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Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Dec 31, 2008

* Rich Miller: Genson faces stacked deck over impeachment rules

Genson’s protestations have mostly fallen on deaf ears, particularly with the Illinois House’s impeachment committee. The committee has shot down his objections time and time again in a clear attempt to make sure Genson knows he is not in a courtroom and has few, if any, legal legs to stand on.

Genson often hasn’t helped himself or his client. He got off on the wrong foot in his first appearance before the committee by demanding the immediate removal of three committee members. Genson claimed their statements from earlier in the week showed they had already made up their minds about the governor. The request was rejected out of hand by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who chairs the special impeachment committee.

Truth be told, there are few if any members in the entire House who have never said a prejudicial word about the governor. But the committee is not a jury, so their personal beliefs about the governor’s alleged guilt don’t matter. Genson’s motion had no hope of success.

Actually, that pretty much sums up Genson’s current situation. No hope.

* If the shoe Fitz…

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform today launched a new Web site, Boot Blago:

Removing Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office will not be enough to end the culture of corruption. We have to reform the laws that now allow special interests to give unlimited amounts of money to campaigns and bring much more sunshine into the operations of state and local governments.

* Rod, if you think we love you, you’re wrong

Why do politicians who are accused of corruption think they can produce a list of accomplishments and it will make things all better? Rod, if there was a recall vote in Illinois, you would see how much you’re loved.

* Gov. Rod Blagojevich picks former attorney general to replace Obama

* Blagojevich’s Senate pick provokes storm

* Roland Burris might add new honor on his tombstone: U.S. senator

Governor’s pick to replace Obama has statewide recognition and sensible reputation

State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) vigorously criticized Blagojevich for making any appointment but called Burris a “fairly safe choice” for the governor. “I’m not sure he’d be my choice, but maybe he would be,” Lang said.

* It’s his duty, Governor says, so he picks Burris for Senate

Burris denied any connection to the charges against Blagojevich, and critics from Obama on down were careful to speak respectfully of him while lambasting his appointment.

“I am not tainted by this appointment,” Burris said during an interview on CNN. “I have done no wrong and they’re going to deny the people of Illinois a qualified person.”

A check of state campaign finance reports finds Burris donated almost $20,300 to Blagojevich’s campaign since 2002, either personally or through law firms.

On Tuesday, Republicans chastised Democrats for missing the opportunity to stop the governor.

“We should have never allowed the situation to get to this point,” said House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego. Cross said when he first heard word the governor was going ahead with an appointment he thought it was “some sick, wacky rumor on the Internet.”

But a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said there are no regrets and that the special election was too costly and wouldn’t have produced a new senator until the summer.

* What happens now for Senate pick?

With two political forces already lining up to say they won’t cooperate with Roland Burris’ appointment as U.S. Senator, what happens next has the potential to turn into a U.S. Constitutional legal battle, with several experts saying the law is on Burris’ side.

Burris faces two hurdles. First, the state of Illinois, through Secretary of State Jesse White, must certify that an appointment has been made, said Joe Shoemaker, spokesman for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. White said Tuesday he will not certify the appointment.

But White’s certification is mostly a ministerial function, noted Dean Harold Krent of the IIT Chicago Kent College of Law.

“Here, it seems like there is no ground not to certify except for his (White’s) own discretion that there is a cloud” over Blagojevich, said Krent. “It’s probably unlawful” not to certify, he added.

Next, the U.S. Senate must formally receive the appointment, said Shoemaker. The Senate can make a motion to not seat pending an investigation if they believe there are questions of impropriety, he added.

* Senate Democrats snub governor’s choice

* Democrats’ struggle over filling Obama seat

* Reid: Senate won’t seat Blagojevich pick

* Senate may block Burris, stall for time

Gov. Blagojevich has tried filling Illinois’ vacant U.S. Senate seat, but there are strong indications his appointee, Roland Burris, may never get to sit in the chair.

Top Senate Democrats are contemplating a strategy of running out the clock on Blagojevich. They seem primed to let Illinois lawmakers drive Blagojevich from office, then choose between two competing U.S. Senate nominees: Burris and whomever Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn might pick if the impeachment drive is successful.

“Anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement.

*Does Senate have authority to block Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris?

“This is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat,” Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. “Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. [Rod] Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois.”

Still, it is not clear that the Senate has the legal authority to block a fully qualified appointee. While Blagojevich is facing impeachment hearings in the General Assembly, he remains governor, and only the governor is allowed to appoint Barack Obama’s successor to the Senate, according to Illinois law.

