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Governor to prez candidates: Let’s hear your position on FutureGen

Thursday, Jan 31, 2008

* Kevin’s done a good job of handling the blog posts and the comment moderation today while I was a guest of the Paul Simon Public Pollicy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Here’s something else you might want to discuss. It seems like a good idea, but I doubt Gov. Blagojevich has the credibility to make it stick…

In advance of Tuesday’s primary, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is asking all presidential candidates to take a stand on a $1.5-billion federally funded clean-coal project in Illinois that the Bush administration killed this week.

“We’re not giving up the fight to make FutureGen a reality in Illinois,” the governor wrote Thursday in letters to the six remaining Democratic and Republican candidates. “I am asking you to make it clear where you stand on FutureGen before Illinois voters cast their ballots on Feb. 5.”

Energy Secretary Sam Bodman on Wednesday announced the termination of a five-year effort to build a nearly pollution-free power plant in Illinois, which would have created more than 600 construction and about 100 permanent jobs and potentially provided a way to use the state’s abundant high-sulfur coal reserves.

The Energy Department now plans to disburse research funding to several new and existing coal-fired power plants across the country.


- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

Shimkus to face tough opposition

Thursday, Jan 31, 2008

* On one of my first days as an intern on Capitol Hill I sat in the House gallery to watch the debate over raising the minimum wage. During some of the downtime a representative came up from the floor to talk to the citizens, and explain what exactly was taking place. He fielded questions from the audience, passed around his voting card, and was very helpful. What was most admirable about the gesture was that it was simply out of kindness, and not to gain anyone’s vote. That representative was John Shimkus.

In the upcoming election gestures like these may not be what stick out in voters’ minds. Shimkus will be facing off against Joe McKenamin of Springfield or Daniel Davis of Chatham, both of whom are vying for the Democratic nomination.

McMenamin and Davis squared off this week in an hour long debate at the University of Illinois at Springfield sponsored by the campus college Democrats. Both have as contrasting styles as their respective ages, with Davis at 26 and McMenamin at 55.

Davis speaks loudly and flowingly about how he wants to help people, connect with people, learn about and represent their interests. But specifics, at this point, are more difficult to come by.

McMenamin has something that Shimkus has — a military background. While Shimkus is a West Point graduate, McMenamin is a lawyer and 26-year member of the Illinois Army National Guard who’s served a year in Afghanistan. His service has given him strong feelings about the Iraq war, and while his manner of speech is sometimes halting, he exudes emotion when he talks of what he sees as the United States taking a wrong turn in Iraq.

No matter who wins the race to go up against Shimkus, both will go after his discarded, self-imposed congressional term limit of a twelve years. Voters don’t take kindly to broken campaign promises. Pledges like “Read my lips, no new taxes” come to mind.

* President Bush has also taken a liking to Representative Shimkus:

President George Bush pulled U.S. Rep. John Shimkus into the Oval Office on Friday to ask the Southern Illinois congressman to reconsider his stance on term limits.

Shimkus was also instrumental in bringing the President to Collinsville on Jan. 6 for a medical malpractice rally.

Steve Tomaszewski, Shimkus spokesman, said another reason why the congressman was tapped by the president was because of the recent passage of the energy bill, something the president has long awaited. Shimkus is senior member of the House Energy Conference Committee.

With an abysmal approval rating of around 20%, this connection to the President is not likely to go over well in 08′. At the debate McMenamin took a shot at this when he said:

He also thinks the war in Afghanistan was appropriate in the aftermath of 9/11, but the Iraq war saw the United States go “down a reckless path (led) by a trigger-happy president and a yes-man-dominated Congress, including our own Congressman Shimkus.”

* The mostly civil debate turned a bit heated at one point though when the two candidates went after each other. Davis, a Harrisburg native, brought up the fact that he lives in the 19th and has for most of his life, while McMenamin doesn’t. Davis recently moved from Springfield to Chatham to be within the boundaries. The law requires a member of Congress to live in the state, but not necessarily in the district. McMenamin asked for a rebuttal on that one, and responded:

“Daniel, I’ve lived in Springfield 28 years. That’s longer than you’ve lived your entire life,” McMenamin said. He noted he lived in Shimkus’ district for some years — redistricting after the 2000 Census created new boundaries, and Shimkus went from representing the old 20th to the new 19th.

