* 3:31 pm - Martin Ozinga attempts to explain that big contribution to Rod Blagojevich…
Republican congressional candidate Martin Ozinga III said Monday he donated $10,000 to Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s campaign fund so that he and other concrete industry officials could have a private audience to express their concerns to him about state construction projects. […]
But Ozinga said he saw nothing wrong with the private luncheon held with Blagojevich and other concrete and construction industry officials. He said the donation was made at the request of another concrete industry official he did not name. […]
“It’s interesting to me that making contributions to Democrats is automatically considered pay to play,” Ozinga said. “That, in my opinion, is outrageous and I would challenge my opponent or anybody else to show that my company’s benefited in any which way shape or form by making political contributions to anybody.”
Ozinga said his company, Mokena-based Ozinga Bros., does not have any major state contracts, and instead acts as a subcontractor on some construction projects. It does hold a long-time contract with the city of Chicago.
Congressman Weller was the only member of the US House recorded as not voting. Typical.
*** UPDATE 1 *** From a press release issued by Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr….
“To heal the systemic problems in our financial system we need to treat the cause, not only the symptoms. Congress needs to pass and the president needs to sign into law the following provisions: 1) a second stimulus to help those squeezed by the financial crisis; 2) a substantial investment in infrastructure which could jump start the economy while creating jobs, and; 3) a program that helps keep taxpayers in their homes. This bill does not contain provisions that explicitly help borrowers restructure their mortgages. Buying ‘trash (bad mortgages) for cash ($700 billion bailout)’ may not cure our financial system, since it was these bad mortgages that engineered this market collapse,” said Jackson.
After the vote, Republicans claimed that the Democratic leadership had been warned that fewer than 60 Republicans would vote for the bill. Democrats denied the claim, saying they never would have brought the bill to the floor if they had been told there was so little Republican support.
BIGGERT: Everybody seems to be in such a hurry to go home that I don’t think Congress is thinking clearly.
Biggert says the proposal the House voted on today did not go through the normal committee channels, which hurt its odds of passing. She says she would like a rescue bill to include a measure that would beef up the number of FBI inspectors looking into mortgage fraud.
“It was not a gift or a blank check. It provided the federal government the authority to loan money to certain financial institutions so they could resume lending to ordinary Americans. This would have allowed more families to afford their homes, cars and tuition payments and enabled our farmers to continue buying equipment, seed and fertilizer.
“Now it is imperative that we go back to the drawing board and craft new bipartisan legislation that protects Main Street from Wall Street. As we consider our next steps, I will continue to fight to enact stronger protections for homeowners facing foreclosure, something this bill lacked.
“We should also pass an economic stimulus package that creates jobs by investing in our crumbling infrastructure.
“While action is necessary to keep our economy on track, the heavy-handed push from the Bush Administration and this Democrat majority places too great a burden on taxpayers with no guarantee of success. The plan voted on in the House incorporated watered down aspects of executive compensation limits and provided for insufficient use of private capital.
“Unfortunately, negotiations were unable to produce a solution to keep our economy on track without exposing taxpayers to extraordinary risk – this is why the bill failed.
Prior to the vote, LaHood, R-Peoria, said he would back the $700 billion plan because changes made to it in recent days ease the concerns he previously had.
“I think it will give confidence to the market. I think it will give confidence to investors. I think it will give confidence to the American people,” LaHood said.
*** UPDATE 9 *** From Melissa Bean…
“I voted to support Secretary Paulson’s proposal only after working to improve it with limits on executive compensation for those who got us into this mess. I pushed for a strong equity stake for taxpayers, so that when the financial sector profits, taxpayers profit too. And I pushed for strong bipartisan oversight of this unprecedented authority.”
*** UPDATE 10 *** From Rep. Bill Foster…
“Nobody likes the situation we are in, and this bill was far from perfect, but today, in an extremely tough and close vote, I supported the Emergency Economic Stabilization bill to ensure the economic hardships facing our middle-class families and small businesses all over the 14th District would not worsen,” Rep. Foster said. “The bill was the tough medicine we needed to get the economy back on solid footing.”
After the bill failed, as a result political gamesmanship, the New York Stock Exchange lost 777.78 points or 7%. The NASDAQ lost more than 9 percent. According to Bloomberg News, $1.2 trillion in market value was erased from American equities.