The U.S. Supreme Court in the past has said the Senate and House cannot refuse to seat new members who meet all the qualifications for office. In 1969, it rebuked the House for refusing to seat Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a Democrat from New York who was re-elected despite being accused of ethical lapses.

“The Constitution does not vest in the Congress a discretionary power to deny membership by majority vote,” said Chief Justice Earl Warren.

* Roland, we hardly knew ye, and ye won’t be senator

However, this is not about Roland. This is about Rod Who Won’t Leave The Building. So, instead of covering the war in Gaza, reporters will go gaga over the three-ring circus in Chicago. I say three rings because Blago’s weird news conference got even stranger when he and Burris trotted out Bobby Rush, the Black Panther-turned-congressman, to play the race card. That’s what desperate politicians like Blago often do at about the time the fat lady is warming up her pipes in the dressing room.

* Tainted gov making Illinois a national joke

You see Blago bouncing around at that press conference, smirking and cracking wise about enjoying the limelight these past few weeks, and you think:

This guy runs on spite.

You think he cares if he’s casting a cloud over the Obama inauguration, if he’s turning Illinois politics into a national punchline? Please. He’s gonna fight-fight-fight, and if you don’t like it, tough (bleep).

When Roland Burris first tossed his hat into the pick-me-Blago ring, I thought, oh yeah, I remember him. Didn’t he lose the Senate primary to Paul Simon about a quarter-century ago? Didn’t he also lose primaries for governor and mayor?

I didn’t think Burris actually had a shot. But then again, how many of the other names that had been bandied about actually wanted Blago’s endorsement at this point? It’s like an ex-husband telling the former wife how she should redecorate the house, even as he’s packing his boxes to leave. Why should we listen to THAT guy?

* Another bad choice by ethically bankrupt gov

We don’t know why Blagojevich chose Burris, who as Illinois comptroller was the first African American elected to statewide office.

A hardened cynic might suspect that Blagojevich, in making the Burris appointment, is thinking not of the people of Illinois, but of the 12 jurors who will sit in judgment of him at a criminal trial.

The governor’s defense now can argue that the governor never intended to sell the Senate seat. See for yourself — he chose Burris.

Nor does Burris’ appointment hurt Blagojevich if there happen to be African Americans on Blagojevich’s jury, according to traditional thinking among the defense bar.

Cynical stuff, sure, but our governor has invited cynicism time and again. He’s a hard man to take at his word.

* Any choice by this governor would be the wrong choice

* Never underestimate a man with no decency

At least I wasn’t alone in forgetting rule No. 1 with Rod Blagojevich: Never underestimate the man’s sheer gall.

Forget that nonsense about this being his duty. He loved it.

This time, though, there was no secret about the governor’s accomplice.

Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris wore an ear-to-ear grin to demonstrate how eager he was to assist Blagojevich in his latest outrage, gladly accepting this vote of confidence from a man he had dismissed as “incapacitated” two weeks earlier.

If the overeager Burris wanted to preserve his reputation as an “honorable man” untainted by Illinois politics, he should have done the honorable thing and stayed out of this. But his ego was too big for that.

* Why would Burris jump into toxic situation?

His appointment of Burris to the Senate is every bit as mercenary.

Now, while the Illinois General Assembly winds through the impeachment process, the U.S. Senate will be convulsing over whether it should refuse to seat Blagojevich’s pick.

As pointed out by U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), who in the Senate — where not one member is black — will want to be the first on the floor to argue that Burris should not be seated?

Blagojevich is counting on the Senate’s sensitivity to the race issue to trump the disdain that body holds for his alleged behavior.

* Another brilliant move by Rockin’ Rod

* Blago plays offense with Burris pick

* Senate appointment creates rift among black leaders

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate creates a split among Illinois’ top black officials.

The appointment pits the state’s top elected official, Secretary of State Jesse White, against its one-time highest black office holder, former Attorney General Roland Burris.

Further complicating the matter, the appointment involves the former seat of Barack Obama, the first African-American to be elected president. Both Obama and White were careful to praise Burris in opposing his selection by Blagojevich, who’s accused of earlier trying to sell the seat for personal gain.

* Burris appointment a ‘double-edged sword’

The appointment divided black lawmakers, although they praised Burris as honest and capable.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) appeared with Burris and Blagojevich at their press conference Tuesday and said “my prayers had been answered” by the governor’s decision. It is imperative that President-elect Barack Obama’s replacement be African-American, he said. He urged people not to “hang or lynch” Burris simply because he had been appointed by Blagojevich.

Rep. David Miller (D-Lynwood), a friend of Burris, and Rep. William Davis (D-Homewood) said that if Burris can survive the scrutiny to which he will surely be subjected then he should become the state’s next senator. Even so, Davis, once a staffer for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-2nd), said he would have preferred to see his former boss in the seat.