The 19th, which is one of three congressional districts that includes part of Springfield, leans Republican and extends to Pope and Massac counties at the southern edge of the state. However, Senator Durbin previously held the seat before Shimkus. No matter who wins the nomination either candidate will press Congressman Shimkus on both his allegiance to President Bush and his broken campaign promise.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   28 Comments      

More RezkObama

Thursday, Jan 31, 2008

* For the third time in more than a year, Senator Obama’s presidential campaign announced this week that it was shedding more donations tied to Tony Rezko. The announcement came amidst the Florida primary and didn’t receive much press. Some watchdog groups like the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform have praised the Senator for his decision, but many more are left scratching their heads:

Calculations by the media and Obama’s own staff of Rezko’s financial impact on his past political campaigns have been all over the map and shifting. The reason: The numbers depend on assumptions made about why a donor gave in the first place.

In the latest total, Obama has promised to give to charity more than $150,000 he collected through Rezko. His campaign said the latest installment of $72,650 was raised for his 2004 U.S. Senate race at a dinner at Rezko’s 8,500-square-foot Wilmette mansion. Obama’s campaign still has not offered a clear explanation of how it determines Rezko-linked donations or why he has dealt with them piecemeal, apparently in reaction to bad publicity.

The public records don’t make clear every Rezko connection. The records show that since 1995, $74,500 came from Rezko, his relatives or contributors listed on official disclosure forms as employees of one of his businesses. Rezko has not raised money for Obama’s presidential campaign. Furthermore, different media outlets have reported ranging figures:

The New York Times has pegged Rezko political cash for Obama at $150,000, the Sun-Times at $168,000 and the Los Angeles Times at $200,000. Last weekend, a report by suggested more than $185,000.

It’s understandable that it is difficult to determine all the donations that have some connection to Rezko in one way or another. For instance, if Rezko holds a fundraiser at his house, do you give away all the donations that were raised there, or just the ones that were given by friends of Rezko? A donor may attend the event that has never even met Rezko, but was brought by a friend of a friend. On top of that, you risk offending donors over the giveaway:

One donor at the event was Michael Sreenan, a former attorney for a Rezko company. Sreenan gave Obama $2,000 that night, but hasn’t heard if the campaign now plans to give it away.

Still, Sreenan said he was baffled by the notion of giving money raised at Rezko’s home to charity. “If [Obama] wants to give my donation back to me or let me give it to a charity, I’m fine with that,” he said. “But I don’t see how this makes a difference now — the money still got him elected. And how do I know it’s not going to a charity that’s offensive to me?”

* What’s more troubling than the giveaway though are the hazy explanations. In a Chicago Tribune column today Eric Zorn highlights some of these statements:

Well, my relationship is [that Tony Rezko] was somebody who I knew and had been a supporter for many years. He was somebody who had supported a wide range of candidates all throughout Illinois. Nobody had an inkling that he was involved in any problems….Barack Obama on CBS “Early Show” Jan. 23

Nobody had any indications that [Rezko] was engaging in wrongdoing….Barack Obama on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Jan. 23

Now contrast these claims with some of the headlines that were circulating around the time of the land deal with Rezko:

* 7-18-2004 - Blagojevich adviser tied to appointee; Doctor, fundraiser co-owned condos
* 2/13/2005 - Tollway oasis pact rich with links to governor’s allies;Fundraiser, friend tied to restaurants
* 3/16/2005 - O’Hare vendor called minority front; Top Blagojevich aide owns Panda Express outlets, city charges
* 4/8/2005 - Stroger taps Blagojevich aide; Controversial insider gets fundraiser role
* 5/20/2006 - First lady of Illinois linked to developer

* and the most blatant: 5/26/2005 - Tony Rezko; Top fundraiser, adviser and close friend of Blagojevich faces scrutiny as controversies dog the administration in which he has played a crucial behind-the-scenes role

Now, either it would be an understatement to say that the Senator is being disingenuous about all he knew of Rezko at the time, or he is being honest about how much he knew, and it truly was a “boneheaded mistake.” The latter is a lot harder to swallow. Which ever it is, it still undermines his campaign theme of better judgment. Watch for Hillary to spring this on him again in tonight’s debate, but this time with a sharper edge.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   57 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Thursday, Jan 31, 2008

* ‘Clout Cafe’ makes money thanks to taxpayers

* Our choices for Senate seats, water district

* Biggert gets rare primary challenge for Congress

* Serious Eats: More Ice Cream in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District?

* Madison County to offer seniors free public transportation

* Criticisms fly in Boone debate

* “Professor” Dan Seals Criticized by Real Professors for His Northwestern Professorship Claim

* Traveling memorial captures Illinois’ loss

* On trail in Illinois, Bill Clinton ignores Obama

* Giuliani, Edwards departures lead to regret among Illinois early voters

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   14 Comments      

Question of the Day

Thursday, Jan 31, 2008

Caption Contest!

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   90 Comments      

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Thursday, Jan 31, 2008

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