* Michael Sneed of the Sun-Times is hearing rumors of a potential replacement for Senator Obama if he wins in November…
• • Pssst! Sneed hears rumbles that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who is this/close to Sen. Barack Obama, and U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel are talking up Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth as Obama’s replacement — if Obama is elected president.
• • Top tip: Sneed previously reported that Gov. Blago, who will choose Obama’s replacement, had also quietly been pushing Duckworth.
• • Top headache: Word is U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who’s angling to be Obama’s replacement, has been grabbing the Excedrin bottle lately — ever since Duckworth’s name appeared in Sneed’s column.
* Democratic candidate Colleen Callahan says she has raised close to $250,000 so far for her 18th Congressional District campaign:
The next Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports, covering the period through Monday, will be available to the public in mid-July. Callahan said she expects to have cash on hand totaling “in the neighborhood” of $130,000 to $140,000.
Other contenders for LaHood’s congressional seat are Aaron Schock of Peoria, a Republican serving in the Illinois House; Sheldon Schafer of Peoria, the Green Party nominee; and Bradley Carter of Peoria, the Constitution Party of Illinois nominee.
The Democratic comptroller, in endorsing Callahan, said she would provide “proven, mature leadership.” Hynes said later the comment was not meant as a shot at the 27-year-old Schock.
“Age is not an issue and should not be an issue,” he said.
Callahan thanked Hynes for the endorsement, saying, “I hope to add my name to his reputation of being an effective public servant.”
* Hiram Wurf has Candidate Scott Harper’s response to Congresswoman Judy Biggert’s recent vote against granting emergency benefits to the unemployed:
‘With unemployment rates climbing and with families suffering from rising gas prices and home foreclosure costs, Judy Biggert continues to be out of touch with the people of this district,’ said Harper (D-Lockport.) ‘She has been part of the problem in Washington and her latest vote against giving relief to people who’ve lost their job is simply unconscionable. Unfortunately, though, this vote is indicative of the real Judy Biggert.’
Bean, addressing the potential impact of the purchase on Metra’s proposed commuter line that would run from O’Hare to Joliet: “This deal throws STAR Line under the bus. It’s taking the tracks STAR Line passenger rail would have run on. Now they’re saying maybe they’ll give us a little easement so we can lay tracks, which is very cost prohibitive. But there’s no question that this entirely undermines the planning by all the municipal leaders who have been involved and pushing for that.”
In Illinois, the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Millionaire’s Amendment in federal campaign finance reform will have negligible impact on political contests this fall.
The amendment might have been triggered in the U.S. Senate race, in which incumbent Democrat Dick Durbin is being challenged by Republican physician Steve Sauerberg.
In the 14th Congressional district, Republican Jim Oberweis and Democratic Rep. Bill Foster each have dropped more than a $1 million of personal wealth into their campaigns, making the amendment a wash.
* I’m not sure if I agree with the Trib on this one. There was no mention of the potential for wealthy congressional candidates like Steve Greenberg, who is challenging Rep. Bean, and Marty Ozinga, who is running against state Sen. Havlorson, to have triggered the amendment.
Either one of the two could decide to pour more of their own money into the race, and that could easily have an impact on both elections.
*** UPDATE *** The Tribune is now reporting that the Supreme Court’s decision is unlikely to change Ozinga’s mind about how much money he will spend:
“He’s not planning to spend a ton of money out of his pocket. The honest answer to that question is, he has not made a decision on how much exactly he is going to spend,” said Andy Sere, Ozinga’s campaign manager, on Friday.
Ozinga told the Tribune in April that he would not spend more than $350,000 of his own money.
Ozinga seems to be doing pretty well in terms of his fundraising efforts so far, so it would make sense for him not to spend too much of his own money. However, one never knows what will happen until November creeps closer.
Michelle Obama is scheduled to headline a Monday night fundraiser that Democratic Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago) is hosting to benefit two suburban congressional candidates.
Tickets to the private event are expected to go for $1,000 a piece. Sharing the windfall are Dan Seals of Wilmette, who’s running in the North Shore’s 10th District, and state Sen. Debbie Halvorson of Crete in the southwest suburban 11th District.
My guess is that the event will bring in some serious dough…
* Last night I was able to get inside Governor Blagojevich’s highly publicized fundraiser in Chicago, and I’m pretty sure that the hottest attraction was the bar.
The room had the capacity to hold 1800 people, and I would estimate that it was about half full.
