean, with another 21 percent saying they back him because he’s a Republican. About 17 percent cited McSweeney’s issues, with an additional 9 percent specifying his opposition to abortion rights as the reason they’ll vote for him.

If this poll is right, and if those Republicans come home for McSweeney, this might be a major upset in the making.

*** UPDATE *** Duckworth’s last TV ad of the season is below.


- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

This question was suggested by state Rep. Larry McKeon:

Most candidates have a campaign website. What do you find good and what do you find bad about the websites you have visited? Why? If you were going to design one what should a really good website contain?

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Despite bankruptcy threats, Illinoisans still want freeze

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

There was an interesting little question in the Post-Dispatch poll released over the weekend about electric rates. Even when told that the utilities are claiming that extending the current electric rate freeze could drive them into bankruptcy, a solid majority of 56 percent still wanted the freeze to go ahead.

QUESTION:As you may know, electric rates are scheduled to sharply increase in Illinois next year as the result of deregulation of the market. Some say the state should freeze those rates because there isn’t adequate competition in the market yet. The electric industry says continuing the freeze could drive it into bankruptcy. In your opinion, should the state:

Freeze rates at their current levels, OR

Allow the rate hikes to go into effect as planned

Here’s more from an accompanying article.

“The power companies are going to need a hell of a PR campaign'’ to win over the public to the rate hikes, predicted pollster Del Ali. “It’s not enough to threaten to go bankrupt, because people don’t care.'’

That was apparent in comments by poll respondents such as Cheri Akers of Hamilton.

“I would be more than happy to see it freeze,'’ she said. “I don’t think they would go bankrupt. I think the companies are bluffing.'’

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Levine opinions

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

My syndicated newspaper column is about… what else?… the Levine plea.

Corrupt political insider Stu Levine was hit with so many federal indictments earlier this year that he literally was facing a life sentence behind bars.

Last week, he copped a plea that will let him walk free after five years and seven months in what probably will be a minimum security prison — in exchange for his cooperation.

We can discern one of two things from this: 1) Much of the federal case was weak and letting Levine off relatively easy was a face-saving move by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; or 2) Levine has agreed to help the feds reel in some very big fish and used that prospect to negotiate a much better deal.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I find myself leaning toward “Door Number 2.”

* Mark Brown:

There was no hint of an apology, nor any expression of embarrassment nor regret for even unwittingly keeping Levine in a position of trust. There was no acceptance of responsibility whatsoever, not even the indirect sort. He didn’t even do that thing Mayor Daley does where he acts like he’s angry about somebody letting him down.

* Carol Marin:

It is hard to feel sorry for Levine. Harder still to have sympathy for one of his dearest friends, Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak. But one of the twists of this case that had to be wrenching for Levine is that in trying to save himself from a lifetime behind bars, he apparently had to wire up on and sell out someone he truly cared about. And so he secretly recorded conversations that would give the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office the chance to do what they have dreamed of doing for decades: build a case against the Dark Lord of the 10th Ward.

Vrdolyak, a former alderman who once ran for Chicago mayor, is a millionaire many times over, thanks to the taxpayers of Cicero and other hapless municipalities that paid him seven figures annually for his “advice and counsel.” One of his ill-fated advisees, former Cicero Town President Betty Loren Maltese, sits in federal prison now after being convicted of corruption.

Though he has been investigated a dozen times, the catlike Vrdolyak has easily had nine lives. Until now.

* And the Tribune has seven questions:

- Who are the “certain State of Illinois officials” with whom Rezko allegedly had clout to influence appointments to state boards?

In the early Blagojevich years, who in the governor’s office–other than the governor himself, of course–had the authority to suggest formal appointments to state boards whose decisions had huge financial impacts?

- Did any staff member ever express concern to Blagojevich that Rezko was exerting influence over his appointment process?

- Who, if the indictment is correct, preserved a scheme to steer decisions on teacher pension system investments by derailing a proposed consolidation of that fund with two others?

- Was anyone in the governor’s office aware of the alleged plot to extort $1.5 million in political contributions from an investment firm?

- What does the Rezko indictment–and now the Levine plea agreement–say about your 2002 campaign pledge to end “business as usual” in Illinois if you became governor?

- And the seventh question: Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan says the governor’s office should make public any federal subpoenas issued to his administration–and stop withholding them from view. Illinois government belongs to the people, Governor. Why won’t you show them the subpoenas?

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Getting personal

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

The Sun-Times has a “getting personal” feature that it does with candidates [and maybe other people, I’m not sure]. Here are Judy Baar Topinka’s responses:

1. Last movie you felt like walking out of? If I pay money for a movie, and it’s not good, I sit there in hopes that it will get better.
2. iPod, CD player or radio? Radio.
3. TV show you try not to miss? NY Times Discover Channel — I like the archeology segments.
4. Weirdest trick you can do? Make a face like a Sharpei dog.
5. Food you wouldn’t eat on a bet? Monkey brains or cockroaches.
6. Worst punishment you got as a kid? Making me sit quietly.
7. Book all Americans should read? 1984

And here are Gov. Blagojevich’s responses:

1. Last movie you felt like walking out of? “I don’t know that I’ve ever walked out of a movie.”
2. iPod, CD player or radio? CDs. “But I do now have a little iPod that I rarely listen to.”
3. TV show you try not to miss? “I watch sports on TV, you know, when I’m home. And we’ll watch movies. And I love old movies.”
4. Weirdest trick you can do? “I can spin a basketball on all five fingers of my right hand. Oh, and I can memorize 43 tangible, concrete words.”
5. Food you wouldn’t eat on a bet? “Liver. Right? Oooooofff. Can’t.”
6. Worst punishment you got as a kid? Getting spanked by his father for interfering with a spanking his brother was getting.
7. Book all Americans should read? “A phony answer is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Everybody recommends that book, and I bet none of ‘em read it. . . . Can I think about that one?”

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Morning shorts

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

* Blagojevich: ‘I want good, clean government’

* Election shrouded by Levine guilty plea

* Rhodes: Lawyers vet their cases for conflicts of interest within their firms. Reporters try to be similarly vigilant. Plus, Patti Blagojevich only has a few clients a year. What’s ridiculous is that a real estate agent whose husband is the governor wouldn’t keep track of whether her clients had contracts with the state. Unless she didn’t want to know - or already did.

* Plan links minimum pay in state to inflation - Gov, mayor urge $1 hike, yearly boosts

* Last toll on state open-road tolling project finished

* Topinka is limited by feuds and funds

* Blagojevich fights everyone

* Topinka hopeful she can catch Blagojevich

* Father’s son, his own man - Todd Stroger and Tony Peraica bring competing visions to the race for Cook County Board president

* Peraica to Stroger: ‘No one calls my shots’

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


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