Senate President Emil Jones won’t be part of the lawsuit over Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s authority to set both the date and time of special sessions.
Sangamon County Judge Leo Zappa Monday decided to limit the lawsuit to House Speaker Michael Madigan while acknowledging that any decision will affect the Senate as well as the House. Zappa said adding Jones to the lawsuit could result in more delays and the proceeding could end up a “circus.”
Zappa also refused to dismiss the lawsuit, ordering lawyers for Blagojevich and Madigan to be ready to argue the case May 13.
Tony Rezko associate Elie Maloof just testified that when he received a grand jury subpoena, Rezko told him not to talk to the feds. Why?
“The federal prosecutor will no longer be the same federal prosecutor,” Maloof just testified that Rezko told him. What did Rezko mean, prosecutor Chris Niewoehner asked. “That Patrick Fitzgerald would be terminated and Dennis Hastert will name his replacement. The investigation will be over.”
Maloof said Rezko told him of Fitzgerald’s replacement: “That they will order the prosecutor to stop the investigation.” […]
Maloof also testified that Rezko told him not to bring up his name to prosecutors because it would only link to Gov. Blagojevich.
* 5:21 pm - Once again, Paul Vallas dangles a candidacy, saying he “would be open” to exploring a bid for governor…
But before Vallas’ admirers rush him with encouragement to make another attempt at the state’s highest office, Vallas cautioned that it would be next year before he would seriously entertain such a notion – or any other future job prospect. Vallas is now entering his second year as head of the state-run Recovery School District in New Orleans, and his contract does not expire until June 2009.
“I’d be open to running again, but we’ll have to see what happens,” Vallas told reporters after speaking to a luncheon crowd at the City Club of Chicago.
Vallas’ appearance at the City Club aroused thoughts that he might consider public office again in Illinois. Vallas did little to tamp down that speculation. He stuck strictly to education in his speech, but when questions from audience members and reporters flew his way about again seeking public office, Vallas said three times that one should “never say never” about such a prospect.
He even mused he could raise money this time in a more “non-traditional fashion,” such as over the Internet. He noted that he only raised $2.25 million overall for his gubernatorial bid in 2002 and that raising substantial political funds has been a personal shortcoming.
“While some people have been dodging indictments, I’ve been running a school district,” Vallas said at one point. […]
Given that Democrats now claim majorities in both legislative chambers and hold the governor’s seat, “You would think that would give you the opportunity to really get things done,” Vallas said. “There’s been a lot of opportunities that have been squandered.”
“I think I feel the same way a lot of residents feel. I feel frustrated and angry. Look, I think I could have made a difference. Clearly I could have gotten along with the Legislature much better,” Vallas said.
“I’d be open to running again, but right now I wouldn’t make a decision until after the first of the year,” said Vallas, who won an unusual standing ovation before he even began speaking.
I was supposed to go over to the State Board myself and tell them how badly they screwed up their website, but I just don’t have time to hold their little hands through this disaster. I sent an admittedly snippy e-mail to their webmaster after attempting numerous times - without success - to access a simple candidate filing and got an (understandably) snippy response (considering my subject line was: “You really screwed up your website”), along with this kicker…
I looked over and tested just about everything and it all seems to be in working condition.
Apparently, this person has no clue. I am repeatedly getting two error messages…
* One of those error messages reads, in part: “Your session has expired or you need to enable cookies on your web browser settings.”
Why would my session have to expire? Why would the State Board care? Also, cookies are enabled on my browser, so I don’t get it.
* The other common message reads: “Unexpected errors occurred trying to switch to next page.”
I am constantly getting this message on my Firefox browser. The error page claims that the Board has been “automatically notified of these errors,” yet the webmaster claims all is hunky dory.
They broke their site. Plain and simple.
Leave your own critiques in comments.
*** ADDING *** Please be specific. Most of us already know the Board’s site is a horror show. Don’t just vent. Point to specific error messages or problems you are having. Otherwise, your comment is worthless. Thanks much. :)
One of the big problems with campaign finance in Illinos is that the State Board of Elections collects a bunch of data, but they make it as inconvenient as possible for the public and press to access the data and pass it around.
More ease of use and convenience and greater public and media access to the data would do more to clean up Illinois politics than an ineffective feel-good measure like a contribution ban, yet nobody talks about how badly the State Board of Elections is screwing this up.
Their site is so broken that they’re basically hiding campaign finance data from the very people they’re supposed to be working for.
*** UPDATE 2 *** I should have mentioned this at the top, but the inability to open links in new tabs or windows is absolutely insane. Why would the Board want to keep people from using basic Internet browser functions? Outmoded and completely ridiculous.