Jackson’s office said he had no comment on the appointment.

Rep. Al Riley (D-Olympia Fields) said he agreed with Secretary of State Jesse White (D-Chicago) that “any appointment has a taint” and worried that Burris’ acceptance could “sully the legacy of our former attorney general.” But he said there was nothing the Legislature could do.

Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) waffled when asked for her view on the Burris appointment.

“This is so difficult,” she said. “This is really a double-edged sword.”

* Should Race be an Issue in the Senate Appointment?

* Does Obama’s successor have to be black?

These are dire times. The National and state unemployment rates are on the rise. Home values continue to fall. We’re facing crisis after crisis. The state needs someone who’s going to work hard and advocate for its residents. Who cares if that person is purple?

* Blinded by race

Race can blind people. We all know that. But it still can be shocking to see that blindness in action. Could anything be more alarming than Rep. Bobby Rush, at Tuesday’s instantly infamous press conference, thanking God for the appointment of former attorney general Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat, merely because of Burris’ race? Rush said that having a black in the Senate trumps all considerations over the tainted process. He actually said that anyone who opposes this appointment — and many do — is trying to “lynch” a man who “has not had one iota of taint on his record of public service.”

* Rep. Rush does quick turnaround on seat

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) on Dec. 9 said Gov. Blagojevich’s alleged conduct was so “heinous” that the governor should not fill President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.

But that all changed Tuesday with Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris — a move designed to win over the African-American community.

* Obama says “extremely disappointing” Blagojevich went ahead with Senate pick

“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy,” said President-elect Obama.

* Rod, The Joker

* Lawmaker to propose gas tax increase

State drivers would pay 8 cents more per gallon for gas under a plan by a southern Illinois lawmaker.

State Rep. John Bradley wants to use the money to pay for a road construction program. The Marion Democrat says he’ll push the plan when the Legislature meets again in January.

His proposal would fund about $7 billion in road construction. The 8 cents would be a 42 percent increase over the current 19-cent state gas tax.

* Quinn: Appointment an ‘insult’ to Illinois

* Quinn Speaks Out Against Appointment

* More stormy days ahead — we don’t mean the weather

* Illinoisans must demand new, honest leaders

* Burris has been around Illinois politics for a while

* Burris embarrasses his good name

On the plus side, Saturday Night Live will now have some new material.

On the downside, Illinois will once again be the punching bag for comics all across the country.

* Burris wrong to join with Blagojevich

* Burris is caught in a nasty political storm

* The political job absolutely not worth taking

Roland Burris may now be wondering whether he’s made the biggest mistake of his political career.

In accepting Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment to the U.S. Senate, he’s placed himself right at the center of a still-unfolding controversy, which will hamper any good he may want to do.

* Davis said thanks, but no thanks

Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) would like to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate. The appointment was dangled before him last Wednesday. He turned it down. We discussed why when we talked Tuesday night, hours after a defiant Gov. Blagojevich, facing impeachment for, among other charges, trying to sell the Obama seat, tapped former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris for the spot, touching off a racially inflammatory firestorm.

Davis, speaking on the phone from Chicago, said he met with Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. last Wednesday morning. The two met in Davis’ Chicago office. Davis said he was told “the governor would like to appoint me to the vacant spot.” After Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, Davis, who sought the appointment from him when he thought Blagojevich was playing it straight, said he would not take the job if offered.

* Davis says Burris would make a Good Senator

* Schakowsky Condemns Governor Senate Appointment

One senate hopeful from Illinois is condemning Governor Rod Blagojevich for naming his pick to the U.S. Senate today. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky was one of the first to publicly express her interest in replacing Barack Obama in the senate. She says she’s puzzled by the governor’s logic in making the appointment.

SCHAKOWSKY: I think this is going to create, actually, more controversy around the governor and I don’t think it’s going to be widely accepted.

* Blagojevich’s legal troubles may bode well for threatened prison, state center for disabled

* Small town stung by automobile industry woes

* Chicago misses Dec. 31 deadline to reform city hiring

* Chicago housing prices fall 10.8%

* Wild weather brings bumper crop of potholes

* Worst potholes in Cook County

* Worst potholes in the Tri-Cities

* Suburban Rail Fight May Not Be Over

* Freakonomics author: No boom in murder by black teens

Freakonomics author Steven Levitt dismissed a new study that points to a sharp rise in homicides by black teens in recent years.

The study’s author, noted criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, blamed gang activity and lax gun laws as some of the main reasons.

- Posted by Mike Murray        

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