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Reforms would not have stopped that man

Friday, Apr 3, 2009

* I don’t really understand this passage from the Chicago Tribune editorial…

But it was only a matter of time before something like this happened: Prior scandals haven’t goaded Illinois pols to pass laws that would seriously curb their own broad influence.

What state ethics laws, exactly, would’ve prevented Rod Blagojevich’s crime spree? The man is apparently a criminal through and through.

* The Sun-Times thinks that our lax laws made his life easier

The governor is charged with shaking down people for political contributions in return for government contracts or jobs.

He did this so easily — if the charges are true — because our campaign finance system is broken.

We have no limits on how much anyone can contribute to a politician.

But would caps have stopped him?

* Did the SJ-R edit board read the indictment?

It says a lot about Blagojevich that a document as breathtaking as the 75-page indictment probably will elicit little more in Illinois than knowing shrugs.

It contained few surprises. Most of it we had heard before either in the trials of Antoin “Tony” Rezko and Stuart Levine, or in the criminal complaint filed when Blagojevich was arrested at his home early Dec. 9.

I hate to burst their little bubble, but the allegations that Blagojevich set out to use the governor’s office as his own personal piggy bank was “new.” And it had nothing to do with campaign contributions.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


28 Comments
  1. - Steve - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 8:14 am:

    Rich is right about this stuff.In a corrupt state like Illinois,new laws aren’t going to prevent someone like Blago from rising to the top.The broader question is why didn’t the voters object to his questionable past? Blago was on the Feds radar screen in the 1990’s.
    http://nalert.blogspot.com/2008/06/rod-blagojevichthe-reasonable-suspicion.html


  2. - Sewanee - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 8:15 am:

    I wouldn’t say it had “nothing” to do with campaign contributions.

    Look, Blagojevich clearly violated the law and didn’t care. Would stricter ethics laws have prevented him? No. Would stricter ethics laws have helped us identify illegal behavior more quickly? Perhaps.

    I know a kneejerk reaction and token ethics laws should be avoided–but the argument “why pass new laws when a criminal is a criminal, regardless of the laws” just seems like taking the easy way out.


  3. - Justice - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 8:21 am:

    There are two sides to blame; certainly those committing the crime, but also those who stand by and let it happen. How many times have we heard someone we know say how a person was placed into a position in circumvention of Rutan, or a position was created that had no duties and a person was put into that position? How many times have we heard that “I have kids in college and can’t afford to lose my job”, or that “I am afraid that they will fire me?”

    The only way we can stop this behavior is to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight. Let it be known loud and clear that this is going on instead of ducking for cover and letting someone else fight for us. This happened because WE let it happen. It will continue until WE get backbone enough to stop it.

    Never look the other way, never let your fellow citizen stand alone, and always take the fight to the perpetrators!When there is a snake in the grass, all the birds in the area sound the alarm. Time we learned something from this basic rule of nature!

    Point out these people who step on the backs of others. Point out these people who threaten you. Make this a better place for the next generation starting at the local level though the federal level. Call the FBI. You start there, I’ve already started here….several years ago!


  4. - Ghost - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 8:28 am:

    Illinois needs some kind of provision in our consitution which lets the general assembly impeach or remove a governor from office. This way our elected legislature can serve as a watchdog to prevent this kind of stuff from happening. Yep all we needed to prevent or limit this kind of problem is a law……


  5. - Fixit - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 8:52 am:

    None of these problems will be solved until all the following ideas are implemented.

    1. Term Limits - we don’t need career politicians.
    2. Limit time to run campaigns - reduce the time and money for these campaigns.
    3. Turn all money raised for a campaign over to the state when the election is over. Why should these campaign funds be turned into a politicians private 401K funds that can be used for anything after the campaign.

    None of these changes will be implemented by either party because it would stop the pay to play that is so common in Illinois today.


  6. - Ms Port Belly Mushroom - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 8:57 am:

    Blagojevich, Monk, Rezko, Cellini, and “others” in the inner circle surgically built lobbyists, people they groomed or indoctrinated, and released on Sfield and City Hall.

    It’s no different than what all the constitutionals and legislative leaders have done with former staff members, lawmakers or erstwhile allies. The only difference was that these “guys” took their lead from the top–and the top, we know, was corrupt. So, as they became lobbyists they made sure money from their clients was funneled to Rod and to Rod’s legislative allies–legally or illegally as shall come to light.

    Elementary, I know.

    But, how do you ever get at that part of the system? Other than so much disclosure that it makes everyone choke–the legislative leaders, lobbyists, executive branch officers, everyone. Give reporters complete access. Let them write the small stories (the “little” contracts going to the firms of Lobbyist A, etc.)

    Quinn has chance to really tap into something. He won’t have the cash to do it on TV, but if he plays his cards right he may be able to turn lots of money into a liability in the upcoming race.

    I know it’s naive, as Patrick Collins said; but those of us who didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, either, would still like to see if pigs, in fact, can fly.