Said Foster, “We now know the price of inaction — $1.2 trillion lost today alone. You don’t have to be a scientist or a businessman to know that the $350 billion we were committing to stabilize the market – with good prospects for most of the money being returned over time — was a much better deal for Americans than what happened as a result of the bill being defeated.”
In Springfield, they’re cutting $140 million dollars for school construction across the state. They’re slashing $600 million in health care for the poor, shutting down drug prevention programs and removing funds for gun violence prevention initiatives. They’re even cutting funds to help abused children.
But on November 4th, some people in Springfield want us to spend an estimated $80 million dollars on a constitutional convention.
That’s why Citizen Action/Illinois, along with the Illinois League of Women Voters, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and many other organizations oppose a constitutional convention.
Let’s send a strong message to the lobbyists, politicians and special interests: Illinois can’t afford $80 million dollars for a con-con when we have so many other priorities.
Learn more about the why you should Vote No on a constitutional convention by visiting http://www.protectillinoisconstitution.org .
Co-Directors, Citizen Action/Illinois
- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department
* The DCCC made a pretty stupid mistake when it waited until just the other day tot release these relatively (in campaign terms) ancient poll numbers…
A Global Strategy Group poll conducted August 17-19 of 400 likely voters with a 4.9% margin of error shows Dan Seals within striking distance of Congressman Mark Kirk 39%-46% with 14% undecided. After voters are informed with each candidates’ message and bio, Dan Seals comes out ahead 45%-40%.
At the presidential level, Illinois Senator Barack Obama leads the district 51%-36% over Senator John McCain. President Bush’s approval rating in the district is an abysmal 21%.
“Republican Congressman Kirk is clearly extremely vulnerable for voting with his Republican leadership 88% of the time,” said DCCC Midwest Regional Press Secretary Ryan Rudominer.
While we still expect Kirk’s lead in polling to close between now and Election Day as Democratic voters “come home,” it is notable that he appears to maintain a significant lead against 2006 Democratic nominee Dan Seals.
Unlike some of his perennially targeted peers, Kirk has been aggressive in going after his opponent early on in the general election campaign. He has leveraged his financial edge over Seals to run ads accusing the Democrat of wanting to raise the capital gains tax and holding a subsidized-gas stunt in the district that clogged traffic and earned a police fine. For his part, Seals will label Kirk as a pro-war Bush ally who is out of touch on the economy and in the pocket of big oil.
Republican polling showing a 20 point gap in this race paints a picture that is likely to fade over the next few weeks, as Democrats ramp up their attacks on Kirk and Seals has more of a chance to tie himself to Obama. But Kirk has run an impressive campaign to date, and has put more distance between his own standing and that of the top of the GOP ticket than we expected. This race is still highly competitive, but for now, it moves back to the Lean Republican column.
That won’t help at all.
* Meanwhile, GOP congressional frontrunner Aaron Schock is still having trouble with that Bush fundraising issue…
State Rep. Aaron Schock’s campaign manager said Friday that if U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign pays the local costs of police and fire protection during a visit to Springfield last month, then they might consider doing the same for Peoria.
Considering that Springfield is billing Obama’s campaign for a public event that could be attended by anyone for free (unlike Schock’s purely private event that charged an admission price), Schock may have to do more than maybe consider a refund…
A city of Springfield spokesman said the city, behind a policy of Mayor Tim Davlin, will charge Obama’s presidential campaign approximately $50,000 for a visit to the Capitol City on Aug. 23 to announce that Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., would be his running mate.
Police Chief Steven Settingsgaard got his picture taken with President George W. Bush in July, when the president attended a fundraiser at Angus Weaver Farm in support of state Rep. Aaron Schock, who is running for Congress. […]
What we’re not sure about, though, is whether the chief paid the $5,000 asking price for the picture, if he got to keep the photograph for free, or if he even walked off with a photograph. Plus, who was “they?” He declined to answer follow-up questions we had about the picture.
Regardless of the merits of reimbursing the city, this has become a political no-brainer.
This was a statewide poll, but a plurality, 42-33, believed the city was safe. 25 percent were unsure. Even a plurality of self-identified conservatives thought the city was a safe place to live by a 38-35 margin. Just shy of a majority of liberals said it was safe, 48-37. 42 percent of males and females thought it was safe.
