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Obamarama - Whitewater edition

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

I’ve seen this same meme popping up among the punditry lately. The first place I remember seeing it was Slate’s John Dickerson.

The Rezko business is also not likely to hurt him, because his principal rival will probably be Hillary Clinton, and she’s not going to bring up the topic of questionable land deals.

Clarence Page, of the Chicago Tribune, also made the same argument.

As a practical matter, the Rezko flap isn’t likely to hurt him in a race against Hillary Clinton, who has a questionable land deal called Whitewater in her past.

Apparently, nobody paid attention to the Blagojevich campaign. We had the most investigated governor in modern Illinois history (if not in all the state’s history) winning a race mainly by smearing a mostly honorable state treasurer as a George Ryan crony and a likely crook.

Besides, as I recall, that Whitewater thing went nowhere. It’s my opinion that she’ll have no qualms about using the Rezko deal against Obama, if she hasn’t already. Thoughts?

…Also, just in case any of the bigs ever stop by here, I’m wondering if they’ll ever get answers to questions that some local reporters have been struggling to pry out of him (I haven’t been able to get a return e-mail from his press office for quite a while and it’s starting to tick me off).

Here’s a good place to start: Why did Obama get a big discount on his house while Rezko paid full price for the lot next door (which was originally part of the same property)? Did Rezko actively and knowingly subsidize Obama’s discounted purchase price by paying the seller full price for the vacant lot? Obama has usually successfully shifted the discussion to his purchase of a portion of the Rezko land for more than he should have paid. But it’s that first purchase that I have the most qualms about.

Meanwile, on a far lighter note…

Dost thou doubt him?

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

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Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

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Question of the day

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

The Sun-Times commemorates tomorrow’s 30th anniversary of Richard J. Daley’s death by reprinting a story from the time and a Mike Royko column. Here’s Royko:

…In some ways, he was this town at its best — strong, hard-driving, working feverishly, pushing, building, driven by ambitions so big they seemed Texas-boastful.

In other ways, he was this city at its worst — arrogant, crude, conniving, ruthless, suspicious, intolerant. […]

And if somebody in City Hall saw a chance to make a fast bundle or two, Daley wasn’t given to preaching. His advice amounted to: Don’t get caught.

But that’s Chicago, too. The question has never been how you made it, but if you made it. This town was built by great men who demanded that drunkards and harlots be arrested, while charging them rent until the cops arrived.

Some things never change.

What do you think is Richard J’s greatest legacy?

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Watson trip defended, hit

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

My weekly syndicated newspaper column is about an unpublicized European trip taken by Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson a few weeks before the election.

After losing five state Senate seats and ending up on the wrong end of a veto-proof majority, there’s bound to be a lot of second guessing and finger pointing. But Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson probably did himself no favors by going to Europe for 10 days just a month before the November election.

Watson’s spokesperson, Patti Schuh, did her level best to tamp down this story last week, and she made a few good points. Watson, she stressed, called in every day from Europe to check up on things, much as he would have done if he had been in his Decatur or Greenville district offices. “He was in constant communication by telephone, by e-mail.”

Watson was reportedly at an NCSL conference in Italy with Sen. Steve Rauschenberger in October.

Some lobbyists and former staff members have been quietly grumbling about the trip since they first heard about it, but most of them have conceded it probably didn’t make a lot of difference in the election’s outcome.

That’s an important point, by the way. Still….

I’ve talked to some of Watson’s members who are just furious about his trip. What bothers them the most is that they and their volunteers were in some of the more hotly contested districts walking precincts and doing other work while Watson was in Europe. Important meetings or not, a legislative leader’s top job — perhaps his only job — during campaign season is making sure his caucus does well at the polls.

So even if he ran all his traps before he left and checked in every day, Watson nevertheless left the field of battle, and that fact has most definitely rankled some of his members. If he was in one of his downstate offices and crisis struck, he could have been in Springfield or in the district in question within a few hours at most. He couldn’t have done that from Europe.

I kinda bet he won’t do that again.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Froehlich’s Republican “road map”

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

State Rep. Paul Froelich, who saw several formerly solid Republican seats in his own backyard go to the Democrats last month, presents a road map to the future for the GOP.

Demographic math makes it clear that Republicans in the blue state of Illinois will not regain majority party status until the GOP attracts a sizable segment of minority voters. It isn’t happening at the moment, so the party has to change. The question is how?

I propose bringing back the traditional Republican emphasis on pursuing justice and providing equal opportunity. Lincoln said the Republican cause is “to elevate the condition of men, to lift the artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the path of laudable pursuits for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.”

Froehlich wants more emphasis on social justice issues and he lists several problems with the GOP’s current approach.

Blunt crusades against illegal immigrants and affirmative action, which are easily (mis)interpreted as racist.

A blind attachment to the death penalty, despite the high wrongful-conviction rate of minority defendants.