I won’t even get started with the design issues. I could put up with the bad design if it was functional and smooth, and easy to interact with.
One of the biggest issues is that at times, when searching for various forms and pieces of data, you get various error messages. I’ve found that refreshing/reloading the browser can sometimes get you past the error message, but it is still a pain. The frustrating thing for me is that I’ve even had a hard time replicating the error. It seems, at least, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
*** UPDATE 4 *** Elections Board executive director Dan White just sent me this e-mail…
In response to comments about problems with the SBE website, we hear them, we are aware of these issues and are working hard to establish both near term and long term solutions. Suggestions are always welcome and we continue to incorporate constructive recommendations to improve the website. Our goal is to provide access and avaiability to all of the thousands of users who rely on our information systems. As with any new system, there are new problems and issues to be addressed and resolved. Please continue to comment and utilize our website.
We will have significant improvements in place shortly and we look for your comments as we continue to implement these changes.
I’m not holding my breath. We were promised a great, new website over a year ago (right around the time of my 2006 holiday party), and what we got was a giant pile of garbage. They need a new tech team.
* Remember this line from Gov. Blagojevich last week?
“When you’re elected governor, it’s not like you get the chance to go to governor’s school,” he said, adding, “They don’t have a school for new governors, you just sort of have to figure out how to do the job.”
Governor-Elect Jim Doyle and his wife Jessica Doyle will attend a New Governors Training Session hosted by the National Governors’ Association (NGA) this weekend in Austin, Texas.
The training is a chance for the 20 new governors and their spouses to meet with the sitting governors and hear first hand about being a governor. Among the sessions offered for the new governors will be seminars on staffing, budgeting, working with the legislature, and the popular session, “What I wish I would have known when I started” where sitting governors talk about lessons they have learned in office.
The NGA encourages governors to leave their campaigns at the door, and participate in bi-partisan discussions with their colleagues who are there to help offer advice and answer questions.
* Question: What courses would you design for Gov. Blagojevich’s “school”?
CTA President Ron Huberman can’t rule out higher fares next year, given the high cost of fuel and the expense of the free rides for seniors program.
“Fuel costs are exploding,” Huberman said. He also noted that the free rides program, which began March 17, looks like it will be a “pretty expensive venture.”
I don’t know whether Huberman is just trying to shift blame on the free rides for seniors program, but Blagojevich is a handy punching bag these days so it’s easy to blame him for just about everything.
* Higher energy prices mean a lot of people owe a ton of money for their heating bills…
Hundreds of thousands of utility customers are at risk of disconnections as the sagging economy drives up the number of past-due home heating bills and the amounts owed, utility companies in cold-weather states say.
Xcel Energy says 17%-19% of its 1.1 million Minnesota customers and its 280,000 Wisconsin customers are in arrears. That’s about the same as a year ago, but balances owed are up 10% in Minnesota and up 20% in Wisconsin, says Pat Boland, Xcel’s credit policy manager.
* Meanwhile, one of the dominant players in the state’s payday loan industry has found a loophole to get around a state law that capped interest rates…
When a law governing payday loans took effect more than two years ago, Illinois officials ballyhooed the millions of dollars saved and the burdens lifted for cash-strapped borrowers.
But consumer advocates say a major player in the loan industry has used a loophole in the law to shift customers to loans with no caps on interest rates, allowing them to charge an average 279 percent annual interest on loans to mostly female, minority and low-income borrowers.
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Cos., in a move it said will provide “enhanced prospects for growth,” confirmed this morning that it has agreed to be acquired by privately held candy-industry giant Mars Inc. for $80 a share, or $23 billion.
The Chicago chewing-gum company said its board has already approved the all-cash offer, although the transaction will still require clearance from regulators and Wrigley stockholders.
I also wonder how this might impact the attempts by Tribune Co. to pressure Wrigley to buy naming rights at Wrigely Field.
Rumors were swarming around Springfield last week that the Illinois Department of Transportation was going to idle all of its trucks starting May 1. The reason was the department is out of money to pay for fuel, forcing trucks off of the highways.
Actually, the rumors were broader than that. I was informed by several anxious IDOT employees that all construction work was to halt on May 1. The rumor was, indeed, rampant. More from Finke’s column…
For the record, IDOT denied any orders have been issued to idle the fleet on May 1. At the same time, spokesman MIKE CLAFFEY said the department is facing a funding crunch and continues to look at ways to save money. The department already has said it is cutting way back on mowing along highways and that some district offices might idle trucks for one day a week to save fuel costs.
Asked if the department might resort to parking all of its trucks, Claffey repeated that IDOT is always looking at cost-saving measures, but that public safety will not be jeopardized.