The racial disparity, however, was huge.
42 percent of whites thought the city was a safe place to live, while 30 percent said it wasn’t.
But just 18 percent of African-Americans surveyed said Chicago was a safe place to live and a large majority, 59 percent, said it wasn’t safe.
63 percent of those making over $100K a year thought the city was safe, while just 25 percent of those making $20K-$40K said it was safe.
Not surprising, of course, but definitely food for thought. For all its progress, Chicago is still a sharply divided town when it comes to standard of living.
Daley needs to stop stonewalling on this police vacancy situation, own up to the mess and get something done.
Just weeks before he is to be sentenced, political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is in the midst of intense discussions with federal investigators, sources close to the investigation confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times.
There’s no question federal authorities are interested in Rezko, a former top adviser and fundraiser to Gov. Blagojevich, as a federal witness. But one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, warned it’s too early to call the discussions full-fledged cooperation.
Already, however, Rezko has provided information to the feds, who are in the process of vetting it, sources said. […]
Rezko not only was privy to inside meetings with the governor, but engaged in numerous real estate dealings with his wife, Patti.
* And the kicker…
One source with knowledge of the investigation into the governor and into his wife Patti Blagojevich’s real estate dealings say the probe is going “at top speed.” [emphasis added]
* The Tribune also uses the governor/wife angle in its story…
[Rezko’s] cooperation would give prosecutors investigating the governor and his wife access to someone they have described as an ultimate political insider at the center of a pervasive pay-to-play scheme. […]
Still, there are indications Rezko has already provided investigators with information.
Four attorneys have told the Tribune in recent days that federal prosecutors have telephoned them and other attorneys either with news Rezko is talking, or armed with details only Rezko could know. The lawyers speculated prosecutors are using the preliminary talks with Rezko to shake loose more cooperation from other witnesses.
“I had very recent a conversation with an assistant U.S. attorney that led me to believe they were getting specific information from either Mr. Rezko or Mr. Rezko’s lawyer,” said a defense attorney who said he represents a figure in the case.
*** UPDATE *** Check out the comments by the BGA guy in this CLTV report…
* Considering all the recent reports that Tony Rezko is talking, possibly related to some of Ali Ata’s stories about alleged corruption involving the governor, the timing of this story seems like a bit of a coinkydink…
Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration has canceled a lucrative office lease with a convicted former state agency director who testified in the corruption trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko.
The decision, announced Friday, came four months after the Tribune reported that Ali Ata had failed to disclose the names of his partners in that lease and three old leases, as required by law.
Ata was in line to receive up to $13 million under a contract extending to 2018 for a South Side office building used by the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Ata was a onetime associate of Rezko, the Blagojevich fundraiser convicted on federal charges that he used his political clout to orchestrate a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme.
* This next one just doesn’t surprise me. Another splashy gubernatorial press conference to announce a sexy initiative that has a totally bungled follow-through…
With deaths on the rise in highway construction zones, the state cracked down four years ago by mandating stiff fines for motorists caught speeding by high-tech photo enforcement.
Yet so far this year, Cook County has not recorded a single conviction carrying the hefty fines and court costs, a Tribune analysis of court records has found. The vast majority of offenders saw the charges dismissed outright or reduced to a regular speeding ticket with much smaller fines and penalties.
Enforcement of the law appears spotty in DuPage County as well.
The supervising judge over Traffic Court in Chicago expressed surprise at the results, while Cook County prosecutors blamed poor photo quality for many of the cases being thrown out by judges or passed over for prosecution.
* The Post-Dispatch runs a very well-researched story today about alleged spending abuses in the Illinois Capital Litigation Trust Fund…
— The fund has become a magnet for investigators and experts who travel to Illinois from all over the country to participate in trials, and a full-time income source for area professionals. One Springfield investigator’s website states that the fund “created an opening … to go into business” for himself.
— Defense professionals routinely charge private-sector rates to the tax-funded system, sometimes billing hundreds of dollars an hour for making phone calls, driving, flying — even packing suitcases. Many have earned six figures from the fund; a couple have approached the $1 million mark.