The lack of serious Republican effort (except for Ken Mehlman) to earn support from African-Americans.

Opposition or indifference to issues important to Latinos and African-Americans, such as rooting out racial profiling and closing the nation’s biggest disparity in public education funding.


[Comments closed. Move to this post instead.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      

Stroger wants layoffs, creative financing

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

All those county workers who busted their kiesters for Todd Stroger in last month’s election to protect their jobs couldn’t have been happy this morning when they picked up their papers.

About 6,200 Cook County employees could lose their jobs if department heads and elected officials follow through on a directive County Board President Todd Stroger has issued to cut their budgets by 17 percent.

Stroger is expected to make the announcement Tuesday as his administration attempts to close a $500 million deficit without raising taxes, spokesman Bill Figel said.

The county employs about 26,000 people, so that’s a serious cut. But there’s also some creative financing proposed.

The Stroger administration is addressing $150 million of the deficit through “various financing strategies,” according to the letter. Figel said the administration is considering restructuring some of its debt to save money.

I expect we’ll see more of that stuff than is currently proposed and fewer layoffs when push finally comes to shove. But the fight is gonna be fun to watch.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Morning shorts

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

* State to ante up legal fees to video-game victors

* Editorial: Lawmakers: Wake up and smell the report

* Sandi Jackson To Run For 7th Ward Alderman… More here

* The Race for 32

* Durbin pushes politics at Cobden High

* Farmers get an early present - Winter storm remnants seeping into soil, providing moisture for next year

* Prosecutor named in DUI case

* FCC chief: Cities blocking cable competition

* Schaumburg mayor to run unopposed

* Irv Smith OK after heart operation

* Cong. Lane Evans says farewell to constitutents

* Mayor’s Metra board seat in question

* Who pays for levee repairs?

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - This just in… Dillard demands concession (use this morning’s password)

Monday, Dec 18, 2006

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Docs turning thumbs down on All Kids

Monday, Dec 18, 2006

The governor’s office recently issued a statement on All Kids

More than 120,000 Illinois children have enrolled in the All Kids health insurance program since November 2005. […]

“I am proud to announce that since we took office, 300,000 children across the state now have health insurance who didn’t have it before,” Blagojevich said in a statement. “That means those kids are healthier, their families are healthier, and they are more likely to do well in school.”

Not mentioned was how many of those children were already enrolled in an existing Medicaid program and were simply moved over to All Kids, which was billed as relief for middle class parents without insurance. The last time an announcement like this was made, we later discovered that only a tiny handful of middle class kids were in the program.

Also, the Daily Herald discovered that doctors are extremely reluctant to accept the program’s enrollees.

A Daily Herald survey of 58 Kane County pediatricians on a state-supplied list found that at least 41 percent were not accepting new All Kids patients. In addition, more than one in five of the phone numbers either sent callers to a fax machine, pager or cell phone, or they were disconnected.

Just over 12 percent said they accepted only newborns, while another 12 percent did not respond. Ten doctors offices on the state list of 58 said they accept new pediatric patients under All Kids; all were in Elgin or Aurora.

And, as usual, the stone wall is still encircling this administration.

The governor’s office so far has not fulfilled a Dec. 1 Freedom of Information Act request for similar lists from other suburban counties. A patient presumably could get the lists in a timely fashion by calling a hotline for the All Kids program.

The program boosted physician payments - tripling the reimbursement for visits, for instance - but doctors are so frustrated with the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates that they are just flat-out refusing to accept new patients.

The governor really needs to address this problem. Now that the election is over, he should either make All Kids work or try something else that does actually bring healthcare to children.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

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Monday, Dec 18, 2006

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Monday morning quarterback

Monday, Dec 18, 2006

This is a Chicago Bears open thread.

Have at it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Dec 18, 2006

It’s a holiday week and I’m expecting comments will be pretty light for the next several days (before I shut down the blog for a week or so). Let’s have a little fun today.

This has been done by others, but I don’t think we’ve ever touched on it here. Our current state slogan is, of course, “Land of Lincoln.” Come up with a new one.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      

Guv backs off

Monday, Dec 18, 2006

This was not unexpected, considering the governor’s strong ties to ComEd and his unwillingness to challenge Emil Jones, who opposes continuing the rate freeze.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich appears to have abandoned his pledge to force lawmakers into discussion over curbing ComEd’s upcoming rate hike, likely tossing the political hot potato to the spring legislative session.

The lack of action by Blagojevich and lawmakers means Commonwealth Edison can press ahead with the 22 percent rate increase it intends to impose after a nine-year freeze on its rates expires Jan. 1. Rate increases may be much higher for businesses.