* I talked to the governor’s office about this rumor last week and was told that a shutdown is not imminent. There are some big problems with IDOT’s budget, however, including a $46 million cost overrun on snow and ice removal and another big hole caused by higher fuel prices.
I was told that IDOT is “slowing things down.” For example, there is no overtime for routine purposes, just emergency services, like the recent earthquake, which necessitated emergency bridge inspections. Also, mowing is being slowed down as well.
There is a supplemental appropriations bill sitting in the House to cover the funding shortfall, but nobody knows whether that will ever pass. As the fiscal year comes to a close, more slowdowns could happen.
IDOT is a rumor hotbed, so any time you hear somebody swear that trouble is afoot over there, take it with a huge grain of salt.
* The Tribune editorial board continues its loud and steady drumbeat for the passage of a constitutional amendment for recall in the Illinois Senate…
Two Chicago Democrats in the Illinois Senate paid a call on the Tribune editorial board last week. When prompted, Kwame Raoul and Heather Steans told us they don’t want a recall amendment added to the state constitution. They do, however, want an amendment to kill the mandate of a flat-rate state income tax, now 3 percent for individuals. They telegraphed urgency: Any potential amendment has to clear the General Assembly by May 4 to make November’s ballot.
When Raoul and Steans finished, we asked: So you want the people of Illinois to be able to vote in November on your income tax amendment—but you oppose giving them a vote on the recall amendment?
Pause for reflection on that irony.
“That’s right,” said Raoul, looking down.
“Yes,” added Steans, looking down.
As if that wasn’t over the top enough, they also put the Statehouse phone numbers for every Senate Democrat on their editorial page. The Senate isn’t in session today, so the secretaries will have to deal with these calls on their own.
* While the Tribune beats the drums for recall, some have moved on to more immediate solutions. My syndicated newspaper column concludes with these lines…
Ata’s guilty plea has shocked even some of the most hardened, cynical Statehouse types like little I’ve ever seen before. And when the shock wore off, a word started spreading through the crowd that had until now only been whispered on the fringes.
But until recently, the word “impeachment” only came up quietly as politicians sipped beer at various Springfield watering holes.
Now it is being talked about publicly.
Joel Brunsvold, a former state representative and Blagojevich cabinet member, recently told a group of visiting Quad-Citians he was surprised on how well versed Speaker of the House Speaker Michael Madigan’s staff is in the procedures to impeach a governor.
Even though, it has never happened in the state’s history.
Late Friday afternoon, [House Speaker Michael Madigan[ told Flannery: “I don’t plan to create a committee for this purpose, today. Every day’s a new day. If we have to … my resolve is to do it appropriately and professionally.”
But until there is more evidence of wrongdoing by the governor, some critics of Blagojevich oppose impeaching him, including the second-highest ranking Republican in the Illinois House, Rep. Brent Hassert (R-Romeoville).
“Somewhere down the line that might change, but right now I don’t see anything that’s impeachable,” Hassert said.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s aggressive fundraising machine collected hundreds of $25,000 checks in a campaign effort that dwarfed his predecessors’, and most of these big givers ended up benefiting from his administration.
A Tribune examination of all 235 of those donations shows that three of every four came from individuals, companies or interest groups who got something—from lucrative state contracts to coveted state board appointments to favorable policy and regulatory actions. […]
All told, Blagojevich’s campaign has raised more than $58 million since 2000, with nearly $6 million coming in donations of exactly $25,000. Those contributions—235 in all—came from 166 different donors. Those donors gave an additional $8.6 million in amounts larger and smaller than $25,000.
I didn’t see it in the story, but it would be helpful to know how many of thos donations came shortly before or shortly after those contracts and appointments were made.
Ruling that the residents made a persuasive argument that the field could only be built with approval from the Chicago Plan Commission, she prohibited Latin or the Park District from installing “lighting, permanent or fixed goal posts, permanent or removable bleachers or signage.” Furthermore, the scoreboard, which has already been installed, “may not be lit, connected to lighting, or otherwise used.”
Look in the mirror, newspaper execs. One of the big problems is you. You’re surrounded by dramatic, earth-shattering industry change, your core numbers are dropping by double digits, and you’re all still working off the same old, boring playbook.
* What a pleasant week this was. No session, the boat was in the water at my secret blogging location. Things were just peachy. That ends next week when the General Assembly returns to town. I’m gonna have some fun this weekend, and I hope you can do the same.
Meanwhile, we have newbies at Illinoize, so go check ‘em out.
