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Governor campaigns for Obama on state letterhead *** Updated x1 ***

Thursday, Feb 15, 2007

Bernie Schoenburg had a good column today about something that I didn’t think about at the time, but in retrospect is spot on.

Let’s say that you are a regular old state worker, and that you use the computer at your desk to send out an e-mail urging a friend to back your favorite candidate for president.

It sounds to me as if that’s something Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH - who likes to talk about ethics except during second inaugural speeches - might capitalize on if he wanted to embarrass somebody or build a case to fire them for making political use of state resources. […]

Take the news release issued by the governor on Saturday, when thousands of fans of U.S. Sen. BARACK OBAMA, D-Ill., braved the cold to stand on the Old State Capitol square and watch him announce for president.

“On this historic day, I am pleased to join many Illinoisans who are excited and proud to support Senator Obama in his bid for the Presidency,” the governor said, on a state-issued news release complete with the state seal and the names and phone numbers of the governor’s three top press staffers as contact people.

The governor’s office denied this news release amounted to campaigning on state time, pointing to the fact that the guv urged the General Assembly to pass a bill moving the ‘08 primary and talked about policy issues. And the governor’s campaign is paying for his flight.

Whatever. A government-issued press release can’t offer support for a candidate. It was almost certainly a violation of state law. With hundreds of FBI agents crawling all over the place, and a former governor’s campaign fund convicted of RICO charges, you’d think they’d learn by now.

This probably isn’t an imprisonable offense, and it’s certainly not the worst thing they’ve ever done, but perhaps the governor needs to retake the state ethics exam. And perhaps the Inspector General ought to take a look at this incident.

*** UPDATE *** Could somebody please tell me how the above is any different than this?

The State’s Attorney is prosecuting—and the City’s trying to fire—63-year-old Lester Cioch. He’s an assistant sewer repair foreman, and a precinct captain, and he’s accused of asking his workers to sign petitions for Mayor Daley’s re- election campaign, on City time.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - grand old partisan - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 8:35 am:

    Great catch, Rich. To build off the primary bill issue, I have a serious problem with the Governor and Speaker so candidly acknowledging that the purpose of this bill is to help Obama. Isn’t passing a bill on those grounds tantamount to the State Government of Illinois officially endorsing Obama?

  2. - So-Called "Austin Mayor" - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 8:40 am:

    Just add it to the indictment and move on…

  3. - Bill - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 8:42 am:

    Everyone should endorse Obama because he is the best candidate!
    As far as the primary bill is concerned, why not try to afford Illinois voters a chance to show real, meaningful support for their favorite son.

  4. - Off the map - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 8:59 am:

    Illinois Tollway signage reminding everyone who’s governor 24/7,
    governor campaigns for Obama on state letterhead, what’s next?
    James Wright is a hack who does what he’s told to do by Boss Blagojevich and Boss Blagojevich does whatever he wants.
    Ethics only exist for the little people in Illinois ! ! ! ! !

  5. - Boone Logan Square - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 8:59 am:

    As a supporter of Obama I agree this is illegal. Rod remains the state GOP’s best hope for a resurgence.

  6. - Tony - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 8:59 am:

    There are just some people in this world that are told over and over about being good and and not doing bad things. They just never learn because of indifference, defiance, or they just plain don’t get it. My gosh!

  7. - Anon - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:00 am:

    Rich, what about federal election rules? An announcement like this probably counts as an independent campaign expenditure on behalf of Obama, and needs to be reported to the FEC. Does the State of Illinois now need to file with the FEC as a campaign committee?

  8. - Wumpus - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:06 am:

    Wow, how stupid of him. This may be the easiest indictment of them all. He gift wrapped it.

  9. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:09 am:

    If a low-level state employee did this, they would be hanging the person out to dry in order to make an example out of them.

  10. - Bluefish - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:13 am:

    Don’t you folks know by now that Blago does whatever he wants and silly little state and federal laws be damned?

  11. - Drew - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:14 am:

    If you want to support Obama, go for it, Bill. Nonetheless, there are some people–even in Illinois–who do not share that opinion. And because we are supposed to be a country and state based on the rule of law, illegal or unethical behavior is illegal or unethical. I suspect you would be crying foul if a Republican Governor did something similar in support of a Republican running for President.

  12. - and it continues - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:18 am:

    Shouldn’t we wait to see all who announce for president before declaring Obama the best? Has anyone considered the cost of the Tollway signs that will need to be REDONE after hot rod is gone. Even if the next Gov. has enough respect for taxpayers NOT to put his/her name on them, they still need to be changed. Double costs on everything…..letterhead, office doors, etc.

  13. - A Citizen - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:22 am:

    Bill, you never disappoint. If I could be assured of your brand of support I would become a democrat. You truly are impressive and Blago and Obama are fortunate to have you in their corner.

  14. - Guy Fawkes - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:28 am:

    The best thing Obama could do, is distance himself far, far away from Blagojevich and company…….
    He doesn’t need Rod!

  15. - Cassandra - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:35 am:

    Chicago Democrats are always pushing the envelope in the area of governmental ethics and this example is rather routine. Blago’s handlers, to the extent that they thought abut this at all, likely figured that in a deep blue state like Illinois, voters wouldn’t go against Blago on this one even if he got rapped on the knuckles.