  7. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 9:42 am:

    Illinois has had outstanding and ethical lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. And crooks from boths sides of the aisle.

    Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to insist on good candidates and then support them.

    I’m for all the “reform” laws you want, but laws don’t stop crooks. That’s what makes them crooks.


  8. - lincoln street - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 9:49 am:

    Would a well-written cap law have prevented the 6-figure “loan” to Roland Burris’s campaign in 2002 that allowed Blagojevich to win the primary?

    Quite possibly. I’m not certain, but Rich, I think it’s a bit much to discount the possibility.

    We act like Blagojevich sprung from the ground like the growth from a new spring bulb when he became governor. Campaigns don’t happen in a vaccuum - a candidate’s corruptibility is an asset in a campaign as long as can maintain deniability, particularly because the mainstream media and most everyone else treat fundraising as the first primary — instead of routinely analyzing contributions as a sign of what you’ll do in office, they look at the bottom line and say “so and so is in trouble”, “so and so is out front” setting the tone for the rest of their coverage.

    The Rezko conspiracy, the “Blagojevich Enterprise”, goes back further; it was churning money into his coffers since he ran, not since he took office. No way he beats Vallas if he’s straight. Even with his millions, he only won by 20,000 votes.


  9. - anon III - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 9:58 am:

    Reforms would have stopped the man?

    What did stop the man? A prosecutor.

    We have 103 elected prosecutors in Illinois; 102 State’s Attorneys and an Attorney General. What’s the problem?


  10. - Stooges - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 10:20 am:

    I’ve always thought that even though politicians are required to disclose campaign contributions, we can never know how much is being given to them in cash or other undocumented gifts. This guy tried everything apparently, cash, gifts to his kids, commissions for his wife, work on his house for free, probably free jogging suits.

    If a politician wants to take cash under the table, there are no new laws that can be passed to stop it.


  11. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 10:21 am:

    The Children’s Hospital shakedown wouldn’t have happened if Illinois had the same cap on campaign contributions as the federal gov’t.

    And the U.S. Senate seat shakedown would have played out differently too.


  12. - Captain Flume - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 10:49 am:

    == the allegations that Blagojevich set out to use the governor’s office as his own personal piggy bank was “new.” ==
    Maybe that was just one of the “few surprises” alluded to by the SJ-R. I read the indictment, and I wasn’t suprised by much of it either. The only concern I have is the ability for him to be elected to office twice, especially after the Ryan debacle. But This Is Illinois, no surprise there.


  13. - VanillaMan - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 11:06 am:

    I guess the question is - “Who is in charge?”

    Are political party leaders so incompetent that an obvious do-nothing crook like Rod Blagojevich could get their nomination for Illinois’ highest office? They are so stupid they fall for his shallow presentation of himself as gubernatorial material? They are so gullible that although he had no record of accomplishments, they believed he could accomplish the tasks of governing?

    Reforms? How about expecting our political parties to nominate capable people for our public offices? Why do we have to continually place guard rails to prevent massive damage to Illinois, because neither party does it’s supposed job?

    How much lower do we have to lower the bar?

    We are a state of at least 10 million citizens, and we choose a do-nothing corrupted Chicago alderman’s son-in-law to govern us? He was the best the Illinois Democratic Party could find?

    Reform? You cannot create enough reforms to prevent this kind of political party incompetence! We couldn’t write into our laws enough safeguards to meet the derelictions of duties that has been forced upon us!

    So, after serving up Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, both of Illinois’ retarded political parties want to talk about reforming our laws to do what? Stop their crappy nominees from destroying our state?

    For the past few weeks, we’ve been hearing well dressed party disciples claim that the political organizations empowering them to rule our lives are private organizations, so our suggestions for political change would be unfair. Somehow, they have not realized that the political parties they are leaders of, have utterly failed Illinois in the most elemental ways. And that a great deal of the problems we face as a state are due to the corruption within their supposed private organizations.

    They cannot have it both ways. Both political parties in Illinois have destroyed any credibility they have with voters. We have done what we are supposed to do after the last corrupted governor was booted from office voluntarily - we switched parties. But instead of relief, we got even worse leaders. So what are we supposed to do, since both parties obviously suck at selecting nominees?

    And who is supposed to do the reforming - the political parties that are too incompetent to nominate clean gubernatorial candidates? SURE - that’ll fix it!

    And to top it all off - due to the massive incompetence of it’s elected officials, Illinois is in budgetary hell and being told it has to pay even more for this crappy government!


  14. - Mr. Curious - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 11:37 am:

    And it had nothing to do with campaign contributions? What?!

    From the indictment: “In those conversations, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and MONK discussed
    whether and when ROD BLAGOJEVICH would sign the bill, and whether and
    when Racetrack Executive would arrange for a campaign contribution to ROD
    BLAGOJEVICH.”


  15. - 2onfusedCrew - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 12:26 pm:

    Mr/Ms Fixit:
    1.Term Limits - we don’t need career politicians…does not appear a long serving public official involved with Blagoof posse — exccept for Cellini.

