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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.

Discuss.

- 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 ABCNews.com 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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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2008

Let’s try to keep this as Illinois-centric as possible.

John Edwards is out of the presidential race. How does this impact Barack Obama?

Rudy Giuliani has dropped out and will endorse John McCain. Who do you think is now the frontrunner in Illinois next Tuesday. Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   122 Comments      


Guv won’t dump on Rezko, but attacks reporters

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2008

* In the preceding post, I mentioned how legit reformers are way too often unfairly treated by reporters. Gov. Blagojevich, however, is not a reformer. He’s a claimed reformer who has mucked things up almost beyond repair. But, since he still desperately clings to that reporter mantle, he apparently feels that he can blame the media for his troubles

Gov. Blagojevich on Tuesday again blasted the news media for focusing too heavily on the Tony Rezko case and said he’s still withholding judgment about his former adviser and fund-raiser, who was jailed this week for violating bail.

“You could suggest maybe why those newspapers are getting skinnier and skinnier [is] because they write about stuff that doesn’t really matter to people,” Blagojevich said toward the end of a press conference about veterans’ health.

When asked if he regretted his relationship with Rezko, Blagojevich replied, “There’s a process that we call the court system that has to play itself out.

OK, on the same day that Rezko is denied bail that’s all the governor can muster?

Blagojevich’s campaign fund has racked up more than $2 million in legal fees, mostly because of Blagojevich’s relationship with Rezko and his alleged co-conspirators. But regrets? Not even a few.

* And I love this line…

Political candidates, the governor added, “presume and hope that people who are helping us are doing things honestly and forthrightly, and sometimes there are allegations

Tony Rezko was a member of the governor’s inner political circle. This was no run of the mill contributor that the governor barely knew who screwed up. Rezko was one of the governor’s top guys. He has no excuse, and it’s completely fair of the media to look into those ties and be skeptical of the govenor’s pronouncements, which get goofier by the day. The same goes for Obama, a Rezko friend.

* More Rezko stuff…

* Obama cuts Rezko ties

* Judge rules Rezko will stay behind bars

* From his mansion to the big house

* Rezko stain tars gov and Obama

- Posted by Rich Miller   104 Comments      


Suffredin attacks, is savaged

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2008

* The Cook County State’s Attorney primary has become a mudfest - at least in the media

Before the debate, Suffredin criticized Allen for taking campaign contributions from city employees who Suffredin said may have benefited from patronage hiring practices at City Hall.

Allen said afterward that the donations were proper and that he was proud to get campaign contributions from rank-and-file city workers.

As has been the case throughout the campaign, Suffredin sparred repeatedly with opponents who criticized his work as a lobbyist for tobacco and casino interests. Suffredin said he had a diverse client list, which included the Chicago Bar Association and various non-profit groups.

* But that Suffredin client list also included one other problem

Larry Suffredin — a self-styled reformer running for Cook County state’s attorney — lobbied for a landfill controlled by Fred Bruno Barbara, a businessman once charged with extortion and implicated in the mob bombing of a restaurant, the Sun-Times has learned.

Suffredin, a Cook County commissioner (D-Evanston), has come under attack by rivals for his work as a lobbyist on behalf of casino and drug-company interests. State records show he also lobbied for Kankakee Regional Landfill LLC — a company tied to Barbara — in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met Fred [Barbara] in my life,” Suffredin said. “I didn’t know he had an interest in it.”

Barbara, 59, is a multimillionaire involved in trucking, waste hauling, banking, and other businesses. A friend of Mayor Daley’s, Barbara at one time got more than 60 percent of his garbage-hauling business from city contracts. He has also been a consultant to the city’s much-criticized blue bag recycling program. He has been arrested five times, including a 1982 arrest for extortion in an FBI sting. Barbara was acquitted in that case — and has never been convicted of any crime.

Barbara was apparently a silent partner in the Kankakee project, and Suffredin claims to have worked with someone else, and left when that person was dismissed by the company.

Anybody who knows Suffredin understands that this and other stories about him present a caricature of Suffredin that simply doesn’t match up with reality. But that’s the way it goes with the Illinois media. Someone claims to be a reformer and then he or shie is picked apart with stuff like the above and a non-reformer usually ends up winning. It happened to Glenn Poshard in 1998, and it happened to Paul Vallas in 2002, and countless other times. It’s ridiculous, but them’s the breaks. Suffredin doesn’t help himself by attempting to inflate little items like the Allen thing.

Cynics and partisans are gonna have a field day with that Suffredin story. But using it as “proof” of something evil or nefarious about Suffredin is like that old story of the blind men describing an elephant by each touching a different part of his body.

…Adding… Way down near the end of the Sun-Times story it’s revealed that Barbara got involved with the Kankakee landfill business in 2006 - a year after Suffredin was hired as its lobbyist.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


Congressional updates

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2008

* Tempers are flaring a bit in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean. Kirk Morris whacked Steve Greenberg in a debate the other day. Greenberg is generally perceived to be the frontrunner…

“He’s been successful once, and that’s being born into a family with money,” Morris said during a League of Women Voters forum in Barrington last week. “Now he wants to be a congressman as a consolation prize.”
Morris said he went on the attack after he claimed Greenberg raised questions about his professional and personal background. […]

Morris said he also became angry when Greenberg scoffed at Morris’ claim that he had given Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani the idea of promoting a “virtual” electronic fence to protect U.S. borders.

After admitting he had exaggerated his influence over Giuliani, whom Morris had met at a local fundraiser, Morris said it was Greenberg who had embellished his resume by omitting failed business ventures

And on and on it goes.

* More congressional stuff, compiled by Kevin…

* If money matters, Bean way ahead

* Republicans no longer face cakewalk in 11th Congressional District

* Democrats could run veteran against Roskam again

* 6th District Democratic hopefuls battle over immigration

* New Challengers Take On Old Political Name in 3rd District

This is a 2008 congressional primary open thread.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Morning shorts

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2008

* Future shock, more here

* Real estate groups rally against Chicago transfer tax hike

* ICC will hold hearings on Ameren rate hike request

* Congressmen react angrily to VA findings

* Illinois offers help for veterans with brain injuries

* WTVP optimistic about financial future

* Council to honor Mayor Sawyer on Friday

* Chicago City Council panel backs earlier curfew

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   9 Comments      


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