* This seems appropriate. Turn it up…
Don’t believe a word
For words are only spoken
Your heart is like a promise
Made to be broken
* I’ve been taking a tiny bit of amusing heat from another blog about my post this week on former Sen. Steve Rauschenberger. It was no big deal, and I got a nice chuckle out of it, as did a few other bloggers.
Their love for their hero of political cleanliness is commendable, but it got me to thinking about this whole idea of holier than thou purity that we hear so often from the self-described “reform” wing of the Republican Party. So I did about 30 seconds of checking and found something curious.
* Four years ago, Tribune columnist John Kass wrote the following about Sen. Rauschenberger, who was at that time attempting to move up the ladder to US Senate. Kass was referring to Rauschenberger’s quest to kick Bob Kjellander out of a top GOP slot for, among other things, working with the Democrats on bigtime money-making deals…
He’s the the only one of them willing to stand up and oppose the combine.
* Indeed, Rauschenberger continues to this day in his role as tireless spokesman in the fight against “The Combine” and the harmful influence of Chicago politics. He was on a radio program this week and made this stark comment…
“In Illinois, we all should remind people that ‘change’ means kicking the Chicago Democratic Machine out of Springfield.”
Listen to the whole thing…
He had quite a few good things to say on that program. That’s not a surprise. Sen. Rauschenberger has done a lot of good things over the years. He was a decent, competent legislator.
FBI Agent Charles Willenborg testified that internal documents from the campaign showed Rezko’s bundles [for Blagojevich] totaled $1,437,350 from 2000 to December 2004 — making him the No.2 bundler after lobbyist Milan Petrovic.
Petrovic’s bundles totaled $1,963,485, by the FBI’s count.
* As far as I know, Petrovic has never been accused of anything untoward at the Statehouse. But you won’t hear Petrovic talking about kicking the Machine out of Illinois because, well, Milan Petrovich is part of that Machine. And now he and Steve Rauschenberger have hooked up to lobby the Statehouse.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a very positive move for Petrovic. He’s known as a Democrat and a “Rod guy,” so it’s always a plus to have an “in” with the Republicans if you want to have a fuller, rounder Statehouse operation. And because of his years of experience, Rauschenberger has an intimate knowledge of how the General Assembly runs and how to best construct legislation. All good.
Rauschenberger asked not to talk on the record when we spoke yesterday, but it was clear from our (mostly pleasant) conversation that he sees nothing at all wrong about this. He obviously respects Petrovic and believes him to be on the up and up. I don’t disagree. In Statehouse terms, or even in my own terms, this is just good business for both men, little more.
* But considering the inflamed environment within the way over the top “reform” wing of the GOP, and its repeated purge attempts against accused “Combine” members who appear to be hiding under every bed, you wonder how Rauschenberger’s impassioned anti-Combine admirers are gonna feel about this admittedly smart career move.
llinois 14: Former Speaker Dennis Hastert was replaced by Democrat Bill Foster in a special election in early March, and a rematch in November will again pit Foster against Republican Jim Oberweis, a candidate many in his own party blamed for losing the seat. Both candidates spent more than $3 million in their bids, and both have a long way to go to rebuild their war chests. Foster had $262,000 in the bank after March, while Oberweis had $132,000 lying around.
In three previous contests, Oberweis has had to largely self-fund, and if donors don’t kick in contributions now, he will either defer to another candidate or start writing checks again. Watch next quarter’s report to see how serious Oberweis will be this Fall in a district that, despite the Obama-mania, McCain should carry.
I’m told House Republican Leader John Boehner said at a recent event that he wants Oberweis out of the race. Boehner’s campaign office did not return a call asking for comment. I’m not sure Oberweis will ever drop out, but the pressure continues.
[Likely GOP candidate Martin Ozinga] will face State Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, who has already raised $861,000 and still has $673,000 left in cash. Not only will Ozinga have catching up to do, but national Democrats have already hammered him for his business dealings. If Ozinga doesn’t respond by defining himself soon, Democrats will remain strong favorites to pick up this seat based largely southwest of Chicago.
* Halvorson has her problems, but Ozinga surprised some observers by saying recently that he will limit the spending of his own money…
Part of Ozinga’s appeal to GOP leaders is that he has enough money to pay for his campaign, but Tuesday, Ozinga said he would not spend more than $350,000 of his own money—the federal benchmark that would allow Halvorson to ask donors for more than the $2,300 individual limit.
But Ozinga said it was philosophical strategy, not political strategy, that persuaded him not to dip into his personal account if he is chosen as the nominee. He said he intends to generate broad-based support, including friends and business associates from all over the country, which would demonstrate to voters he has the political will to win the seat.
It’s not a bad concept if it works. But that will be tough if the analysts continue to place this R seat in the Likely D category.