What was really striking though, were all the recognizable faces amongst the crowd. I would estimate that a good quarter of the attendees worked for the administration in some capacity, whether it be in the office or in an agency.
One of the more notable faces that I saw was Sen. Noland. You may recall a recent post about his defense of his recall vote in an open letter to the Daily Herald. It was interesting to see him in the crowd so soon after defending his nay vote on recall.
* The Gov shook a few hands and then approached the podium to the tune of Elvis’ “a little less conversation, a little more action.” Out of all the Elvis songs, I was really hoping that it was going to be that one.
He opened with a joke about St. Patrick’s Day:
” During the St. Patrick’s Day parade I had the opportunity to walk down Columbus street with Mayor Daley by my side.
I stopped along the street to greet an elderly woman who told me how much she appreciated the great job that I was doing, and how she thought my father did a fine job too. I hesitated, and thought about not telling her who I was.
Finally, I informed her that I wasn’t Mayor Daley, but Governor Blagojevich. She smiled and said, ‘Happy St. Patrick’s Day’.”
“We can’t just rely on all this good press we’ve been getting these days,” Blagojevich said sarcastically to an audience of several hundred supporters who laughed. Campaign dollars were needed to counter media criticism and to “be in a strong position to tell it the way it is.”
After the “icebreaker” he rolled through his quest to give kids in Illinois health care, and trotted a young boy up onto the stage to help him showcase his agenda:
Blagojevich maintained that donors to his campaign were “not helping me be the governor or stay the governor” but instead were helping children and the elderly by allowing him to push an agenda of increased education and health care.
The governor went on to say that he asks himself: “Are you going to squander that opportunity and ruffle a few feathers…or roll up your sleeves and try to change things for people?”
Blagojevich did not use the name of his chief legislative nemesis, House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, who also is the state Democratic chairman. But he again inferred that Madigan was planning a secret, post-November state tax increase.
“We’ve been fighting those who want to raise taxes on people,” Blagojevich said as he again pushed a massive public works plan that would be funded through a sizable expansion of gambling in the state.
The crowd gave a mild response, and a woman behind me shouted out “Go Governor” and “All Kids”, and then I remembered that she worked for the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
A few people were smirking, and several others were just shaking their heads as Blagojevich rattled off a few Spanish words like “oportunidad.” Afterwards the Governor took a few photos, and then was quickly whisked away.
* The Governor has been taking a lot of heat over his fundraising appetite lately, and Treasurer Giannoulias didn’t spare him any grief in an interview last night:
The governor raised two-and-a-half million dollars last year. But nearly a third of the money - $965,000 - went to the law firm representing him in the corruption probe. And that’s pathetic, according to state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who takes no campaign contributions from people who do business with his office.
“Pay to play needs to end immediately, and the perception that Rod Blagojevich and their administration has put out there is that government is for sale,” said Giannoulias.
All in all I’m sure that the Governor thought it was an up night.
Blagojevich claims correctly that there is no law against taking campaign cash from contractors or others doing business with the state. And his allies say he’s got to do it to protect himself from political enemies, such as house speaker and party chairman Mike Madigan, who also takes contributions from anyone who wants to give.
“He doesn’t like Rod Blagojevich. So Rod is left to raise money on his own and doing what he has to do,” said State Senator Rickey Hendon, (D) Chicago.
* Senator Hendon always has the best quotes, doesn’t he?
* Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on Washington’s ban on handguns struck a nerve in Chicago. In fact, Justice Stephen Breyer even wrote that “Chicago has a law very similar to the District’s” in his dissenting opinion.
“I think we’re very disappointed in the Supreme Court decision. Why? If you really live in the real world and you see what handguns are doing to America, it doesn’t matter what age of the moment, young people and all ages are being killed in serious danger.
Hours after the Supreme Court ruling came down, two groups sued Chicago over its handgun ban, which is similar to the District of Columbia law the high court struck down. In addition, the NRA said it would file a lawsuit against Chicago today and would also sue surrounding cities that ban handguns.
“We are currently going over statutes at the local, state and federal level,” NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox said. “I am certain there will be challenges to all sorts of statutes as we move forward.”
You can read the Illinois State Rifle Asscociation’s complaint here.
Benna Solomon, deputy corporation counsel, asserted that the Supreme Court decision applies only to the federal government—which Washington is part of, but not Chicago.
“The court notes that it [was] not required to consider whether the 2nd Amendment also applies to state and local government, and therefore it does not consider that question,” Solomon said.