The governor threatened to call a special session back in October, releasing a letter which stated in part…

I have and continue to support legislation extending a rate freeze and would like to sign it into law as soon as possible. To this end, I intend to work with you right away to secure sufficient support among lawmakers to pass such legislation. Once we have the votes to pass the legislation, I will immediately call a special session to do so. I have every confidence that members of the legislature will agree that it is necessary to extend the rate freeze and protect consumers from significant electricity rate increases, but if we are unable to reach consensus in the near future, I will call a special session to take up the matter. Such a session will continue for as long as necessary to reach the intended result, even if it is extended through the holiday season.

But now?

Blagojevich aides did not respond to a request for comment Friday. In early December, spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff refused to acknowledge the governor had promised to force lawmakers into special session.

She said only that a special session was among the “options on the table.”

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn will hold a press conference today to push for an investigation of ComEd’s connection to CORE, an advertiser here. From a press release:

Quinn will discuss the decision by Illinois Commerce Commission Administrative Law Judge Terrence Hilliard ordering the ICC staff to investigate the financial ties between ComEd and its front group, Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity (CORE).

In a petition to the ICC requesting an emergency investigation, Quinn had asked the Commission to order full disclosure of the millions of dollars the utility company has funneled through CORE to fund deceptive television commercials supporting the utility company’s demand for a 25% rate hike beginning Tuesday, Jan. 2.

In his order, Judge Hilliard stated: “In summary, we conclude that the Commission has the authority to investigate ComEd’s financial support of CORE and its alleged sponsorship of CORE advertisements. Furthermore, the facts alleged in the petition suggest such an investigation is warranted.

“On the basis of the results of this investigation, the Commission may take further action concerning the request that we impose disclosure requirements on ComEd for CORE ads sponsored by ComEd with an underlying commercial purpose.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

This just in… Governor’s inauguration events

Monday, Dec 18, 2006

The governor’s office just released the inauguration schedule.

Inter-Faith Prayer Service: 9:30 a.m.–10:15 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, located at 7th and Capitol Streets. The Governor and First Family will join other Constitutional Officers for an interfaith service, during which the Constitutional Party will light the Unity Candle.

Inaugural Ceremony: 11:00 a.m.–12:55 p.m. (doors will open at 9:00 a.m.) at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center in Springfield. More than 5,000 attendees will watch as the Governor and Constitutional Officers take the Oath of Office.

Executive Mansion Receiving Line: 2:30 p.m.–4:00 p.m. at the Executive Mansion in Springfield. The Governor will be joined by Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn in greeting the public at the Executive Mansion.

Celebrate! Illinois 2007 Inaugural Ball: 7:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m. at the Exposition Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. The Governor, First Lady and Constitutional Officers will take part in the ball, which is an Inaugural tradition.

You can find out more info and purchase a limited number of tickets at a special website set up for the occasion, Celebrate Illinois.

What inaugural events would you like to see? Snark encouraged.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Illinois hoping softdrink war pays off big

Monday, Dec 18, 2006

Illinois hasn’t made much money off of naming rights, and while the state is stopping short of naming an “official” soft drink, like New York City did (and then raked in $166 million from Snapple), it is planning to give one of the top beverage makers exclusive access to state buildings.

In a move patterned after a plan already in place in New York City, state officials are seeking formal proposals to hire one company to supply nearly every government building with soft drinks and other beverages.

The results of the competition could put the folks at Coke or Pepsi in control of more than 2,300 vending machines in scores of state buildings, as well as give one company the right to sell its products at the Illinois State Fair and at a handful of state university campuses.

As with just about everything with this governor, the state’s deal with Maryland-based Team Services has been more press pop than reality. And there is also a political aspect.

A Team Services founder donated $4,000 to the governor and had a past business relationship with Blagojevich’s former chief of staff, Lon Monk, before he joined the administration in 2003.

The administration credits Team Services with helping generate $3.7 million for the state through private sponsorship deals. The state has paid the firm $300,000 for its services.

Last year, Team Services was cited in a harsh state audit for helping shape the state contract proposal it later wound up winning.

Coke or Pepsi?

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Morning shorts

Monday, Dec 18, 2006

* Martire: Spending cuts won’t solve Illinois’ budget woes

* AP Interview: Tusk says Illinois better off as he returns to NY

* Editorial: Gov. Rod Blagojevich fashions himself as a risk-taker. This tendency gets him a lot of attention, although it comes with a cost.

* Governor’s Pentagon suit revived.

* Fight brewing over fate of Finkl site

* Lincoln museum draws crowds, is boon for Springfield, Ill.

* State Republican leaders gather at Hastert’s home

* LaHood: GOP needs some bonding

* Shakeup predicted in ‘07 city elections - Experts say 15-plus incumbent seats up for grabs

* ‘Downstate Story’ now available

* Obama’s Legislative Chops

* Andrade: Backing 700-mile fence could put Obama up against wall in ‘08

* Washington Post: Obama Says He Regrets Land Deal With Fundraiser

* Tucker: Treat Obama with respect: Be hard on him

* Jake pops the question then blogs about his elation. Go over there and congratulate him. And be nice, please

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

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