    2. Limit time to run campaigns - reduce the time and money for these campaigns….Blagoof was stealing before being elected. Sounds like you want to abolish elections to eliminate campaign crimes. …

    3. Turn all money raised for a campaign over to the state when the election is over. Why should these campaign funds be turned into a politicians private 401K funds that can be used for anything after the campaign….plenty of limits already in place.

    BTW the indictment charges racketering conspriracy, wire fraud, extortion, making false statements to federal agents, etc… Blagoof did want to mess with IL weak ethics laws. He wanted the hard stuff.


  16. - steve schnorf - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 12:48 pm:

    Ghost: Great! lol


  17. - lincoln street - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 1:08 pm:

    Rich,
    Your implication is that everyone else always sought campaign contributions merely to stay in office.

    But this is clearly false. If not, why did Emil resign once the law took effect that you could no longer simply keep the money after you left office? Why did it take so long to change the law?

    Many pols have long used campaign funds as their own personal piggybank. This isn’t actually that new. What’s new is the suggestion that the Feds can prove it for a jury.


  18. - Tom Joad - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 1:19 pm:

    Limits on campaign donations will be meaningless unless the limits apply to the Leadership funds. Both the leadership legislative reelection funds for members and the Friends of each leader leadership funds. The Friends of the leaders funds are the real problems and most misused of all.
    Limits need to be on the fellow legislators contributions to members of their party in each Chamber as well. These are used to allow donations to pass thru to members up for reelection without direct attribution.
    Just putting limits on contributions to members would be easy to evade.


  19. - Secret Square - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 2:07 pm:

    Campaign donation limits, term limits, et al. might help make corruption less obvious but won’t eliminate it completely.

    One measure that WILL help is this: if voters stop taking for granted that “all” politicians are crooked, and therefore it doesn’t matter who they vote for, so they might as well either not vote at all, or choose the one who tells them what they want to hear (free healthcare, no new taxes, etc.) That was how Blago got reelected — by convincing voters that JBT was just as crooked as he was so they might as well stick with the devil they know. Of course JBT was no saint but c’mon, does anyone seriously believe she would have been THIS bad, or left the state in this horrendous of a financial mess?


  20. - Major Frank Burns - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 2:35 pm:

    Some legislators pay for Cap Fax out of their campaign funds. Does that have anything to do with Rich’s skepticism regarding campaign finance limits? Just asking.


  21. - Rich Miller - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 2:46 pm:

    LOL.

    That’s the first time I’ve thought of that angle. Good point, I suppose.


  22. - Rich Miller - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 2:54 pm:

    ===But this is clearly false. If not, why did Emil resign once the law took effect that you could no longer simply keep the money after you left office?===

    That law was changed in, I believe, 1996. Emil was pushed out real quick, allright. 12 years. Wow. I tip my hat to you for this one.


  23. - Steve - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 4:11 pm:

    The Children’s Hospital shakedown wouldn’t have happened if there was a free market in medicine in Illinois.Why would a hospital have to get approval from the government to expand service? This is a recipe for corruption,that’s why Rezko and Stuart Levine operated the way they did.Handing something the power to license things is a recipe for corruption.


  24. - Ghost - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 4:24 pm:

    Steve, that answer is simple. We require hospitals to show there is a need for the services they want to provide, not just that they want to take patients from another facility. We do not want hospitals being set up to put or run each other outof business so that we lose needed facilties. thus everyone applies for a certificate of need.


  25. - lincoln street - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 4:28 pm:

    I look it up and realize that Jones was grandfathered in, and could keep and personally use the half million because he had raised that much before the deadline. I was conflating that issue with the Jan. 1 deadline for the changes in contributions by vendors.

    Still, he’s not the only one who was grandfathered in, and he’s not the only currently or recently active pol who many believe would take advantage of this grandfather clause. So though I was indeed in a complete muddle, my point remains that Blagojevich was hardly pathbreaking among living, relevant Illinois politicians in wanting to convert political currency into personal currency.


  26. - Rich Miller - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 4:31 pm:

    ===my point remains that Blagojevich was hardly pathbreaking among living, relevant Illinois politicians in wanting to convert political currency into personal currency. ===

    No disagreement there at all. But my point stands that reform laws did not push out Emil Jones.


  27. - Steve - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 4:37 pm:

    Ghost:
    Why don’t we you same logic with bars,pizza joints,and every other private sector business.Licensure leads to corruption.When you hand monopoly power over to people: individuals like Blago and Rezko will be there to exploit the situation.Plus,competition for anything lowers prices.


  28. - Bookworm - Friday, Apr 3, 09 @ 5:13 pm:

    But bars ARE licensed; they have to have liquor licenses… and that is a source of corruption in some communities, is it not? Pizza joints and other restaurants also have to have a certificate from the city or county health department, in most cases… is that enough of a source of corruption, that such licenses/certificates should be abolished?


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