But such confidence may ultimately be tempered by the court’s affirmative embrace of an expansive view of the 2nd Amendment, which suggested without equivocation that any attempt to deny individuals access to a working handgun in a home would be unlawful.
* How exactly will this decision affect Illinois? Many state lawmakers said Thursday that the Supreme Court opinion on gun control is likely to prompt a slew of legislation in Springfield, but at the same time will make it more difficult for any new restrictions to pass:
“It’s not going to persuade me one way or the other not to push forward with a ban on assault weapons, but… it’s going to be a tougher sell,” said Rep., Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago).
“There’s going to be a lot of rethinking of state and local gun-control laws and ordinances,” predicted Lawrence Solum of the University of Illinois School of Law. “One thing that seems likely is that some of the more extreme ordinances like Chicago and San Francisco may well be modified without litigation. They may come up with a less-restrictive version that they could successfully defend.”
* Some are even saying that Chicago’s ordinance is merely symbolic, and hasn’t done much in the way of preventing crime:
The Chicago Police Department seized more than 13,000 guns last year, but only a handful of people were arrested for violating the city’s handgun ban, records show.
Chicago Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said 74 people were arrested in 2007 and 83 people in 2006 for failing to register their handguns, an ordinance violation.
Thousands of people were arrested on more serious charges of unlawful use of a weapon — a state offense that is not jeopardized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to overturn Washington D.C.’s handgun ban.
* Honestly, I think that the law is even more vague now after this ruling. There were lots of discussions about the constitutional merits of the ruling and as well as other general debates over the Second Amendment on the blog yesterday. Lets try to keep comments focused around the ruling’s potential impact for Illinois.
The telephone survey found that 73 percent of the respondents think the state’s ban on smoking has been beneficial. The percentage increased by nearly 10 percent since the same company conducted a similar poll a year ago, when the issue was debated statewide.
“Clearly, the public understands that cigarette smoke in the workplace is a serious health hazard,” said Joel Africk, president of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. “Public opinion is key behind smoke-free Illinois.”
The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. They polled 606 Illinois residents from May 28 to June 1, and the poll had a margin of error of +/- 4%.
It was paid for by the American Lung Association of Illinois, the American Cancer Society-Illinois, and the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.
* The poll means increased trouble for casinos who have been pushing for an exemption to the ban. After news of the poll hit, they stuck to their main argument:
Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, said casino revenue shortfalls translates to less money the state can spend on other projects.
“I suspect that we will continue to try to get some waiver for the casinos,” said Swoik.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been interviewed multiple times by federal investigators looking into allegations that he and key members of his administration offered contracts and state work in exchange for campaign fundraising help, according to documents unsealed Thursday [by Tony Rezko’s judge]. […]
Included in the newly released material was a defense filing answering government allegations leveled by key witnesses against Rezko. Veteran Democratic fundraiser Joseph Cari testified at the trial that on a flight to New York in 2003 with Blagojevich, the governor offered to give Cari his pick of contracts and state business in exchange for assistance in developing a national fundraising operation.
* But that last part is far more important than the story’s lede about how the governor was interviewed by the feds. We already know he was interviewed because he admitted it a couple of years ago. The only discrepancy is that the feds say he was interviewed “multiple times” and the governor’s office claims he was interviewed just twice, two years ago.
Newly unsealed court files in the Tony Rezko corruption case show that… the governor denied [to investigators] having conversations described in court by two key prosecution witnesses.
That raises the possibility that either the witnesses lied under oath or that Blagojevich lied to federal agents about statements he was said to have made, tying state business to support for his campaign.
[The feds] may well be exploring false-statement allegations against [Blagojevich]. Former Gov. George Ryan is serving a 6½-year sentence, in part because of making false statements to federal agents, which is a felony.
* But here is a point to keep in mind about the documents …
The newly unsealed defense document challenged Cari’s truthfulness, also noting that “Cari failed to recall his conversation with the governor until his fifth interview by government agents.”
[Stu] Levine was the government’s star witness against Rezko, but a newly unsealed defense filing alleges that Levine only agreed to cooperate after realizing that the government had learned that he frequented male prostitutes.
The judge said that fact would simply be too explosive to discuss at trial. It’s out now, though.
McAsey has acknowledged that her position was developed after she received an infamous “talking points” memo from House Speaker Michael Madigan, the man she will have to answer to in Springfield, and the current chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.