    The question is…will Obama benefit from this kind of support from a Democratic governor whose legal future is somewhat uncertain and who has strong ties to Tony Rezko.

    A little distance might be wise.

  16. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:54 am:

    Seriously. While a well-publicized court case involving former employees is going on, Blago and his team pull this crap. Unbelievable. Someone needs to lay the hammer down, and soon. Part of me can’t wait to see what he does next…

    It’s a shame Patrick Fitzgerald is tied up with the Libby case. Once that bru-ha-ha is over, he can come back to Chi-town and indict away. He needs a cape, some nice, shiny boots and a big “P” for prosecutor and Patrick.

  17. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 10:09 am:

    Illinois is a one party state. Whatever that party says is ethical - is considered ethical. Do you have a problem with that?

  18. - Nature of Theater - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 10:12 am:

    Limerick where are you?

  19. - Capt. Obvious - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 10:26 am:

    Leave it to GRod to muck up slam dunk. Wonder which one of the Keystone Klowns made this decision? BTW some Grodders were telling the media he would skip Obamarama.

  20. - Another Limerick - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 10:38 am:

    A letter came from Rod,
    Giving Barack the nod.
    The state letterhead
    Caught the attention of Feds
    Who thought the endorsement was odd.

  21. - from ROD - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 10:43 am:

    Do as I say not as I do!!!

  22. - This Guy - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 11:05 am:

    Weird. As I read this post, I visualize Roddy & the Blagonauts dancing to “U Can’t Touch This.”

  23. - A Citizen - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 11:06 am:

    And the clock of justice says . . .tick tick tick .

  24. - What next? - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 11:10 am:

    Bring back Z Scott

  25. - Jake from Elwood - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 11:45 am:

    Using letterhead to support a political candidate is most likely a violation of the State Ethics Act. Unfortunately, the remedy is to file a complaint with the state ethics board. . . who as we have all heard by now has not heard any complaints in some time (if ever). Alex, I’ll take “windowdressing” for $500.

  26. - Shorty - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 11:48 am:

    If Barack becomes president, he pardon Blagojevich and company. It’s his get outta jail free card.

  27. - Squideshi - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 12:11 pm:

    This may classify as election interference. Section 9-25.1 of the Illinois Election Code provides:

    “As used in this Section, ‘public funds’ means any funds appropriated by the Illinois General Assembly or by any political subdivision of the State of Illinois.”

    “No public funds shall be used to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated for political or campaign purposes to any candidate or political organization.”

    “The first time any person violates any provision of this Section, that person shall be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. Upon the second or any subsequent violation of any provision of this Section, the person violating any provision of this Section shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”

    Section 9-20 indicates how a compliant may be filed and provides:

    “Any person who believes a violation of this Article has occurred may file a verified complaint with the [State Board of Elections].”

    Sections 9-21, 9-22, 9-23, and 9-24 indicate how the Board is to handle such a complaint.

  28. - Lon - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 12:30 pm:

    PLEASE we want Obama to win.

  29. - One_Mcmad - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 12:57 pm:

    The Governor and his office as they have proven are exempt from the laws they enforce or rules they initiate.

    Of course this is not the first time and it will continue until someone like the person that the Governor endorsed in that press release take a bigger more seeable stand on ethics.

    Who has the authority to force the Governor to follow laws?

    The Attorney General
    The U.S Attorney

    Whose going to speak first? LOL

  30. - One_Mcmad - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 1:00 pm:

    Oh and I forgot about the Independent Office Executive Inspector General.

    But guess who hired the Executive Inspector General?

    I recall in a meeting with Clerk Dorothy Brown when she asked me what Inspector General would investigate the person that hired them?

  31. - Dieter - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 5:24 pm:

    This is what happens when the voters of Illinois consistently vote for elected officials like Blagojevich, Daley, and Stroger…

    No checks and balances with one-party rule.

  32. - state worker - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 5:27 pm:

    Dumb as a box of rocks

  33. - Shadoobie - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 5:54 pm:

    The governor should keep his office out of politics lest it backfire on him in more ways the one. As in moving up the primary gives Hillary the opportunity to claim Illinois as Hillary country and sweep the primary (in at least one town).

  34. - Did Any Staffe Take The Ethics Test????? - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 8:09 pm:

    Wow, earth to everyone. Maybe Ms. Rebecca Rausch better fess up as to whether she took and passed the ETHICS test herself. As soon as she was made privy to the content of this news release she should have turned it over to the Executive Office of the Inspector General for review. Give me a break!!!!

  35. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 8:35 pm:

    To the person I just deleted, did you not see the admonishment in the RED LETTERS about “excessively rabid comments”? Take a deep breath or take it somewhere else, please.

  36. - Who cares anymore... - Thursday, Feb 15, 07 @ 9:21 pm:

    When it was announced that Obama was coming to Spingfield, wasn’t there a news article on how the Governor’s Office arranged the use of the Old State Capitol. That also would be the Governor using state time, state resources to arrange a campaign event — all a violation of the ethics requirement…

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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