A half a century after former U.S. Congressman Ken Gray was working on plans to help build a major highway right through West Frankfort, the retired legislator will have to wait just a little longer for the unique honor of having this area’s portion of the Interstate named after him.
Original plans called for the official ceremony to take place on April 25, at the southbound rest stop near Benton. However, to accommodate the governor, the date for the event has been changed to May 8, at 3 p.m., at the same location, according to the office of Illinois Senator Gary Forby
* Meanwhile, Mike Lawrence had this to say when asked whether the Rezko trial was making it more difficult for the governor to get anything accomplished this year…
“I think it is reaffirmation for legislators that he’s not someone they want to get close to.”
When the Blagojevich administration pushed through a $10 billion pension bond deal in 2003, it selected a bond house that paid a mysterious $800,000 consulting fee on the deal to Republican power broker Robert Kjellander.
You may have read about him this week. A federal prosecutor said a former buddy of Rezko who pleaded guilty to corruption charges this week is prepared to testify that Rezko told him in 2004 that Kjellander was pushing White House operative Karl Rove to remove Patrick Fitzgerald as U.S. attorney in Chicago. The ostensible goal: take the heat off the pols in Illinois. Rove and Kjellander deny there was any such effort.
Meanwhile, under the direction of a federal judge, $12 million in Chicago tax money is being paid to 1,427 people who were victims of political discrimination by the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Illinois needs billions for roads, schools, bridges and more. But just as surely, it needs political leaders whom the people of Illinois think they can trust with 25 billion of their dollars.
I’m not sure how we get from Point A to Point B with the players we have, but maybe the Tribune will inform us later how that might be accomplished.
* Over at the Rezko trial, Hollywood producer and real estate mogul Tom Rosenberg testified yesterday about an alleged shakedown attempt to squeeze $1.5 million in campaign contributions for Gov. Blagojevich’s campaign. Rosenberg has immunity from prosecution, so he was quite blunt about his alleged conversation with Bill Cellini over how much he would make from an investment deal with the Teachers Retirement System…
“I expected Mr. Cellini to offer a solution,” Rosenberg said, “and to give me an amount that would be necessary to pay to the Blagojevich campaign.”
* Rosenberg also claimed that he could see the future, and it wasn’t pretty…
[Rosenberg once predicted to] GOP power broker Bill Cellini that the way a state board operated, people could end up in court. Rosenberg called up Cellini when he had business stall with the Teachers’ Retirement System board. Rosenberg had a feeling that his old nemesis Stuart Levine, who was on the TRS board, was behind torpedoing the deal. […]
Cellini allegedly told Rosenberg in Feb. 2004 that TRS executive director Jon Bauman was under “serious stress.”
“Bauman was having serious stress issues because he was being pressured by the governor’s people to invest TRS money into incompetent companies or risky ventures,” Rosenberg said he told Cellini. “I said, tell him not to do it. He said: ‘Jon is not that strong,’ Rosenberg said.
“One day, Jon Bauman is going to be raising his hand under oath and he’s going to tell what happened and that day is going to be very bad for Mr. (Chris) Kelly and Mr. Rezko.”
Illinois’ auditor general is again rapping the state Supreme Court for costly food tabs on taxpayers’ dimes — with some meals hitting nearly $50 rather than the recommended $8 per person.
The court far overspent for breakfasts and meals at five conferences for judges, with a combined tab of more than $200,000, according to Auditor General William Holland’s report released Thursday. That includes $78,000 for 1,700 meals at a February 2006 conference in Chicago.
Lunch at one conference ran $48 per person for 958 attendees, with breakfast at the same event costing $40 apiece for more than 800 people.
Travel guidelines limit judges’ reimbursement to $8 for breakfast or lunch when traveling to Chicago and $7 per meal downstate, Holland said. He recommends judges either follow the smaller meal limits or increase the guideline limits.
Forty bucks for breakfast? Did that include the Bloody Mary’s?
And the Supremes are unrepentant. The Court refuses to comply with the Auditor General’s recommendations, claiming that conference costs shouldn’t be compared to daily reimbursement allowances.
Read the full report here, or the summary report digest here.
“Whether or not the national economy is in recession — a subject of ongoing debate — is almost beside the point for some states,” said the report to be released today by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
On learning that a new state audit of Chicago State University will once again show questionable financial practices by President Elnora Daniel, several members of the school’s Board of Trustees got mad. Real mad.
New language suggested by Hoffman will be included “in the next revision,” said Anthony Boswell, Daley’s pick to head the Office of Compliance. Reached on vacation, Boswell said he did not know how many already had been printed or how soon new copies would go to press.