— Prosecutors, too, have been allowed to bill the state fund for death penalty trials, a fact that some critics believe encourages them to seek the death penalty in murder trials, pushing costs onto the state instead of their home counties. Records show some prosecutors used death penalty trials as justification to bill the state for office equipment, computers and inmate medical care, all normally county expenses.
— Three years after the Legislature revised the fund’s rules in response to reported abuses, there remain few limitations on how much can be billed, and for what. Cost control rests with presiding judges who, swamped with stacks of bills and hesitant to taint their trials, are under pressure to approve just about any voucher that’s put in front of them.
A Metro East private investigator has been the biggest beneficiary of the state’s death penalty fund.
Alva Busch, a retired Illinois State Police crime scene technician prone to wearing an Indiana Jones-style hat and suspenders, has billed the Illinois death penalty fund more than $920,000 over about five years through his company, Metro Investigations.
A Post-Dispatch review of records show Busch, 60, has worked on more than 20 death penalty cases from Belleville to Chicago.
His billing hours range from as many as 49 hours (a total of $3,185.00) billed on one day to a quarter of an hour ($18) to send an e-mail.
On a Cook County death penalty case, he billed 1.5 hours — the time it took him to prepare billing statements for the previous two years. On April 16, 2007, he billed $65 — or one hour —to send trial exhibits through UPS. […]
Busch was allowed to bill for hundreds of dollars in “out of pocket” expenses, but rules governing the fund don’t require itemized receipts.
$88,000 - Charge for bringing in Harvard psychiatrist as a witness
$10,000 - Cost to build mock-up of crime scene that was never used
$9,500 - Bills for “attempts to locate witness,” at $75 per hour
$360 - Charge for 80 minutes it took expert witness to pack for flight
$97 - Bill for 90 minutes spent making $17 in copies at Kinko’s
$18 - Investigator’s bill for sending an e-mail
After what has happened in the last few days, it’s more likely that Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be indicted or impeached or both.
* The Trib goes on to reference the allegations of a stepped-up investigation against Blagojevich and his wife, and last week’s appellate court ruling which stopped the governor from implementing a new program without legislative approval. The Tribsters say all we can do is wait and see what Patrick Fitzgerald does, but…
Blagojevich’s attempt to go around lawmakers and spend money they didn’t approve for a vast health care program may be just as insidious as his pay-to-play politics. His effort to expand health care through the program known as FamilyCare was soundly rejected by the Illinois legislature. But he did it anyway, spending millions of dollars to broaden eligibility for state-funded health care to people with higher family incomes.
* And that leads us to the Tribune’s flip-flop on impeachment…
Earlier this year, this page strongly supported a movement to give voters the chance, through a constitutional amendment, to recall public officials. We said at the time that impeachment of the governor shouldn’t be pursued. But this court ruling on his health care gamble gives reason to revisit that.
Democratic Rep. Jack Franks has encouraged House Speaker Michael Madigan to convene a committee to investigate if articles of impeachment are warranted. That seems like a sound idea.
So, they’re not exactly in favor of impeachment, just in favor of holding hearings to see whether impeachment is warranted. But that’s a start. The Blagojevich administration was spinning last June’s wishy-washy editorial as a stern warning against holding preliminary impeachment hearings. I can’t wait to see the react to this one.
People living in Chicago and nearby suburbs face some of the highest risks in the nation for cancer, lung disease and other health problems linked to toxic chemicals pouring from industry smokestacks, according to a Tribune analysis of federal data.
It is an office of enormous power. Simply by starting an investigation, a prosecutor can savage a person’s life. We raise this issue because Peraica, for all his strengths, has revealed a habit of attacking first and mastering the details later, a troubling trait for someone who wants to be the county’s top criminal prosecutor.
In one instance, for example, Peraica turned a fair shot into a cheap shot. He appropriately questioned whether Alvarez was wise to pick Robert Clifford, a powerhouse personal injury lawyer who has sued the county in the past, to be her campaign finance chairman. Alvarez’s response is that if a conflict of interest were to arise, she would deal with it openly.
But Peraica went on to suggest that Alvarez somehow violated legal ethics and the law by turning over to Clifford various criminal court files in the case of Girl X, the 9-year-old girl who was raped and beaten in 1997. Clifford was representing Girl X in a civil suit. In truth, Alvarez did not personally turn over any files to Clifford. Rather, he obtained the files through the routine, legal and entirely appropriate discovery process.